Once he got the chance.
Coming off the bench for the first time as a Piston, Iverson scored 17 points and led Detroit to a 107-97 victory over the slumping Milwaukee Bucks.
"With everything going on, I wanted to play well," Iverson said. "I just wanted to play well. Especially for my teammates because I let them down by not being here."
Iverson was benched by Pistons coach Michael Curry to begin the game, punishment for missing a mandatory team practice on Thanksgiving. He apologized Friday morning, then sat on the bench for almost 10 minutes as Rodney Stuckey started instead.
One spectator held up a sign that read, "practice."
Curry said the matter was closed.
"I just wanted to make up for it with my play," said Iverson, who hadn't come off the bench since Dec. 22, 2006, the night of his first game with the Denver Nuggets.
Richard Jefferson and Ramon Sessions each scored 21 points for the Bucks, who lost their third consecutive game and trailed by as many as 15 points. Milwaukee center Dan Gadzuric, starting in place of the injured Andrew Bogut, had 12 rebounds.
Stuckey responded to his third start this season by scoring seven points in the first seven minutes. He finished with 12 points, a career-high four steals and five assists in 23 minutes.
"I've been in this situation so many times. Nothing's difficult. I'm always ready to be thrown in the fire," Stuckey said.
Stuckey played so solidly that Iverson wondered if he'd ever get in.
"He was fast. There was a chance I might not play at all," Iverson said.
Until being inserted into the lineup by Curry with 2:24 remaining in the first quarter, Iverson was a cheerleader on the bench. During timeouts, he was the first one onto the court to slap the hands of Pistons players running toward the bench.
Iverson made a quick impact when he did get in. He scored his first basket just 39 seconds after he entered the game, led the Pistons with 10 points at halftime and hit three baskets within a two-minute period in the fourth quarter that put away the Bucks.
"I thought he would come in and want to play well," Curry said. "He wants to do well. And he will. We want him to be aggressive, and he was aggressive."
"For whatever reason, particularly in the last three games, we've lost a bit of our will to defend," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "I'm having a hard time finding lineups that are willing to go out there and try and defend."
Bogut missed his second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his left knee. He is averaging 11.4 points and 10.9 rebounds. Also out for the Bucks was guard Michael Redd (right ankle sprain) and they lost Charlie Villaneuva to a left hamstring strain in the fourth quarter. ... The Pistons are 3-0 when Stuckey starts. ... The game finished off a four-game road trip for the Bucks in which they lost three times. Their 12 road games (4-8 record) are the most for any team in the NBA. ... Prince started his 370th consecutive game, tops among active players.
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