When I was playing for the New York Knicks we often used a team approach to defend Allen Iverson.
AI still elevating his game
Like many teams, we tried to channel him into one area, and then have the help come. Trying to play a scorer like him straight up is not a good idea -- here comes the crossover! -- so you want to send him where some help of the longer variety can step in.
Now, teams can still try that, but they're dealing with the more experienced Iverson now. Instead of driving into three people, he'll step back and shoot. He'll spot the open man.
Right now, he just might be at the top of his game in skill and smarts.
When you have more miles on your career, you have to be efficient. And Iverson is just that early this season, helping send Philadelphia off to a 3-0 start. He made 49 percent of his shots in averaging 34 points per game before Monday's loss to Indiana. He had 20 points in that 97-86 defeat.
But in some ways, at 31 and in his 11th year in the league, he's still the same on court. You see his fearlessness, both mentally and physically, and that extreme energy he had when he first came into the league from Georgetown.
So on the court, he's the same, but just better, more mature, these days. And I think he now realizes fully the kind of responsibility he has to his teammates.
I believe the same is true off the court. I get the sense, reading and hearing his quotes lately, that he's seeing his career from a bigger picture, not just his legacy on the court, but off it too. He's got his own family, and he may be thinking about how he's going to be remembered.
I've found myself in the position of having to defend Iverson on the court. Not easy. Same for trying to do it off court, whether it's his "practice" comment, the gun questions, the league's dress policy and on and on.
But overall, I think he's misunderstood. He's from a different world than David Stern.
Take the practice comment. My father was a coach who drilled "you play like you practice" to me since I was nine years old. But I think Iverson didn't realize the way that comment would be received. Would he say the same thing now?
Iverson's wrapped up in the game first and foremost. He's not thinking that his shirt is hanging out, or that his reaction to the officials might be seen as excessive.
Now, he's got to carry a team that finished out of the playoffs despite having his best scoring (33.0 ppg) and shooting (44.7 percent) seasons last year.
As for their outlook in the playoff race, despite all that AI brings, I still wouldn't put Philly in as a favorite for that eighth spot in the East. But it's hard to count out a team with the experience of Iverson and Chris Webber.
The Answer will see to that.
ESPN analyst Allan Houston played 12 years in the NBA before retiring in 2005.
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Hawks guard Tyronn Lue is congratulated by teammates after sending the game into overtime with a basket at the buzzer in Cleveland. Atlanta is now 3-1.
GO WEST: Chris Paul is the straw that stirs the drink for the Hornets. We all know that. But David West IS THE DRINK! Well schooled at Xavier for four years, West came into the NBA as a complete and prototypical power forward who just needed some minutes to show his stuff. He finally got it last year, put up serious numbers, and had people thinking he really improved while riding the pine his first two years. Bunk. He's always been this good, and now will compete for All-Star status for the forseeable future. -- David Thorpe
OPENING GUY: Everyone thinks of Peja Stojakovic as a shooting specialist, but he is an artist at moving without the ball. -- Thorpe
SHOT AND A CHEER: Anthony Roberson has a number of weaknesses as a basketball player that may derail his long-term NBA dreams, but I've watched him for five years, and he is one of the best shotmakers I have ever seen. Don Nelson has said as much to other league coaches. -- Thorpe
VOTING BLIGHTS: Who says the NBA is not reflective of American society? Election night saw a number of incumbents get their heads handed to them. Pat Riley, Avery Johnson, Mike D'Antoni and Mike Brown know exactly how they feel. -- Thorpe
RISING HAWKS: I think Joe Johnson is one of the top players in the league. Zaza Pachulia is a very effective post player. If the Hawks can get real production from their PG, like Tyronn Lue gave them in Cleveland, Hotlanta may just have the surprise team of the NBA. -- Thorpe
"ANDRIS BIEDRINS HITS THEM BOTH!": Normally, Bob Fitzgerald's call on the Warriors TV broadcast might seem excessive when the big man made two free throws that gave Golden State an 88-87 lead late in an eventual loss to the Hornets. But when you figure Biedrins made Shaq look like Rick Barry with a 30.6 FT percentage last year, the call was perfect. -- Andrew Ayres
The Knicks have lost three of their first four games and have allowed at least 100 points in each one.
It's been 18 years since the Knicks last allowed 100 or more points in each of their first four games. That team was coached by Rick Pitino and featured Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and Mark Jackson.
After beating the Golden State Warriors 97-93 behind 22 points and 11 assists from Chris Paul, the Hornets are 4-0 for the first time since their inception before the 1988-89 season.
Jazz the only other unbeaten team
Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Dahntay Jones of the Grizzlies slammed this one home over Yao, but the Rockets had the last word, 86-80.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
While the season has just started, next summer is already a hot topic. With the deadline having just passed for players from the class of 2003 (LeBron, D-Wade, Melo, et al.) to ink extensions, we know with much more clarity just who will be on the market.
Marc Stein: Are you kidding me? Re-read your second sentence. The fact that Ronny Turiaf, Andrew Bynum, Maurice Evans and Jordan Farmar all look like rotation players is the best thing that could have happened to the Lakers.
A year ago, they were seen as a team with no trade assets (apart from Odom) to make a run at Ron Artest. If these guys aren't just a Week 1 mirage and keep it up, L.A.'s outlook gets seriously brighter.
Baseball has Alou, Bonds and Griffey. Which NBA players have basketball in their blood? Here is a list of current NBA players who had fathers that also played in the NBA. Jalen Rose and his father, Jimmy Walker, will join this list as soon as Jalen officially signs with the Suns.
-- ESPN Research