This week, heinnews’s David Hein took a trip up to Braunschweig to watch German club BG Göttingen take on Besiktas Cola Turka of Turkey in the Eurocup. Of course the main reason for heading north was to talk to Besiktas’s star signing Allen Iverson. Hein talked to Iverson after Besiktas’s 85-83 buzzer-beating loss to Göttingen about his adjusting to the European game; getting his rhythm in the shorter game; his goals and thoughts on returning to the NBA; and his future plans.
heinnews: Allen, you had 18 points tonight and were a bit more involved in the offense. How is the adjustment going?
Iverson: It’s fine for me. I don’t have a problem with it whatsoever. I guess it’s just gonna take some time for coach to figure how he’s going to use me and try to figure out and learn the things that I know how to do on the basketball court that will make us effective.
heinnews: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned over the first three games?
Iverson: I would say probably the physical nature of the game. They let a lot of stuff go as far as fouls. And it’s just a matter of something that I have to get adjusted to.
heinnews: You said in interview that you want to have your legs under you. How do you feel now?
Iverson: I feel great. My whole thing is just to get my rhythm and getting into a game rhythm. Obviously I haven’t been playing games in a while. But physically I am, and I’m gonna knock on wood, physically I’m 100 percent right now when it comes to my body. I’m not dealing with any pains.
heinnews: Obviously the main thing tonight was that the team lost. But after scoring just two points in your Turkish league debut, how good was it to come back and play better? What did you do over those two games?
Iverson: The main thing honestly is that I played more. After you don’t play for a certain period of time and then you get into a game – especially with a team that’s that good – you play for a little while, then you come sit out the whole second quarter. Then you have the whole halftime sitting out and then playing just a little bit in the third and then sitting out the whole fourth. It’s just something that I’m not used to and I just can’t catch a rhythm. And tonight I just played a little bit more and I was able to get into a flow. I kind of struggled earlier but my rhythm started to get better and better. So I think the more time I’m on the basketball court the easier and better it will be for me.
heinnews: What’s it like living in Istanbul with its millions and millions of people?
Iverson: It’s great man. And the people there are so great and so supportive of me. I don’t think I could have gone to a better situation just the way they embrace me and the way they treat me in the city. It’s a great thing. Obviously it’s a blessing for me because it didn’t have to be that way.
heinnews: What do you think about the hype that’s surrounding you here in Europe?
Iverson: It’s great for the teams we’re playing against. And obviously it’s great for the fans in Istanbul. And just my whole thing is to live up to my expectations. That’s all I want to do. Just make sure every game that I play – win or lose – the fans and the people in the city enjoy what they see and know that I’m going to come out and play as hard as I can and give everything I have to this team like I’ve done with everything I’ve been on in the NBA.
heinnews: Do you enjoy knowing the people are coming to games to see you?
Iverson: Yeah, it’s a great feeling. Like I said, the thing you want to do is try to display your god given abilities the best way you can and give ‘em something that hopefully they’ll never forget and give them something exciting, something for them to talk about.
heinnews: Talk about the playbook at Besiktas. Is it a big playbook?
Iverson: It’s not that much. One thing you have to learn about it is the rhythm part of everything. In basketball probably everyone runs the same plays. It doesn’t get that much different unless probably the Lakers with their triangle offense. But usually everyone runs the same thing. The difficult part of that is knowing that and being on different teams you have different calls – different numbers. And you have to learn that. That’s the only thing that’s frustrating because you’re trying to learn all that stuff on the fly, knowing that we have games to play and everybody on the team has already been doing that and already know what’s going on. So I’m just trying to fit in.
heinnews: And the game is 8 minutes shorter. Is that a big difference?
Iverson: Yes, it’s a big difference. I’m used to playing a lot of minutes in a 48-minute game. It’s just different. You just go up and down a couple times on the court a couple of possessions and you look at the clock and you’re like man, time just flew by. That’s two extra minutes. It’s just something that I have to get used to.
heinnews: Do you think that if you play well for Besiktas that you have a chance to get back to NBA?
Iverson: No, that’s not a goal of mine. That’s a goal I have already accomplished. I already accomplished being an NBA basketball player. I’ve done a lot of things in that league that not too many people have had a chance to do and have the luxury to perform at that level. I’ve done a lot of things that I’m proud of in the NBA for the years that I was there. I’ve accomplished so many things. And my heart is here now. This is what I want to do. Obviously this team gave me an opportunity and gave me a chance. And I think I would be letting them down if I was just focused on getting back to the NBA. My focus is on getting this team better and doing everything I can for this club. If I can have it my way I would finish my career right here.
heinnews: What goals do you have right now then?
Iverson: Just to win. With me, scoring and breaking records and doing all those things and being an All-Star, I’ve done those things and accomplished those things on the highest level. So I’ve been there and done that. My whole thing is team orientated. When the contract was made I didn’t want any individual things put into the contract that I had to accomplish. I wanted all the goals to be team-orientated. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about, winning basketball games. And just coming here and losing my first three games gives me a bad taste in my mouth. But the only thing it does is encourage me to get better and learn the system and fit in better than I am.
heinnews: What can you say about Europe in general?
Iverson: All I can say is that it’s been great. The fans have been wonderful. They’ve been coming out to all the games supporting us. My whole thing is not letting them down, being excited about me being here and me playing basketball in this league. I want to give them everything I have to offer.
heinnews: And what do you think about Turkish food?
Iverson: That’s something that I’m getting adjusted to. In the hotel that I’m staying at I eat the same thing every single day, and it’s at least two or three times a day. I’m kind of tired of the grilled chicken with French fries. But I found a Friday’s in Istanbul. Now, I’m just eating a bunch of cheese wraps at Friday’s. I’m getting better. When my wife is here I think it will get a lot better.
heinnews: When are they coming?
Iverson: They’ll be here this week.
heinnews: How many years do you have left in you?
Iverson: When that question comes up, the only thing I can think about is my family situation with my wife and kids and seeing if I can do that and they can survive with me being on the road and doing the things that I do for more years. Another thing is health. If I’m healthy enough to play and able to do the things that I can do on the basketball court and my level of play doesn’t go down, then I’d love to keep playing. But if I’m not able to do the things that I’m accustomed to on the basketball court and play at a high level and help my team win basketball games, then I wouldn’t hurt the franchise, I wouldn’t hurt the fans, I wouldn’t do that to myself.
heinnews: About what do you think about European fans?
Iverson: European basketball fans are great. I’ve never seen that much enthusiasm in a crowd, especially with the small amount of crowd. It’s just great for basketball. I’m just happy that coming from the NBA that I can come to this league and fans are excited about me being here. That’s the best thing. I still get the chills I get in the States when I hear the fans making that noise, even when they’re cheering against me.