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Iverson, Billups ready to help new teams

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Allen Iverson spoke at length about the ways he's grown as a person and a player, saying he's willing to make sacrifices to complete his career with a championship as a Detroit Piston.

The former NBA MVP then set himself up Tuesday for an exchange that showed he's mature enough to be the butt of the joke.

"One thing is for sure, I'm going to do whatever the coach wants me to do," Iverson said.

"Even practice?" Joe Dumars asked, mockingly.

"PRACTICE?!" Iverson replied with a sparkling smile, using the word he spoke over and over in Philadelphia in 2002.

Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations, welcomed Iverson at a packed news conference and delved into a deal that has created unprecedented excitement for a storied franchise with three NBA titles.

"I can't think of one that has created this kind of buzz," said Dumars, who has been a Pistons player and executive for two-plus decades. "He brings a certain stature with him that only a handful of guys in this league can bring."

The Pistons were close to trading for Iverson from Philadelphia entering the 2000-01 season, but 76ers center Matt Geiger used a clause in his contract to nix the deal.

Then, the Pistons watched Iverson lead Philadelphia to the NBA finals and become league MVP.

Eight years later, Detroit is hoping "The Answer" was worth the wait.

Iverson does, too.

"I want to be the piece that gets us over the hump," he said. "I've done so many things in this league, being an All-Star and scoring champion and things like that, but I haven't accomplished my No. 1 goal and that is to win a championship."

The Pistons acquired Iverson in a blockbuster trade Monday, sending All-Star point guard and former finals MVP Chauncey Billups, top reserve Antonio McDyess and project Cheikh Samb to the Denver Nuggets.

"This is a big day for us, but I would be remiss if I didn't say how much we appreciated how much Chauncey Billups and McDyess did for us," Dumars said. "Much love to those guys because they helped build a foundation to help us become who we are today."

Detroit is desperate for another shot at an NBA title after getting eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals the past three years following its third championship in 2004 and falling just short of winning a fourth the next season.

"We think he is going to fit with exactly what we stand for here," Dumars said. "It's all about winning and being in the big dance at the end of the year. Those are his goals along with ours.

"I don't think we're going to sit here today and make any grand promises, but everybody knows our goals."

If Billups completes a physical and paperwork in time, Iverson will play Wednesday night in Toronto. McDyess and Samb have not been required to report to Denver. Barring injury, the 33-year-old Iverson will make his home debut Sunday night against the Boston Celtics in an NBA game as intriguing as one could be in early November.

If McDyess ends up playing for the Nuggets, he will land on their roster for the third time.

The Pistons kept McDyess off the free-agent market last summer by giving him a $13.5 million, two-year extension. Detroit would love to have the former Olympian and All-Star back next month if the cost-cutting Nuggets buy out his contract.

"I'll be talking with Antonio and his representative directly," Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien said Monday. "But we think he's a heck of a player and know he's a quality guy. One step at a time."

The Pistons have reached six straight Eastern Conference finals -- the longest such streak since the Los Angeles Lakers' dominant run in the 1980s -- and won the 2004 title without a player expected to be in the Hall of Fame.

Their lack of a superstar seemed to hurt them the past three seasons, exiting the playoffs against Boston's Kevin Garnett, Cleveland's LeBron James and Miami's Dwyane Wade.

Iverson brings plenty of star power to Detroit.

The deal also clears a lot of salary-cap space for the Pistons because Iverson is making $20.8 million in the final year of his contract while Billups is in the second season of a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $46 million with a $14 million team option for a fifth year.

Iverson has acknowledged being excited about being a free agent for the first time next summer.

Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, said he is not negotiating a contract extension with the Pistons for his client and the team is not pushing to get a deal done to keep him around beyond this season.

"We'll see how it goes and how it unfolds," Dumars said.

Iverson's life has unfolded publicly for more than a decade, bringing to light run-ins with the law, feuds with coaches and complaints about practice during that infamous news conference in which he said "practice" about 20 times during a rambling monologue.

"I don't do the same things I used to do. If I was still doing those things, I'd be a damn fool," he said. "I've learned from my mistakes. I have five kids. I have my own basketball team now. My wife has helped me get better as a person.

"As far as the basketball side, I think I'm better because I know the game a lot more than did. Early in my career, I just played with my athletic ability. I use my athletic ability still, but I try to think the game sort of like John Stockton or Karl Malone."


AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.



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