Iverson still wants to start
Iverson came off the bench for Memphis for the third straight game Friday night, scoring eight points in 22 minutes during the Grizzlies' 114-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 10-time All-Star says he has no interest in being a reserve or playing for a rebuilding team, and he immediately made his displeasure public with several barbed comments in the days following his season debut Monday.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins says he understands his new veteran guard's perspective, but even Iverson thinks the two are off to a rocky start.
"I think that's probably the worst part of all this," Iverson said Friday. "That while all this is going on, we have never talked to each other. That's probably why it's at this point right now. We've just never had a conversation, so it's probably going to always be hard for me and him to see eye-to-eye, because we've never even talked to each other. Obviously that's what you do if you're trying to accomplish the same goal."
Before and after the Grizzlies' fourth straight loss, Iverson showed bemused frustration at the trouble his words have caused since he returned from a torn right hamstring. Yet he doesn't back down from them: The Answer wants to start, and he also insists nobody told him the Grizzlies would be rebuilding after a 24-58 season.
And Iverson, who was passed Kobe Bryant for 16th place on the NBA's career scoring list Friday night, apparently doesn't feel it's his job to figure out a role in which he can help the Grizzlies.
"I'm not trying to figure out how to contribute to no team," Iverson said. "I contribute to a team by just playing. That's it. I don't have to figure it out. Obviously, they signed me for a reason. They've been watching me play this game for 13 years, and they know what I do on the basketball court, so I don't have to figure out how I'm going to play or anything like that. I just go out and play basketball."
Iverson believes his comments have caused a stir mostly because of his long history of provocative opinions and actions, from his infamous disdain for practice to a few lesser stirs in Denver and Detroit last season.
"When I hear anything about the Memphis Grizzlies, I don't hear you guys [media] talk about anything other than the situation with me coming off the bench," Iverson said. "I mean, there's got to be something else with this team to talk about besides that. But I guess that sells a lot better than anything else when it comes to this team."
Before the game, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley shook hands with Iverson in the locker room Friday night and could be heard chatting about plans for a meeting with the veteran guard.
Heisley, who flew into Los Angeles earlier in the day, backed Hollins in the perceived dispute this week, saying the coach would handle the Grizzlies' rotation and calling Iverson's comments "inappropriate," according to The Commercial Appeal.
"Do I say all the right things all the time? I doubt it," Iverson said. "But the ultimate goal is to win games. That's the only thing it's about."
Hollins refused to speak about Iverson earlier in the week, but said Friday he has no problem with Iverson's pointed words. He also doesn't intend to have a special chat with Iverson.
"Every player has his opinion of his self-worth and what he expects, but I have to coach the whole team," Hollins said. "There's no need to talk to A.I. He's a competitor, and we're going to be fine. ... He has a right to say what he wants to say, and I have a right to say what I want."
Iverson got his first game action with the Grizzlies on Monday night in Sacramento, and he played 27 minutes off the bench against Golden State on Wednesday. Iverson entered Friday's game with 6:36 left in the first quarter, but played sparingly and spent much of the night yapping at the officials from the bench with a towel over his head.
"It's something that I never did in my life, so obviously it's a big adjustment," Iverson said of coming off the bench.
Memphis has one of the NBA's most intriguing young backcourts with Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, but that talent hasn't translated into many victories. The Grizzlies have endured three straight losing seasons with 68 total victories following three straight trips to the playoffs.
Hollins realizes Iverson's role easily could change depending on injuries and the starters' effectiveness, but he doesn't seem inclined to promise a starting job to Iverson or any player.
"Roles change, positions change," Hollins said. "He's a prideful person that believes in himself. Every player wants to play a starting role, and a player of his caliber especially."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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