Sixers

Andre Iguodala On The 2012 Olympics, And How To Guard Michael Jordan

(credit:Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

(credit:Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Andre Iguodala hit some huge shots for the Sixers in the 2012 playoffs. He followed it up by being named to the 2012 USA Basketball team that will compete in the summer Olympics. I figured he must be pretty excited.

“Not really, I’m just grinding, trying to steal some minutes,” Iguodala said.

Stealing minutes probably won’t be a problem, as Iguodala’s style of play lends itself well to the team and international play. As a player who doesn’t need to handle the ball or score to be effective, his defense, athleticism, and transition play will translate well, much as it did for the for the 2010 team that won the FIBA World Championships.

John Wall recently competed against the the 2012 team (as a member of the USA Select team), and was taken aback by the intensity of the practices. “They wouldn’t let me do nothing. I was running pick and rolls. I’d barely get the ball up the court. They was trapping, grabbing, everything,” Wall said to the Washington Post. “A lot of these guys play hard throughout the season, but just this intensity they have for this is totally above anything you’ve ever seen. I mean, you hear about how they play, but when you’re playing against them and watching them workout, they are very intense and very serious about it. There is no joking around and all that.”

“Everybody’s trying to prove something,” Iguodala said of the practices so far. “No matter what stage you’re on, whether it be in practice, in the Olympics, in the World Championships or the NBA, whenever any of these particular players are playing, they want everyone to know they’re the best player out there. So even when we’re in practice, you know, Carmelo [Anthony], Lebron [James], Kevin Durant, Kobe [Bryant], they all want everyone to know they’re the best. And you know, the alpha male out here. So everyone’s going hard. You know, it’s kind of like when you’re still a kid, you want everyone to know you’re the best player and you’re competing hard.”

With the recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1992 “Dream Team,” many have asked if the 2012 team could compete with that one. “If we had it going, I don’t know. I can’t say. It’s hard to say, they were really good. But you know the 96 team was really good. People overlook the 96 team. The 96 team could give the 92 team a run, they were really good too. They had a lot of the same guys,” Iguodala said.

“They were really good,” Iguodala said. “Their bigs were like … awesome. That was an era when there were ten plus great centers, not just like good centers, but great centers in the league at the time. So you could take anybody and put them on that team. And that’s the difference between the game then and the game now. You don’t have as many true centers. You only have about three or four, when they had about ten legit. So you know, Patrick Ewing, very underrated, people don’t know how good he was. David Robinson was awesome, you know his story. And Karl Malone was great. They had some really good big men. Charles Barkley led the team in scoring, so he was really tough. So you know, we might struggle inside, but on the perimeter we could match pretty well. We’d struggle with Michael [Jordan] a little bit though.”

If given the choice, Iguodala said he’d take the challenge of guarding Jordan. How do you guard the greatest player of all time? “His first step was so quick. I don’t think people imagine how quick his first step is. It’s quicker than anybody we’ve ever seen,” Iguodala said. “And he was so strong at getting to the basket. And he shot so well too. He really didn’t have any weaknesses. When I try to guard those guys I try to keep them outside of the paint, keep them on the perimeter. And make them take a defended shot and hope that they miss. That’s the key to playing defense. You just have to play solid and know that you’re not going to stop guys.”

While Iguodala has been training for the Olympics, the Sixers have been busy shaping their roster for the 2012-13 season. One of their moves was to sign free-agent guard Nick Young. “Very capable scorer. Very talented,” Iguodala said of Young. “He doesn’t have any weaknesses as far as skill set. He can play the game of basketball. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor.”

The biggest story so far this NBA off-season has been the destination of Orlando center Dwight Howard, who has drawn criticism for how he’s handled the situation. “The media is a little different now than it used to be. So it’s hard on a player, it’s hard to make the right move. We live in an age where a player can be made the villain, or made the good guy,” Iguodala said.

Listen to the entire interview with Iguodala:

Follow Spike on Twitter @SpikeEskin

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