DENVER (AP) – The crowd erupted when Allen Iverson got up early in the first quarter. The fans quickly realized it was just a timeout, then put together an even better welcome a few minutes later.

When Iverson made his first appearance for the Denver Nuggets with 3:25 left in the first, the crowd roared even louder. The public address announcer said, “For the first time at the Pepsi Center, Allen Iverson” and the place dialed it up even more.

Iverson, acquired from Philadelphia on Tuesday, sat next to assistant coach Mike Dunlap, waiting for Denver coach George Karl to put him in. The star guard had a towel on his lap and took sips from a Gatorade bottle. He got up from his seat on a Nene shot and did a little fist pump. Iverson’s first basket came on a 13-foot fadeaway with 1:24 left in the first quarter. His first awe-inspiring pass was when he threw a lob to DerMarr Johnson for a slam in the second quarter.

Before the game, Rocky, the team’s mascot, rode out to center court on a motorcycle, took off his Santa coat and revealed Iverson’s familiar No. 3 jersey.

Still too new to buy in stores, fans improvised for Iverson jerseys. One fan plastered “Nuggets” across his 76ers’ uniform with Iverson’s number on it.

Iverson was able to wear No. 3 thanks to Johnson, who gladly surrendered the jersey once he learned Iverson was coming to town. “I think No. 3 looks a lot better on him,” Johnson said. “He’s got a legacy wearing that number. I ain’t done much with it.”

While the national anthem was sung, there were 15 television and still cameras all in Iverson’s face.

Iverson cleared his physical shortly after arriving at the Pepsi Center about an hour before the game with Sacramento.

He went up to the Nuggets’ practice facility to shoot some jumpers and then came out on the floor.

“It’s going to be fun,” Karl said. “I don’t know how he’s going to fit, or what it’s going to mean. I know he’s a great player. I know he’s excited to be here. I know we’re exited to have him. Right now, we’ve just got to let the rhythm of the game tell us where it falls into place.”

Iverson’s physical was all that was keeping the blockbuster trade between the Nuggets and 76ers from becoming official. New 76er Andre Miller passed his physical, although Miller wasn’t in Boston for Philly’s game Friday night.

Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said the team waived the requirement that Smith take a physical; he was acquired mostly for salary cap purposes. Smith was forced to sit out against the Celtics because of Iverson’s delay in getting to Denver.

The Nuggets certainly needed Iverson, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith out after being suspended for their roles in a brawl with the New York Knicks last weekend and Marcus Camby sidelined with a fractured ring finger on his shooting hand.

Anthony, who’s serving a 15-game suspension, said it’s hard just watching.

“That’s what I told (Iverson),” Anthony said. “I said, ‘It’s going hard for me watching you in a Denver Nuggets uniform when I ain’t even out there.’ He said he’d try to hold it down until me and J.R. and Camby get back.”

Ivan McFarlin, who also was acquired by Denver in the Iverson deal, was waived Friday night. The Nuggets activated forward-center Jamal Sampson.

The weather also wreaked havoc with the Kings’ schedule. They flew into Colorado Springs and made the 70-mile bus ride to Denver to show up about 90 minutes before the scheduled tip.

AP-ES-12-22-06 2158EST


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