Familiar faces in Pistons tilt

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Allen Iverson isn't the only familiar face the Raptors will encounter tonight when the Detroit Pistons invade the Air Canada Centre.

Detroit coach Michael Curry was a one-year Raptors forward in 2003-04 and was influential in the early career of rookie Chris Bosh.

"I remember him telling me to get here early (for practice)," Bosh said yesterday. "He was kind of being a mentor to me. A lot has happened since he left."

Curry departed as a free agent just as Sam Mitchell was named head coach and the Vince Carter era came to an end. Curry then worked for the NBA's D-League before becoming a Pistons assistant coach.

Jermaine O'Neal's role in the big Pacers-Pistons' Malice at the Palace brawl in 2004 is slowly fading from memory, but he never let it hurt his friendship with Rasheed Wallace from their playing days with the Portland Trail Blazers.

"He's one of the guys who kind of groomed me when I was in Portland," O'Neal said. "We took our families on vacation to Italy together. But we always were able to roll up our sleeves, go for the jump ball and then hug each other afterwards."

RAPS' NEMESIS

And then there's Iverson, an old Raptors nemesis from his days in Philly, who has averaged 30.4 points against Toronto. He was slated to play them just twice this season, but Monday's big trade from Denver brings The Answer back to the Eastern Conference tonight and for more games against the Raptors.

"I want to be the piece that gets us over the hump," Iverson said yesterday at his introductory news conference, where his No. 1 red, white and blue Pistons jersey was unveiled. "I've done so many things in this league, being an all-star and scoring champion, but I haven't accomplished my No. 1 goal and that is to win a championship."

Mitchell doubts that Curry will have time to re-arrange Detroit's whole lineup around Iverson, but there still is a lot of curiosity from the Raptors about how Iverson's role will be maximized by Detroit.

"It's easy to say they'll (mesh) until they get together and see what kind of chemistry they have," O'Neal said. "I know A.I., both personally and as an opposing player, and there's no question what he brings to the table is hard work and intensity.

"That Detroit team has strived to be on an even keel team where nobody looks to each other to be the top player or the superstar. They have a team-type of offence that distributes the ball. Al has been a top scorer for many years and so you have to see how that will work out with him."


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