Updated: Dec. 22, 2006, 11:31 AM ET

Iverson primed for a restart

Answering a few questions while awaiting Allen Iverson's highly anticipated debut Friday (9 p.m. ET) with the Nuggets...

What things would you look for in Friday's game against the Kings to know if he's off to a good start with his new team?

If he's pushing the ball, running and being his old self, just having fun out there, knowing he's playing for a coach who plays to his strengths.

Still disappointed your knee injury prevented you from ever playing a regular-season game with him after you were traded to Philadelphia in February 2005?

Yes. I told Sixers GM Billy King then I wish he had traded for me sooner. A.I. reminded me of the New York City ball-controlling point guards I grew up with -- you knew you weren't getting the ball from him, so you'd just have to go get it yourself. One NYC guard like this was Dave Edwards back in 1990, who went to Georgetown and then later Texas A&M -- I think he might have driven Georgetown coach John Thompson a little crazy, but he was a pre-Iverson Hoyas guard who was used to controlling the ball.

But Iverson has shown he can distribute, such as the 2003 All-Star Game in which you played with him as an East teammate.

Absolutely. He deferred to Michael Jordan in that game -- he was a playmaker. And I think he has shown that he can transcend his reputation as being a scorer and show his playmaking. He could lead the league in assists.

You got an assist from him too -- he dished you his shoes from that game, right?

Reeboks, yes. And his autograph, when we were leaving the Atlanta arena. That was the only time I ever got autographs from a fellow [athlete] in my life. I have three -- Muhammed Ali, MJ and Iverson.

It was my first All-Star game after 10 years of playing. Allen came to me and congratulated me, saying he thought I should have been there years ago. I was a big fan of his. I've never heard a teammate say anything horrible about him -- can't say that about many NBA players.

So his new teammates in Denver will like him. Who benefits from his arrival most?

I think he's going to help Carmelo Anthony, who will have a superstar alongside him now. A.I. is underrated as a leader, and I think he's a leader on the court in how he plays. He'll give Carmelo some insight on how he would do some things differently -- and this is advice that sinks in better from a superstar; A.I. has been in more stuff than Carmelo has, and has some wisdom to impart.

And Nuggets coach George Karl?

I think of Karl's style as the right fit. When I was in Charlotte, we played his Bucks team in the Eastern Conference semis in the 2001 playoffs -- Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen each averaged almost or more than 20 per game that year. Three big scorers. He wants to get shot attempts and push the ball. That works for A.I.

What about next year?

Kenyon Martin should be back and Nene will be even healthier. It should be going good for next year and the coming years.

And now?

It looks like they have an excellent chance to compete for a championship before A.I. has played a single game with them yet.

ESPN analyst Jamal Mashburn retired from the NBA in 2006 after 12 seasons, averaging 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

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Billups And Downs
Allen Iverson
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Despite Detroit's early struggles, it looks like Chauncey Billups won't be counted out. The Pistons guard overcame Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the Cavs, and Detroit improved to 16-8.

Thorpe Speed: Wallace Watch

POSTED AND TOASTED: Rasheed Wallace's getting beat twice on simple post moves in the first 6 minutes of the game is what drives those of us who see Hall of Fame talent in him crazy.

PUMP FAKERS: There's been some talk by broadcasters (including TNT's Thursday night) about not calling fouls on defensive players who jump at a shot fake and bump a shooter who initiates the contact. But the important point is being missed -- that a disciplined defender does not have this problem. We teach players to stay on their feet and squared up to the shooter UNTIL the shooter leaves his feet, not before. Smart scorers have taken advantage of undisciplined opponents in this manner for decades, why stop it now?

OLD SOUL: Caron Butler has an old man's game in a young man's body. Shot fakes and a solid triple threat/jab series get him space and angles for high percentage shots in the halfcourt, and he can really fill lanes and finish in transition. -- David Thorpe

News And Notes

LeBron James is wearing a sleeve on his right arm because of a soreness in his elbow. He's also sporting a small support band on his left knee. "I'm a little banged up," he said. "It's a little tender.

