Wednesday, April 14, 2004

King says Iverson will be back

NBA notebook

By The Associated Press

Allen Iverson told Philadelphia president Billy King what he wanted to hear at their season-end meeting: Iverson wants to stay with the Sixers.

"He said he wants to be a part of it," King said Tuesday. "He's been here when it was bad, when it was good, to now when we're not in the playoffs. He says he loves it and doesn't expect to see himself ever playing for another team."

Iverson, a five-time All-Star, continues to be the subject of trade speculation in Philadelphia. Before this season, he signed an extension that goes through 2008-09, but after another year in which he fought with the coach, a change seemed possible.

Though he has maintained all along he never wanted to be traded, Iverson hasn't talked to reporters for almost a month while out with a knee injury. He's rarely seen before games and does not sit on the bench during games.

Iverson did show up for Tuesday's year-end meeting at the Sixers' practice facility and briefly addressed the team, along with several other veterans, talking about the disappointment of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

He also met with King to talk about his future. King said he had no plans to trade Iverson.

"My intention is, Allen will be on the roster," he said.

Iverson has missed 33 games this year and will sit out Wednesday's finale at Orlando. Interim coach Chris Ford has battled with Iverson since he taking over in February, including a dispute in which Iverson refused to come off the bench in Toronto after he was told he wasn't going to start.

Iverson also had repeated run-ins with former coach Larry Brown, but told King he could play for any coach.

"He said, 'Billy, I can play for anybody,"' King said.

Ford said he would like to remain in the organization and the players have publicly offered their support for his return. He's earned respect by enforcing team rules and not letting problems fester.

"It's been great. He just wants you to come out and compete and play hard," guard Eric Snow said.

Before King makes any roster moves, he wants to hire a coach. While he will consider Ford, it's likely that the Sixers will have their fourth coach in three years. King said Tuesday there was no timetable for a decision, but the process has already started and won't take that long.

The Sixers' final practice was missing a couple of players - center Marc Jackson had an excused absence while Derrick Coleman had an unexcused absence. King said Coleman's absence would be dealt with internally.

He'll need someone to tell him what King said to the team.

"This year's been a disappointing season for all of us," King said. "I thanked a lot of them for the fact that we finished the season with a chance to make the playoffs. I think our guys came to play and compete and that's all you can ask for when things aren't going in your favor."

CABLE RATINGS UP: The NBA regular season averaged a 1.4 national cable rating for 52 games on TNT, a 17 percent increase from last season. The network averaged a 1.2 rating for 54 games in 2002-03 - which was 20 percent higher than the 1.0 for 2001-02.

NBA ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 are up from 1.2 to 1.35.

On ABC, though, the national ratings were 11 percent lower than a year ago, dropping from 2.7 to 2.4 as of April 4.

NBA DRAFT: Auburn junior Marco Killingsworth has made himself eligible for the NBA draft, but isn't ruling out a return for his senior season. "I will not sign with an agent and will return to Auburn for my senior year if I am not satisfied with my position," the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward said Tuesday.

He can pull out until a week before the June 24 draft unless he signs with an agent.

Killingsworth, who said he is on track to receive his sociology degree next May, said new coach Jeff Lebo "has been very supportive" of his decision.

"It's always been my dream to play in the NBA, and I want to see where I stand," he said.

Killingsworth, a third-team AP All-Southeastern Conference pick, led the Tigers with 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. He led the league in shooting for the second consecutive season.

He is only the 10th Auburn player to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in three seasons.

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