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Is Iverson Leaving Turkey Already?
It’s hasn’t even been three weeks since Allen Iverson’s first game with Turkish hoops club Besiktas and already the rumors are swirling that he could be on his way out of Europe. Whatever the over/under may have been in your office pool for how long it would be until this happened, two-and-a-half weeks is still probably quite a bit quicker than anyone expected.
The news comes from a Sportando report claiming that after heavy criticism in just three games for his new team, Iverson was "close to leaving." A few different European news outlets have reported that chemistry between Iverson and his teammates hasn’t been particularly good, and anyone would admit that a former NBA scoring champ who averages 12.3ppg in Istanbul is something of a disappointment.
For his part, however, Iverson is saying he’s got no plans to leave and is actually enjoying his time in Europe.
"I am very happy here in Istanbul. My family and I are making this our home," Iverson said via Twitter. "The Fans and my Teammates here are great, and we aer building good chemistry. For those of you who really care about [me] just know this, I am pleased and I am enjoying this ride!"
Nothing has indicated that Besiktas is particularly disappointed with their investment, especially after so few games, so it’s not like Iverson is about to experience the same disappointment that Stephon Marbury did after his release from his Chinese basketball team. Still, with Iverson’s history of wearing out his welcome, especially in the last few years, there’s a possibility that the reports of him being unhappy have some merit, regardless of what he publishes on his Twitter page.
For fans of "The Answer" (or "The Little Giant," as he’s being called in Turkey), this is something worth keeping an eye on, even if only for the dramatic value. You just never really know how things will pan out with A.I.
Boozer Finally Shakes Off the Rust
On Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls won an overtime thriller at home against the Houston Rockets thanks to the efforts of All-Star Derrick Rose, but what may have been more significant in this game was the breakout performance by offseason acquisition Carlos Boozer, who got his first win in a Bulls uniform.
It was his third appearance of the season for the Bulls, the first two being losses to the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, but it was the first time that Boozer truly looked comfortable on the floor, scoring a season-high 25 points and hauling in a season-high 9 boards in 30 minutes of action.
"I’m making steps in the right direction," Boozer said after the win. "Every day I’m a little more comfortable. Every day I’m in a little better shape. Every day I’m more comfortable with my hand getting hit, and every day I’m getting more comfortable with our offense."
However, Boozer knows he can still get even better.
"I’m still learning everything. This is kind of like my preseason because this is the first few games that I’ve played with the guys and with Thibs’s system. I’m learning on the fly, but hopefully we can keep winning."
Boozer truly was integral in the win over Houston for a number of obvious reasons—grabbing clutch offensive rebounds and filling in put-backs late in the fourth quarter, bailing his team out with big shots at the end of bad possessions, and just muscling around the Houston frontcourt. For as good as Joakim Noah has been this season, even he hasn’t been exactly formidable when it comes to pushing guys around.
"Carlos plays with that edge," Noah said. "You can tell that he’s somebody who is definitely going to add to this team, just with his rebounding ability, his posting up, and his strength. He brings something that we definitely don’t have."
Rose added, "Each game he’s looking better, attacking, going after the ball, getting to the line. He showed us what he was capable of tonight."
"I just try to make the right play. If you worry about this or think about that, then you’re a step behind," Boozer admitted. "You’ve just got to go out and make them react to what you’re doing and be more aggressive. That’s what I’m trying to do."
As for getting his first victory as a Bull, Boozer admitted that it was nice, but that he isn’t content with just a single W.
"It just feels great to win. That’s what we’re all trying to do is win games and just get better and better as we go on," he said.
That very well may be the case, especially when one considers how good a team Chicago had become without the only other guy on the roster with an All-Star game under his belt. What looked earlier in the week like a potential slow learning curve for Boozer now seems like the start of something great in the Windy City. When Carlos is back to 100%, comfortable with his teammates and his system, he and Derrick Rose could very well give Orlando and Boston some serious runs for their money the next time they meet up. Don’t expect easy losses like what happened in Boozer’s first two games. The man was just getting warmed up.
Battier Still Houston’s Quiet Hero
As for the Houston Rockets, who lost a hard-fought road game in which they were up by five with 30 seconds to go, the contest served as something of an exclamation point at the end of a week that has shown a significant turnaround for a team that struggled for most of the early part of the season.
Despite playing five games in the last week, three of which were on the road, Houston still managed to finish 3-2, including big wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and L.A. Lakers. A lot of that success has had to do with the quiet leadership of Shane Battier, who has proven to be the team’s unsung hero early in the season.
And while games like the Chicago loss show that Houston can hang with the best, Battier says that hanging with the best isn’t always enough. You’ve got to show that you can beat them.
"We know we can compete, but that’s a minor victory. We need to win games like this, when we’re up late. Something like 9 of our 13 losses we’ve led in the fourth quarter," Battier lamented. "We know we can compete. We just have to focus on finishing games and playing solid, disciplined basketball down the stretch. That’s what you have to do to win in this league."
Winning is something that has come much more frequently in recent weeks. After starting 3-10, the Rockets have gone 4-3, and that’s something Battier thinks can continue, especially considering the fact that starters Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming have only played five games apiece.
"We had a slow start, and a lot of it was just trying to adjust to the new guys in the lineup. But then Aaron went out and Yao went out, and we had to adjust our team again. I think now we’ve finally settled into a solid team," Battier said.
"We played well this week, went 3-2—and that very easily could have been 4-1—and we have a schedule now where we have to make some hay. We have to go home and win some games against some tough teams who are in a similar situation. If we do, then hopefully we claw our way back to .500 and make a push."
One trend that seems to coincide with the team’s recent success is the fact that Battier has taken a larger role on the offense end of the floor. Seven of the last nine games he’s scored in double-figures, and Saturday’s loss was the first time since before Thanksgiving that Battier did that and his team still lost.
Battier says he’s just doing his job, but doing his job is especially important this season, and not just to boost the team’s chances at making the postseason. It’s a contract year for Battier, and that means teams will be looking at him not only as a defensive specialist and brilliant overall guy, but also as someone who can score a little when the need calls for it.
"For me it’s just about being professional and doing what I’ve done for the last nine years and doing it well. I don’t worry about playing next year. I think my body of work speaks for itself, and I think somebody will appreciate what I can bring to a team. Hopefully I’ll stay healthy and have another solid year."
So far, he has, with steady improvement being shown over the course of the young season. The Rockets will continue to sneak up on .500, especially as Yao and Brooks return to the lineup in the next week. In the meantime, however, Battier remains the team’s quiet leader. As important as it will be to have to starters return from injury, it’s hard to argue that Battier may be the team’s most important player, even if his stats don’t always support that.