by Eric Woodyard
The anticipation of Allen Iverson’s debut as a Detroit Piston in the Palace of Auburn Hills was almost as big as Barack Obama becoming the first black president of the United States. Almost!
With 22,076 fans in attendance, the game declared a sellout.
Question: With all of the buzz surrounding A.I., what could he be possibly be doing before the game?
Answer: Sitting in the locker room, answering phone calls and being as relaxed as he could possibly be.
Iverson was noticeably loose as he talked and lounged on the comfortable leather seats, while the Pistons Athletic Trainer, Mike Abdenour brought out multiple Reebok sneaks for the legend.
“How about these A.I.?” Abdenour asks as he shows A.I. the original Questions.
“I don’t know man,” Iverson says.
I hoped he rocked the Questions (my favorite sneaks of all time!) but he went with his seventh sneaker instead. He chose his retro shoe, Reebok’s The Answer XII, in Piston red, white and blue. Not only did he rock these fresh kicks, he also threw on a pair of blue socks, a blue sleeve and a blue headband. Nobody in the League has as much on-court swag as this man.
While Iverson was getting fresh to death, Doc Rivers was in the opposite hallway strategizing on how to stop A.I.
“You can’t pressure Allen, and with Chauncey, they didn’t turn the ball over but you could pressure them and make them eat up clock,” Rivers says. “Now with Allen you can’t pressure them because he’ll beat you off the dribble and go to the basket.”
After all of pre-game chatter from both locker rooms, it was time for both teams to punch in for another night at the office.
But before the Pistons took the court for their warm-ups, they had to welcome Iverson into their brotherhood. Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown each held Iverson hostage in the tunnel as Rip Hamilton gave him his traditional Piston blows to the stomach. A.I was all smiles.
As Iverson hit the floor for warm-ups with the Pistons the crowd erupted! Iverson handled the pressure so cool that you would’ve sworn he had been here before. In the words of Kanye West, his swagger was on a “hundred, thousand, trillion!”
Then when the Pistons’ announcer, John Mason, called A.I.’s name in the starting lineup, you could barely hear yourself think. (Or maybe that was just me)
“ALLEN THE I-VERSON!!!” Mason says.
Then it was game time!
The game started off very gritty with players playing war in the paint.
8:48 — A.I. nailed the first basket of the game off of an 18-footer.
8:31 — Paul Pierce quickly responded for the Cs with a fast break lay-up.
5:21 — Iverson nailed another midrange J after shaking Rondo out of his compression shorts. The fans were eating this up.
2:52 — Iverson chips in another bucket on a drive to the cup for his sixth point of the quarter. He hit three of his four shots in the quarter.
2:19 — After turning the ball over, Iverson picked up his second foul and was forced to take a seat. KG was intense as ever but none of his shots were falling as he knocked down only one of his first seven shots.
Pierce was hacking like crazy and he picked up his third foul with only 26.3 remaining. He went nuts on the third foul and was issued a technical foul. Pierce also had to take a seat.
In Pierce’s defense, Doc Rivers spoke up for Pierce and he was also t’d up and Rip converted on only one of the two free throws.
Rip also shot badly as he went 0-5.
Both teams shot under 30 percent in the quarter but the Pistons were ahead 19-17 going into the huddle. This is Pistons-Celtics basketball…Defense!!
The Pistons’ DJ got the crowd hype at the beginning of the quarter with Kanye West’s “Stronger.” The Cs then seemed to use this song as motivation as they got “stronger” in the paint.
Leon Powe and Glen “Big Baby” Davis quickly exposed Kwame Brown and Jason Maxiell with two quick buckets.
11:18 — Powe threw down a thunderous dunk off a pretty feed from Eddie House.
10:40 — Big Baby knocked down a nine-foot turnaround J.
The 2008 WNBA Champions, Detroit Shock, were congratulated on the screen and Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson were in the building. (It seems like Cheryl looks more and more like her father, Karl Malone, every single day…back to the game.)
Tayshaun Prince was the only Piston that seemed to be able to get a basket. His J was stuck on automatic. He had six points in the quarter and finished the half with 11 points.
Tony Allen was the better Allen for the Cs as he matched Tayshaun on the other end. He had 12 points in the quarter and 13 for the half on 6-8 shooting.
Iverson finished the half with just eight points and four turnovers after the quick start. The C’s closed out the half in command with a 47-29 lead.
The Pistons’ Guard, Rodney Stuckey was in the hallway being checked out by team doctors.
The half started out the same way it did in the first half, very gritty.
KG was still shooting flat.
10:25 — A.I. led the fast break and left the pass for Amir Johnson who scored on a nice Lay-up. And-1!
10:06 — Ray Allen scored a lay-up for the Cs.
Tay was still the only Piston scoring as he chipped in 10 points in the quarter.
A injury report was then handed out: “Rodney Stuckey experienced symptoms of dizziness and felt light-headed at the end of the first half…he will not return.”
The C’s finished the quarter still in control 69-49.
Aaron Aflallo and Will Bynum started the quarter off. The Pistons were looking for anything.
Allen Iverson sat out most of the fourth quarter and he didn’t return until 3:44.
Although the Pistons made an effort, the game was over by the middle of the quarter and fans began leaving early.
0:48 — Tony Allen put an exclamation point on the game as he finished with a reverse slam!
The Cs spoiled A.I.’s home debut with 88-76 victory.
A.I. finished with just 10 points on 4-11 shooting in 31 minutes of action.
Tony Allen was not only the better Allen for the second quarter but he was also the better Allen for the game, as he led the Cs with 23 points.
A special press conference was held for Allen Iverson and the media was surrounding him like a dance battle at a teen party.
He addressed the media with professionalism and ended with a few good quotes:
On the game: “We got a lot of good looks at the basket and we just didn’t know shots down.”
On his style: “I’m a totally different player than what they’re used to playing with and we just gonna have to get used to each other. But we weren’t playing no scrubs, they are the world champions.”
On team chemistry: “I’m a basketball player and I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old so I know how to play the game. If you’re playing pick-up and you got five guys against five guys and the guys don’t know each other than the best five is gonna win.”
On his conditioning: “I can play another quarter, I’m fine. I don’t have any excuses, I’m 100 percent and I’m ready to go.”
On the city of Detroit: “This is where I wanna be. Obviously I didn’t dream it up like this, in my dreams we won the first game that I played, and I came in here and the crowd treated me like they did, but we won the basketball game. This is the way it is but I have to be able to accept what happened and move forward and it’s all about being a competitor but we got another one on Tuesday and that’s the one (that) we’re concentrating on.”
The Pistons will face the Kings Tues. to start their four-game west coast road trip. I’m sure A.I. will be more than ready to get his first win.
“My goal is to win a championship and that’s all I’m concerned about,” Iverson said.