Iverson says year was 'worst' of career

Updated: October 2, 2009, 10:47 AM ET
ESPN.com

Allen Iverson calls his one season in Detroit the "worst year of my career" and claims team officials and coach Michael Curry "lied" to him about coming off the bench instead of starting.

"They told me, straight up, 'Allen, we would never disrespect you or your career like that,' by making me come off the bench," Iverson said in an interview with ESPN.com Page 2 columnist Scoop Jackson. "That's what they told me to my face. And after that, I never thought about it again. I just went back to playing. Then, they came to me saying that they felt it would be in the 'best interest of the team' if I came off of the bench behind Rip [Richard Hamilton].

"... After that, they told me that if I didn't come off the bench, the team was going to lie down on [not play with] me. ... When he told me that, that's when I felt that this was the worst career move I'd ever made and it was the worst year of my career."

Iverson said when he was traded from Denver to Detroit on Nov. 3, 2008, he was happy. "I talked to Mo [his uncle/manager Gary Moore]. We both felt like it was going to be a good situation."

It deteriorated when Iverson said he heard whispers the team wanted him to come off the bench. He had started 824 of 829 career games before last season.

"If you are a head coach and you feel strongly about this," Iverson told Jackson, "what would make you think that I want to be around these guys? Especially if you are telling me that they don't want to be around me like that?"

Iverson continued: "I'd never been on a team where a coach told me the guys gave up on me. You know what I mean? And I kept this under wraps the whole time ... because I didn't want to bad-mouth any of those guys.

"... I don't have [anything] bad to say about the organization, especially Joe [Dumars, the team president]. I never had a problem with Joe. He's a stand-up person that I have love for and respect. He was not part of any of the problems I had in Detroit.

"But for [the coach] to tell me these things and for him to go back on his word like that, it was the hardest and the roughest season I've ever had."

Iverson missed 16 games near the end of the season with a back injury, then came back for three games and was used off the bench by Curry. He missed the final seven games and the Pistons' playoff series with Cleveland.

Curry was fired by the Pistons on July 1 after one season.

The Pistons, reached by ESPN.com, declined comment. Curry could not be reached for comment.

Iverson signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal with Memphis in September. Memphis opens the season at home Oct. 28 against Detroit.

In the interview, Iverson told Jackson he's in a "lose-lose" situation in Memphis if the Grizzlies don't win, but he's not going to "allow that to happen."

"I gotta win games," he said. "Because if we lose games and I score a lot, they going to say I'm scorin' too much. If we lose games and I don't score a lot, they gonna say I'm not scoring enough. It's a lose-lose, unless we win. So all I can do is huddle up with these guys and try to win basketball games."

Iverson said he expects Memphis, which won 24 games last season and had the league's fifth-worst record, to be a playoff contender.

"I'm not going to be content and happy with [just making the playoffs]," he said. "And I want them to know that. Yeah, we [can] get into the playoffs -- God forbid somebody knocks us out -- then, yeah, it'll be a successful season for them, but not for me.

"I'm going to let guys know that I'm not here to just go to the playoffs. I believe in these dudes here. All I want them to do is trust me and trust that I'll do everything the right way and lead them to where we need to be."

Iverson also said he has nothing to prove -- to the media or to critical fans.

"There's nothing that sells good about Allen Iverson if it's something positive about Allen Iverson," he said with a laugh. "You know, you don't want to hear about how much money I donate to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America or to AIDS awareness or to give out scholarships, you don't want to hear about that.

"So when I said, 'It's personal,' I meant it's not personal to me as far as people saying what they've been saying about me, about me losing a step and this that and a third. It's personal on a level to where I can have fun again playing basketball. Not worry about, 'Oh, he should start or he shouldn't start,' and all of that nonsense. I'm talking about going to practice -- yeah, I said practice -- and have fun and come out of practice happy, go to games happy, leave the arena win or lose happy.

"Man, again, I'm 34 years old -- I don't want to be going to do what I love to do and it's hurting me. Like every time I show up to games I got an attitude all the time. I don't want that. So when I said, 'It's personal,' I mean as far as me wanting to have fun again and have that love for the game all over again."