Pistons betting on Iverson

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Word started to filter out around 3 p.m. yesterday.

The Raptors, who were supposed to be the stepping off point for Allen Iverson's return to the Eastern Conference, would not be playing that role.

Iverson, obtained from the Denver Nuggets in the blockbuster deal that sent Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb out west, was relegated to a mere spectator last night because Billups wasn't going to arrive in Denver until late last night and would not have his physical until this morning.

By league rules, players involved in a trade have 72 hours to report to their new clubs and while Iverson was a little quicker to Detroit, Billups was well within the time frame getting to Denver. The trade, however, is not official until the players have both passed their physicals. So, although Iverson had passed his and done a walk-through with the Pistons at their morning shootraround, technically he was not yet officially a Piston.

There is no question Iverson changes the landscape of the Eastern Conference. The question is will the big change come now or down the road?

Iverson, for his part, is saying all the right things about making the change in the short run. In a nutshell, he wants to be on a winner and will do whatever it takes to get to that point.

In the final year of his contract and playing for another one -- he says he will play until he is 39 -- the 33-year-old Iverson will be motivated, but seems to be suggesting individual stats will not be his prime objective, which would be a change from his career thus far. Iverson has won just about every conceivable individual award and has a "big-time resume" as he points out, but one with a considerable hole in it -- that being an NBA championship title.

Iverson is convinced he can fill that resume gap in Detroit.

The Pistons, from general manager Joe Dumars, who made the deal, to head coach Michael Curry, who is in the first year in that position, seem to be of the same opinion.

"He's the guy that we haven't had here," Curry said. "A guy that every night draws a double (team). You need that. (In Toronto) you all have that in Chris (Bosh). Now you added J.O. (Jermaine O'Neal) to the mix and that puts you on another level when you get to the playoffs. We need guys. We know we have great players but we have had to be really efficient in the post-season to win and we have done a good job of that. But at some point when it gets tough to score, then you need guys to draw a double team."

Curry says he anticipates no problems with the newest Piston.

"He is fine," Curry said. "I'm fine with him. Totally happy to have him."

There is some concern, the vast majority of it from outside the organization, that Iverson's arrival may not be the best for team chemistry.

Rip Hamilton spent the first two days following the trade refusing to comment on the deal, although that just could be out of loyalty to Billups.

Iverson believes it's a win-win for both he and Hamilton.

"I think it's going to be a positive," Iverson said. "Obviously you can't give me the attention you normally give me out on the basketball court with a guy like Rip out there with me. And you can't give Rip the attention you usually give him with a guy like me out there. We are just going to use each other's strengths. Hopefully I can make the game a lot easier for him by taking some of the attention away and he can do the same for me."

The safer bet is on the long term value of this trade. With Iverson's $21-million US coming off the books at the end of the year, as well as the $14 million Rasheed Wallace is earning this year, the Pistons are going to have options.

Dumars, who clearly decided the status quo was not going to get it done, can now decide whether to bring one or both of these two aging players back or head to the free agent market either next season or in 2010 when all kinds of talent -- Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade to name three -- could be available.

Iverson may or may not be a hit with his new club, but either way, Dumars will have options.


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