Denver coach George Karl had a simple message for Allen Iverson as he began his second tour of duty with the 76ers last night at the Wachovia Center.
Iverson scored 11 points in the Sixers' 93-83 loss before a sellout crowd of 20,664.
Karl coached Iverson after the Sixers traded him on Dec. 19, 2006, until the Nuggets dealt him to Detroit in November 2008. The coach believes that the 34-year-old Iverson should try to enjoy his status as an elder statesman in the NBA.
He also believes that Iverson should not be preoccupied with how many minutes he plays, something that helped spoil his last two stops, in Detroit and Memphis.
"I want A.I. back playing basketball and having that bounce and energy that has been amazing over the years to most NBA basketball people," Karl after the Nuggets' morning shoot-around. "My worry again is the commitment [after a potential] subtraction of minutes and how he accepts that in his role."
Karl offered some simple advice.
"One thing I would tell A.I., 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," he said.
At this stage, it would not benefit the Sixers if Iverson played extended minutes, Karl said.
"I don't know, if I am the person in Philadelphia, if I want A.I. to play 40 minutes," Karl said. "They have too many young cats and some guys who are close and need to grow up.
"So can A.I. play 30 minutes and mentor? I think A.I. 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 the Lou Williams kid?"
Iverson played more than 37 minutes and made 4 of 11 shots from the field.
"It was a positive experience to be a part of A.I. returning, and I thought he fatigued as the game went on," Karl said. "Early in the game, he was the A.I. I've seen. I think he's probably not in the best of shape, and we probably got some benefits because of that."
Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, who scored 31 points, said it would take some time for Iverson to gain some rhythm.
"He hadn't played in a while and was a little rusty and missed some shots that he usually doesn't miss that I'm sure will start going down really shortly," Billups said. "But I was happy to see him out there."
So was Nuggets teammate Kenyon Martin.
"The way things were in Detroit and Memphis, for him to come back to a city that embraced him so much for 10 years, it's a great thing for him and the city," Martin said. "I didn't want to see him go out the way things were playing out for him. He still has a lot of game to give."
"A.I.'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."