Iverson excited to reunite with NBA peers in tourney


This might be as close as Allen Iverson gets to playing in the NBA again.

In 14 pro seasons, the 36-year-old guard has accrued a lot of mileage. But with the NBA in a lockout since July 1 and no signs of a deal imminent, despite the two sides resuming talks Wednesday, Iverson has lent his name and his game to a weekend tournament Nov. 12 and 13 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Iverson was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2001 and the league's leading scorer four times. He spent part of last year playing in Turkey after being out of the NBA for the first time since 1996, and said he was looking forward to connecting with old friends and playing against the next generation of NBA stars.

"I think this is a great opportunity to do what I love," Iverson said of his decision to host what is being billed as the Las Vegas Superstar Challenge. "I was affected by the last lockout (in 1998), and it killed me not being able to play. This is a great opportunity to get to see guys play together that you would never normally get to see on the same team in a competitive atmosphere."

The four teams were announced Wednesday, with Iverson's team having the biggest names. Tentatively scheduled to play on Iverson's "Team A.I." are Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Andre Iguodala, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, Thaddeus Young, Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford.

Al Harrington will captain another team that will include former Bishop Gorman star C.J. Watson, Monta Ellis, David Lee, James Harden, Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

Team Philly, captained by Hakim Warrick, features Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, Lou Williams and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff.

But the most intriguing team might be the Rookie squad, with No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving and lottery picks Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette.

"Unfortunately, because of the lockout, we didn't get to see the rookies at the (NBA) Summer League this year," said Daren Libonati, president of Justice Entertainment Group, which is teaming with Philadelphia-based Rose & Reign to promote the event. "But this game will give fans the opportunity to not only see the best rookies, but to see them against established NBA stars."

The format includes games at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Nov. 12, with the winners meeting for the championship at 3 p.m. Nov. 13. The winning team receives $100,000, and the games will be played under normal NBA rules, with collegiate referees officiating.

Iverson might have lost a step on the court, but he definitely hasn't lost his sense of humor. When someone asked him if he would be practicing for the event, Iverson smiled.

"I didn't come here to talk about practice," he said with a laugh, tweaking a line from his infamous rant in May 2002, in which he used the word "practice" 20 times. "I'll have enough workouts to make sure I come here in shape and ready to play."

Tickets, starting at $25, are on sale at the Thomas & Mack box office and at UNLVtickets.com.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

 

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