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To say that Allen Iverson has had a love-hate relationship with the media would be an understatement. Even though he may not feel like talking, you can always approach him, as I recently did before a game in Philly. Even though I'd been told that Iverson would be willing to talk to me for this month's SLAM cover story, that didn't necessarily mean he'd talk to me then. "I gotta go shoot," he said, deftly brushing me off. I was told to wait 15 minutes, when he would return from shooting and talk.
Fifteen minutes later he came back, grabbed a headband from his locker and disappeared again until the locker room closed. It occurred to me that interviewing Allen Iverson must be similar to guarding him -- one second he's there, the next he's gone. And this was coming from a guy who always lists SLAM as his favorite magazine in the Philly media guide.
Anyway, when I finally cornered him down after the game, he had plenty to say about the last year or so.
"I think the best part of this year, and the part that I'm most excited about this season, is that nobody's talking about us," Iverson said. "And the year we went to the Finals was the same way -- nobody was talking about us and everybody had guys picked to go in front of us. I had a bad season last year as far as injuries, a lot of stuff off the court as far as myself and Coach [Chris] Ford. You know, it was just so many distractions last year, it was my worst season. But then to come back playing a new position, it's something to get the people excited about in Philadelphia and if they've seen any of the preseason games, they should know it's going to be an exciting game."
It's easy to overlook the Sixers; besides Iverson, there's not much flash there. After the Sixers made the NBA Finals in 2001, the team was methodically torn apart through trades and free agency, and the none-too-unimportant defection of Larry Brown to Detroit. Only Iverson and Aaron McKie remain from that team. The current incarnation's second-most well-known player is probably Glenn Robinson (who is currently relegated to the injured list until the Sixers can trade him).
But that doesn't mean this team can't be a surprise. New coach Jim O'Brien will stress defense, and even if guys might no longer play Brown's "right way," they'll at least play hard or not play at all. To that end, rookie Andre Iguodala is all angles and hustle, and he's already cracked the starting lineup. Second-year guard Willie Green comes off the bench to provide instant offense, and Kyle "Kutcher" Korver is like a young Steve Kerr.
For the Sixers to be successful this year, the season won't rest as much on their offense or even their defense as much as it will their teamwork. These guys really need each other for this team to win games. With Iverson playing point guard for the first time in his pro career, when Philly does reach the tipping point, it will help that AI, for one, seems to be excited about the Sixers' chances this season.
"I think our chemistry is there as a team. I think by me playing this position, Willie gets a chance to run up and down the court and get easy baskets. And I get a chance to get the ball to guys that might not be the greatest halfcourt players, but as far as getting out in lanes and being good finishers, I get to get those guys the ball."
Against Orlando Sunday, Iverson went for 29 points and 12 assists. Even though he racked up 7 turnovers, he hounded Steve Francis into a 3-for-15 performance and the Sixers got a win. Philly is just 3-3 right now, but being in the Leastern Conference and in the pitiful Atlantic Division means the Sixers have got a shot to secure top three seed in the playoffs.
"To me it's like starting all over," Iverson said. "If you've watched any of the games I've played at the point guard position, it's honestly hard for other teams to stop it, because I'm putting pressure on guys. We don't always have to come down and rely on getting points off a set offense. We get a chance to run up and down the court and get a lot of easy baskets."
Something I learned this week in an NBA locker room
After playing in the summer Olympics, Stephon Marbury returned and got "Life is Sweet" tattooed on his neck. Also, Iverson got the words "Money Bagz" tattooed on his left hand and several bags (of money, I suppose) on his right.
Game of the week
Here's a simple challenge that tests your ability to click numbers, in order. I'll just advise you not to play this on your laptop. I nearly got a blister testing this out, trying to slide my finger around the pad quickly.
Obit of the week
If you're sitting at your desk right now reading The Links, take your coffee or water or whatever and pour some out for Ol' Dirty Bastard, who passed away Saturday at the age of 35. Whatever happened to entertainers who were actually entertaining?
Uprising of the week
There's civil disobedience, and then there's Al Pieda, a group that expresses their dissatisfaction with pundits and politics through pies. I kind of like the fact that this group actually organized, too.
Show of the week
The official reality show of The Links, The Amazing Race, returns this week with season six. My early favorites for weirdest contestants are Bolo and his wife Lori, who are both professional wrestlers. Anyone seen this guy wrestle before?
Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com. For more with Allen Iverson, pick up the new issue of SLAM, on newsstands this week.