Iverson gratified by coach's faith

Posted: March 21, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - During his final few months as a 76er, Allen Iverson was called many things, but rarely was he referred to as a great teammate or someone who is respectful of authority.

But that was the clear picture that Denver Nuggets coach George Karl painted of the eight-time all-star before last night's 94-90 win over the New Jersey Nets at Continental Airlines Arena.

Iverson made his closest appearance to Philadelphia since his Dec. 19 trade to the Nuggets. He collected 20 points (shooting only 8 for 23) and five assists as the Nuggets won their fifth in a row to improve to 34-31. Iverson played 44 minutes, 14 seconds and never looked fatigued.

Iverson had been portrayed in some media reports as a petulant superstar who had asked to be traded away from Philadelphia, but his new coach said he had no problems with the 31-year-old guard.

"Larry [Brown] told me he was a great teammate," Karl said, referring Iverson's former Sixers coach. "And he is a great teammate, and he is a better leader than I think his image gives him."

Iverson was gratified to hear such encouragement.

"That is always good to hear from your head coach because he is the one doing the most evaluating," he said in the cramped visitors' locker room. ". . . I am 31, and being in Philadelphia, Aaron McKie and Eric Snow were the leaders, and I always led by example. Here it is different because I am more vocal and I have been places these guys want to go."

Iverson said he regrets how things ended in Philadelphia, when his dissatisfaction became public.

"I could have handled the situation better and they could have, but it's now over with, and people should find a way to let it go," he said. "I wish them well.

"The fans were the best and supported me through ups and downs. It's tough sometimes, and I miss them. I flick through the channels, see some of the fans I recognize at the games, and it's just different."

Karl said Iverson's presence had been good for Denver's other all-star, Carmelo Anthony, who was brilliant last night with 30 points. Many wondered whether one basketball could be shared by the two players. Karl said he felt the players were motivating each other.

"A.I. is feeling good about having a star player with him, which I don't know he thought he had in Philadelphia the last few years," the coach said.

He said Iverson had actually helped him with team discipline.

"I think A.I. doesn't let Melo get away with some of his childish [ways] at times," Karl said. "Instead of me calling him out or one of my assistants calling him out, A.I. is calling him out a little bit, and I think it's pretty cool."

So does Anthony.

"It's nothing disrespectful," Anthony said. "He calls me to the side, I call him to the side, and it impacts the whole team."

Iverson was acquired three days after Anthony was suspended for 15 games following his role in a brawl with the New York Knicks.

Denver is 10-9 with both Iverson and Anthony in the starting lineup.

"I am not sure A.I. and I will have a honeymoon for the next three or four years," Karl said. "I'm sure there will be problems, anger, frustration. . . . Most of the time if the player is passionate about playing the game, it usually works its way out."

And Iverson is passionate about the game and appreciative of his new surroundings.

"The scariest part of the whole thing is you always get nervous when things seem too perfect," Iverson said of the team's recent success. "Hopefully, that is the way it is and the way it is going to continue to be."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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