Iverson ecstatic about new coach Cheeks
DURHAM, N.C. -- Allen Iverson loves practice so much he wants to arrive early.
"I can't remember the last time I actually wanted to come in real early," the former MVP said Friday. "It's been great, man. Everybody's responding well. Everybody's trying to learn and get better."
So much for the player who never missed a chance to denounce or skip practice.
Iverson has a whole new outlook now that former All-Star guard Maurice Cheeks is coaching the 76ers. The atmosphere at training camp at Duke University is fun and relaxed, and Iverson attributes that to the laid-back, yet authoritative, Cheeks.
"This was a dream for me, ever since coach [Larry] Brown left," Iverson said. "I wanted Maurice Cheeks to be the coach and now it's finally here. It's just different for me. I feel like in the 10 years that I've been playing, the atmosphere should have always been like it is. I should have always wanted to come to work every day and not play hard or go after people because I was upset about something."
Last year was really the first one where Iverson made news only for what he did on the court. The off-court drama and public coaching clashes evaporated as Iverson enjoyed perhaps his finest year, which included an All-Star game MVP award and a 60-point game.
After once asking, "How can I make my teammates better by practicing?" Iverson finally discovered he really can make a difference.
"When everybody sees that I'm working and ready to get at it, I guess it makes it that much easier for them to get involved with everything going on," Iverson said.
Last year, Iverson complained that he had little input under former coach Jim O'Brien. Iverson said the 76ers failed to develop an identity and rarely made adjustments, including a resistance to zone defense.
Cheeks' positive attitude isn't totally new to Iverson. Cheeks was an assistant under Brown when Iverson led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001.
"Everybody's not here uptight," Iverson said. "It's just been fun so far."
O'Brien also didn't believe in getting Chris Webber more involved once the All-Star forward was acquired in February. While it's been only a week and not even a preseason game has been played, Cheeks has raved about the way Iverson and Webber have clicked.
Iverson said he's noticed a difference in Webber's attitude, with the forward going from downbeat on Monday to downright beaming and optimistic on Thursday.
"He's been doing everything to make us better and make himself better," Iverson said. "We're just trying to put it together on the court right here in training camp. Hopefully when we leave here, we'll have some type of chemistry."
Cheeks gave Webber the day off Friday, but a day earlier Webber credited the first-year coach with making so much of a dramatic difference.
"I want what Mo has and that's a championship," Webber said. "I admire what he's done and I thank him for the communication and just being a man first and a coach second. If you're a good man, it's easy to be a good coach."
Cheeks just might be the coach of the year if he truly can get Webber and Iverson to coexist and share the ball. While he likes hearing the two rave about the atmosphere, Cheeks said he was setting the same upbeat tone he always has.
"It's important that guys want to come to work," he said. "I want them to enjoy coming here. It's where we're going to be for eight or nine months."
So does this mean I have to retire my sig now?
"Married men live longer. Yes. And an indoor cat also lives longer. It's a furball with a broken spirit, that can only look out on a world it can never enjoy. But it does technically live longer." - Bill Maher
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