The Detroit Pistons, expected to put Iverson back in the starting lineup, look to snap the visiting Blazers’ three-game winning streak when the teams meet Sunday.
Iverson was relegated to a reserve role in Detroit’s 107-97 win over Milwaukee on Friday night. It was punishment for missing a mandatory team practice on Thanksgiving.
Iverson, who sat on the bench for almost 10 minutes as Rodney Stuckey started instead, apologized Friday morning. He had a team-high 17 points and seven assists in 27 minutes.
“He wants to do well. And he will,” Pistons coach Michael Curry said.
Detroit (10-5) acquired Iverson from Denver for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb on Nov. 3. When Iverson was with Philadelphia, he had a famous rant in 2002 lashing out at critics complaining about his practice habits.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers (11-6) - the NBA’s second-youngest team behind the Golden State Warriors - are clearly putting in the hard work required to succeed in a league dominated by veteran clubs.
Portland is off to its best start since opening the 2000-01 season 12-6, and third-year guard Brandon Roy thinks the Blazers have what it takes to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
“I’m not going to go out on a limb and say we’re going to win a championship,” he said. “We have tons of room to improve. That’s why I think we’re a pretty good team because we’re winning games and we still have room to improve.”
In Portland’s latest win, it used a 17-point, second-half run to beat New Orleans 101-86 at home on Friday night.
Roy had 25 points and 10 assists, and the All-Star has scored 20-plus points in 10 of the last 12 games. Roy is averaging 21.0 points on the road, but Portland is 4-6 away from the Rose Garden. At home, the Blazers are 7-0.
“Still, we’ve got to keep improving,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “I’m really pleased with our games at home and the fan support we get but we’ve got to make our own noise out on the road. I’m happy with our record and where we are but there’s a lot of season left and we must continue to get better.”
If Greg Oden - the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft - can find a way to improve, the Blazers would be in even better shape. The 7-foot center, though, has struggled in three games since being put back in the starting lineup, averaging 4.7 points.
Oden will be matched up with Pistons center Kwame Brown, who has been a huge disappointment after being selected No. 1 overall in 2001. Brown has started eight straight games for Detroit, averaging 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Portland and Detroit both won a game at home in last season’s series.