Pistons G Lindsey Hunter missed his seventh straight game with a sore right Achilles.

Cavs G Damon Jones left in the fourth quarter with back spasms.

-- The Associated Press

Records At A Glance

Central Power

Detroit pulls away from Cleveland

Wizard Wonders
Antawn Jamison
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Antawn Jamison's 33 points and 13 boards helped the Wizards thrive against Kenny Thomas and the Kings, who were playing without Ron Artest. The Wiz won, 126-119.

Extreme Behavior
Luol Deng

Thursday's Best
Pistons guard Chauncey Billups: Forget the crummy (1-for-9) shooting in the first three quarters. Mr. XXL Shot did it again, scoring 12 of his 17 in the fourth to lift the Pistons to the win 87-71 win over the Cavs. Also dished 10 assists to boot.

Anderson Varejao

Thursday's Worst
Cavs forward Anderson Varejao: Sideshow Bob must still be preoccupied with trying to kill Bart Simpson rather than hoopin'. He was shut down, missing all six shots from the floor while making one of four free throws. Oooohhhhh.

Quote of the Day
"That's Big Shot Billups at his best. Fourth quarter, time to take over."
-- Wise LeBron

See how all 39 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Rank Comments

Josh, (Des Moines): You're killing me, Stein! I realize Denver took a hit with Melo's suspension and that the rankings were released prior to the Iverson trade. But how do you place the Nuggets (13-9) lower than sub-.500 teams like the Clips, who just lost 11 of 15? Shouldn't there be some sort of hard data that says Denver deserves a lesser ranking than seven other teams with losing records?

Committee's counter: If you knew all that, Josh, why are you so surprised by the drop to No. 20? Melo's suspension was always going to cause a steep dip. The committee, remember, always takes major injuries/suspensions/external developments into account. Always has, always will. And as you note, our rankings hit cyberspace a day before Iverson was acquired.

Complete Marc Stein blog Insider

Hollinger's Xmas Gift For Knicks Fans

Besides the obvious solution for which Knicks fans clamor (hint: it involves firing one of George Karl's least favorite people), here's another idea for the Knicks: Play your best players. You have three guards with a better PER than Stephon Marbury's, and since I presume he's not on the court for his defense, it makes me wonder why he's getting 34.5 minutes a night.

And don't even get me started on the case of David Lee, who has easily been New York's best player thus far and yet somehow hasn't been deemed fit to start. (Don't feel sorry for Mr. Lee, though, as Isiah's oversight could win him the Sixth Man Award).

Hollinger gifts for sub-.500 teams Insider

Just Maybe

Kiki, Denver: Are the Nuggets going to win it all with A.I.?

Chad Ford: Maybe ... I think it will either make them a serious contender for the NBA crown (though it's not like the Suns, Spurs and Mavs are going to just lie down) or it will be a disaster. No middle ground here. My opinion is that both Carmelo and Iverson are misunderstood by fans and the media. They are both winners. They both love the game. I think they'll make it work and be an awesome duo ...

Mike D (LA): Chad, what will it take to get Jr. playing for me before the trade deadline?

Chad Ford: I think this will happen. Mike Sr. and I have been talking about this for the last two years and he said on my podcast a few weeks ago he'd still like to make it happen. The obvious deal is to swap him for Corey Maggette, however he's a base year compensation player which means that the Warriors need him to be part of a bigger trade or ... they need a third team with some cap room to help facilitate the deal.

Jeremy (ATL): Chad, Do you think Joe Johnson will get an All-Star bid? Also looking at the Hawks what do you see as their biggest need?

Chad Ford: He deserves one. I think they still need a great starting point guard. Speedy Claxton is a backup. I'm surprised the Hawks couldn't get in this deal and land Andre Miller and, in turn, send a young player to Philly.

Complete Chad Ford chat



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