DENVER - For Allen Iverson, this isn't just Denver. It's another world.
To listen to Nuggets coach George Karl, it's controversy-free, trouble-free.
Pay attention, Philadelphia.
"I'm still waiting for the nightmare," Karl said, smiling after yesterday morning's shootaround that preceded the game against Iverson's former employers, the 76ers.
The nightmare belonged solely to the Sixers in their 109-96 loss that left them 2-4 on their Western swing, facing a home game tomorrow night against the Milwaukee Bucks but four of the next six on the road.
The nightmare featured Iverson, who tormented his old team with 38 points on 14-for-25 shooting.
"Same Allen," the Sixers' Andre Iguodala said. "He looked good; he seemed happy. If there's one thing I take from that, it's that he's playing with some joy out there."
But the crux of the problem for the Sixers was the Nuggets' ability to use a remarkable 15 blocked shots - seven by Marcus Camby - to create fastbreak opportunities.
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks pointed to "the way they continued to score behind our defense, particularly after we scored . . . That's the way they play; they're one of the highest-scoring teams in the league."
The Sixers were competitive until 5 minutes and 9 seconds remained in the third period; they got blitzed 15-5 before the start of the fourth. Down as many as 14 in the final quarter, they climbed within 88-80 with 7:54 left, then couldn't hold off the Nuggets any longer. Andre Miller, with 22 points, finished as the Sixers' scoring leader.
Iverson, who spent more than a decade with the Sixers before being traded to the Nuggets in December 2006, went into last night's game as one of two players to have started every game this season; he was the scoring leader at 26.6 points per game, just ahead of Carmelo Anthony's 25.4.
Other than the roller-coaster emotions of winning and losing - the Nuggets, at 20-12, were off to their best start since 1989-90 - Karl insisted that all has been serene on the Iverson front.
"I don't want to tell you, he's not even on the first page of tough guys I've had," Karl said. "I'm not sure, I might have gotten a different guy, but so much of what I believe is playing hard, kind of trying to understand playing the right way, [and] he's got that training from Larry [Brown, former Sixers coach]."
For his part, Iverson said, "I'm happy." As for the state of the Sixers, he said, "I don't care. I don't care nothing about it. The only thing I'm concerned about is what's going on here."
And, as for his decade-plus with the Sixers, he said, "I was kicked out like I spent 1 day there."
Karl said that the insight he got from Brown has been a major help in coaching Iverson. When Karl was asked which players might be on the first page of that mythical book, he laughed and said, "My early days with Gary [Payton], Kendall Gill, Joe Barry Carroll, World B. Free. I can name a few more if you want."
But not Iverson. To Karl, the controversial, disappointing way Iverson's tenure with the Sixers ended was somebody else's issue.
"[Brown] felt the way we play, the way I coach, A.I. would be better than fine, because of the freedom I give him to play," Karl said. "He kind of explained his game, that he wasn't a point, but he can play point. Letting him play is the most important thing."
And never mind all the legendary stories about "practice . . . we're talkin' about practice." Karl said the number of practices Iverson has missed is "less than one hand, where he's taken a practice off. Less than five, other than the normal NBA, where a guy plays 40 minutes the night before and you say, 'Hey, just rest your body.' Less than five where you wanted a good practice and he was one of the guys who was saying, 'Hey, my body hurts today.' "
Iverson told colleagues that he wanted to approach last night as just another game.