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Iverson can mellow out in Denver

Philadelphia trades controversial guard to Nuggets for Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round picks, giving Denver the top two scorers in the league.

December 20, 2006|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Allen Iverson was no longer the answer in Philadelphia. The question now is, how will his unique blend of talent, passion and uncompromising independence play in Denver?

The four-time NBA scoring champion, nicknamed "the Answer," was traded by the 76ers on Tuesday, along with forward Ivan McFarlin, to the Nuggets for point guard Andre Miller, forward Joe Smith and Denver's two 2007 first-round draft picks, pending league approval.

"I'm very happy about the trade," Iverson said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday night. "Denver's style of play fits my strengths. I'm looking forward to playing with Carmelo [Anthony], the rest of the Denver Nuggets, and for [Coach] George Karl, who is a proven winner."

Thus ends a stormy decade in Philadelphia for Iverson, who led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001 and was a perennial favorite on sports highlight shows, but was hardly a favorite with his coaches and the front office after repeated clashes over team rules and decorum. To Iverson, the ugliest word in the English language was practice.

There was also controversy off the court. There were arrests in 1997 for carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of marijuana and in 2002 over a domestic dispute with his wife. Iverson was sentenced to community service in 1997 and all charges against him were dropped five years later. He also recorded a never-released rap album, which drew criticism from civil rights groups and earned him a reprimand from NBA Commissioner David Stern because of its offensive lyrics.

Nobody battled with Iverson more than former coach Larry Brown, but with Brown long gone, the final clash came two weeks ago when the 76ers benched Iverson and put him on the market.

"I thought this was the best for this franchise for the long haul," 76ers President Billy King said at a news conference. "Any time you take a great player off a team, it's a big loss. I'm not going to discredit what Allen did for this organization."

Iverson, 31, arrives in Denver, baggage in hand, at a time when the Nuggets are still reeling from Saturday's explosive game against the New York Knicks in which a wild brawl resulted in the suspension of seven players, three of those Nuggets.

The biggest loss for Denver is forward Carmelo Anthony, the league's leading scorer (31.6 points a game), who was suspended for 15 games for punching New York's Mardy Collins.

Iverson, the NBA's second-league scorer (31.2), had 25 points, seven assists and seven turnovers in his final game with the 76ers, a 121-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 6.

The loss of Anthony until Jan. 20 put additional pressure on the Nuggets to complete a deal that had been under discussion since last summer.

The Clippers were also seriously interested in Iverson, as were the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat.

The Clippers, who were willing to give up Corey Maggette, might have had a deal had they been willing to part with guard Shaun Livingston as well.

Were they ever close to making a deal?

"There's no way for us to know that," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You'd have to ask them."

Unlike the Clippers, the Nuggets were willing to trade their starting guard.

"We're getting a superstar, an absolute superstar," Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien said. "To get a superstar, you have to give up a star. Thank you, Andre Miller."

Said Karl: "We're doing this [trade] to be better...we're doing this to contend."

Iverson was an All-Star seven times in 10 previous seasons with the 76ers since being the top pick in the 1996 draft, and his 28.1 career scoring average is third in league history behind Michael Jordan (30.12) and Wilt Chamberlain (30.07). He was named most valuable player in 2001 after a season when he led the 76ers to a showdown against the Lakers in the Finals, won by the Lakers in five games.

Miller's 9.1 assists average is third in the league and his 12.4 scoring average trailed only Anthony and J.R. Smith on the Nuggets. Miller, 30, played four seasons in Denver after one season with the Clippers and three with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Iverson is making $18 million this season and has two years left at $19 million and $21 million. Miller, who will make $8.7 million this season, also has two years remaining at $9.4 million and $10 million. Smith will make $6.8 million this season, the final year of his contract.

"I'm happy for him," the Lakers' Kobe Bryant said of Iverson's move. "I'm glad he went to a place where he wanted to go."

"I think this shores up Denver while they wait for Carmelo to return," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said, "but I don't know if it shifts the balance. Andre Miller was quite a player in terms of assists. They will miss him."

Dunleavy, too, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

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