Iverson ecstatic about new coach Cheeks

DURHAM, N.C. -- Allen Iverson loves practice so much he
wants to arrive early.

"I can't remember the last time I actually wanted to come in
real early," the former MVP said Friday. "It's been great, man.
Everybody's responding well. Everybody's trying to learn and get

So much for the player who never missed a chance to denounce or
skip practice.

Iverson has a whole new outlook now that former All-Star guard
Maurice Cheeks is coaching the 76ers. The atmosphere at training
camp at Duke University is fun and relaxed, and Iverson attributes
that to the laid-back, yet authoritative, Cheeks.

"This was a dream for me, ever since coach [Larry] Brown
left," Iverson said. "I wanted Maurice Cheeks to be the coach and
now it's finally here. It's just different for me. I feel like in
the 10 years that I've been playing, the atmosphere should have
always been like it is. I should have always wanted to come to work
every day and not play hard or go after people because I was upset
about something."

Last year was really the first one where Iverson made news only
for what he did on the court. The off-court drama and public
coaching clashes evaporated as Iverson enjoyed perhaps his finest
year, which included an All-Star game MVP award and a 60-point

After once asking, "How can I make my teammates better by
practicing?" Iverson finally discovered he really can make a

"When everybody sees that I'm working and ready to get at it, I
guess it makes it that much easier for them to get involved with
everything going on," Iverson said.

Last year, Iverson complained that he had little input under
former coach Jim O'Brien. Iverson said the 76ers failed to develop
an identity and rarely made adjustments, including a resistance to
zone defense.

Cheeks' positive attitude isn't totally new to Iverson. Cheeks
was an assistant under Brown when Iverson led the 76ers to the NBA
Finals in 2001.

"Everybody's not here uptight," Iverson said. "It's just been
fun so far."

O'Brien also didn't believe in getting Chris Webber more
involved once the All-Star forward was acquired in February. While
it's been only a week and not even a preseason game has been
played, Cheeks has raved about the way Iverson and Webber have

Iverson said he's noticed a difference in Webber's attitude,
with the forward going from downbeat on Monday to downright beaming
and optimistic on Thursday.

"He's been doing everything to make us better and make himself
better," Iverson said. "We're just trying to put it together on
the court right here in training camp. Hopefully when we leave
here, we'll have some type of chemistry."

Cheeks gave Webber the day off Friday, but a day earlier Webber
credited the first-year coach with making so much of a dramatic

"I want what Mo has and that's a championship," Webber said.
"I admire what he's done and I thank him for the communication and
just being a man first and a coach second. If you're a good man,
it's easy to be a good coach."

Cheeks just might be the coach of the year if he truly can get
Webber and Iverson to coexist and share the ball. While he likes
hearing the two rave about the atmosphere, Cheeks said he was
setting the same upbeat tone he always has.

"It's important that guys want to come to work," he said. "I
want them to enjoy coming here. It's where we're going to be for
eight or nine months."