Denver coach George Karl has a simple message for Allen Iverson as he begins his second tour of duty with the 76ers tonight at the Wachovia Center against the Nuggets.
Karl, who coached Iverson from when he got traded by the Sixers on Dec. 19, 2006, until the Nuggets dealt him to Detroit on Nov. 3 of 2008, said that Iverson, at the age of 34, should be enjoying his status as an elder statesman in the NBA, one with plenty to offer younger players if he chooses.
"I want AI back playing basketball and having that bounce and energy that has been amazing over the years to most NBA basketball people," Karl said after the Nuggets' morning shoot around at the Wachovia Center. "My worry again is the commitment of what subtraction of minutes and how he accepts that in his role."
Iverson struggled by his own admission in his last two stops at Detroit and in his brief three-game career at Memphis over decreased playing time and coming off the bench.
"I don't know [that] if I am the person in Philadelphia if I want AI to play 40 minutes," Karl said. "They have too many young cats and some guys who are close and need to grow up."
And that brings us to the big question that Karl - or anybody else - can't answer at the moment.
"So can AI play 30 minutes and mentor," Karl said. "I think AI has great basketball IQ. He has great basketball knowledge. He has great basketball stories. Will he give them to the [Jrue] Holiday kid. Will he give them to Lou Williams kid?"
Then came the big question from Karl.
"Will he give to the team as a captain or leader or will he fight [and say], ' want to get on the court more?' " Karl said.
Then Karl gave his advice on how Iverson should handle a limited role.
"One thing I would tell AI [is] this is the period of his life he should be celebrating the game and enjoying the game and thanking the game rather than fighting the game," Karl said.
Karl had a good relationship with Iverson when the two were together. The Nuggets coach said they didn't always agree, and that he sought advice on how to deal with Iverson from his old University of North Carolina friend and former Sixers coach Larry Brown.
"If I had a problem with AI, and something was going astray that had to be talked about, I talked about it" with Iverson, Karl said. "I wanted [Iverson] to give his thoughts and wisdom back to me and the coaching staff."
Karl said he had that type of interaction with all veteran players. He said he had positive experiences with Iverson even though Denver lost in the first round of the playoffs in Iverson's two full seasons - to eventual champion San Antonio in 2007 and to the Lakers, NBA finalists, in 2008.
"AI's experiment in Denver was an A-plus if you take away the playoffs," Karl said. "I thought in the end the good ledger was a lot bigger and longer than the bad ledger."