Anthony, Iverson ready for teamwork


DENVER (AP) – Carmelo Anthony’s suspension is over. Let the suspense begin.

The day after the NBA’s leading scorer was banned for 15 games for fighting, the Denver Nuggets acquired seven-time All-Star Allen Iverson, who was the league’s second-leading scorer at the time.

Can two high-scoring superstars coexist?

Sure, Iverson said, insisting he’s carried the load for so long in his career that he’s ready to serve as wingman to the 22-year-old Anthony.

“I’ve never played with nobody that good,” Iverson said.

Anthony hasn’t, either, and he, too, swears there won’t be any problems playing alongside A.I. After all, he thrived with the U.S. team at the world championships last summer while playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“I can’t wait to play with Allen,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”

Iverson said offense won’t be a problem when Anthony gets back, and Anthony agrees.

“I think it’s going to take some time to get a rhythm for everybody when I come back,” Anthony suggested. “We all got to make an adjustment. It’s going to take a couple of games.”

Anthony, who returns from his 36-day absence Monday night when the Nuggets face the Memphis Grizzlies at the Pepsi Center, said in an open letter of apology to fans and the team on Sunday that he’ll return a better player and a better person.

He’ll also return to a lineup that’s much different from the one he last saw on Dec. 16, when he clocked New York Knicks guard Mardy Collins, who had collared J.R. Smith on the way to the basket, leading to a brawl that resulted in 10 ejections and seven suspensions.

The day after the suspensions were handed down, the Nuggets sent Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round draft picks to Philadelphia for Iverson. Then, they dealt Earl Boykins and Julius Hodge to Milwaukee for Steve Blake, who helped the Nuggets win their last three games to finish 7-8 without Anthony.

Coach George Karl has spent countless hours concocting plays to complement both his superstars.

“They are both great offensive players,” Karl said. “I’m not into this (notion) that it won’t work. I think great players like to play with great players. Sometimes it’s not as perfect and fluid as the San Antonio Spurs or teams like that. But normally in time you can figure that if they will cooperate and move the ball and pass the ball, good stuff will happen.”

Karl’s contemporaries suggest the Nuggets will find a way to make it work.

Former Nuggets player Ruben Patterson, now with the Bucks, isn’t so sure things will click.

“There’s only one NBA basketball,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to get all those shots off.”

Spurs center Tim Duncan doesn’t see that as a problem.

“Iverson and Carmelo will work well together,” Duncan said. “David Robinson and I got it done together. I’m not seeing anything different from Carmelo and Allen. They are different types of players than David and I were. They are both offensive-minded and are volume shooters. I think Allen is one heck of a competitor and passer.”

Anthony was enjoying his best season this year both on and off the court when he threw his costly punch.

He had polished his public and corporate image and had steered clear of the controversies that dogged him early in his career. He gave $3 million to Syracuse, which he led to the national championship in 2003, toward construction of a basketball facility and donated $1.5 million to a Baltimore youth center just days before the Grapple in the Apple.

Anthony, who got the harshest punishment of the seven suspsended players, figures he could have had the penalty reduced on appeal but wanted to put the mess behind him.

“I’m glad I didn’t appeal it,” Anthony said. “I got tired of seeing my name on the ticker-tape.”

It appears Anthony won’t suffer an All-Star snub for his actions, either. Almost every Western Conference coach has said he wouldn’t have a problem voting him on as a reserve.

“He’s young, he made a mistake. Let’s all move on,” Popovich said. “I don’t think it should be held against him.”

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t be an All-Star,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “He was playing like an All-Star. That’s going to be a very good team when they get him back.”

And last week, Melo was named the 2006 USA Basketball male athlete of the year for his leadership and 19.9-point average at the world championships last summer.

Anthony spent his suspension working out and waiting.

During the first 10 games, when Smith also was banned from basketball, the tandem would watch the Nuggets’ games on Anthony’s big-screen TV, then drive downtown for intense, 90-minute 1-on-1 games at the Pepsi Center that went well past midnight.

“Sitting home ain’t fun, especially when you’re watching your team compete,” Anthony said. “Some days I’d just sleep all day … for the hours to go away.”

Now, Anthony’s agony is over, but his return will be bittersweet.

He had struck up a friendship with Denver Broncos defensive back Darrent Williams, who was slain in a drive-by shooting on New Year’s Day just hours after chatting with Anthony outside a downtown Denver nightclub.

“He told me he was coming to my first game back,” Anthony recounted wistfully. “He was going to be courtside cheering me on.”