In front of an invitation-only crowd that included Kobe Bryant, Dell Curry, B.J. Armstrong and Jerry Colangelo, the United States senior national team got the better of China in today’s mid-afternoon scrimmage at Madison Square Garden.
Played in four quarters that were scored separately, the U.S. dominated the first three sessions, but lost the fourth in a close battle that came down to the last shot. We’ll have more details of the scrimmage in Smack, but afterwards I was able to get up with a few Team USA guys. Here is Andre Iguodala — the MVP of Thursday night’s scrimmage at Radio City Music Hall — on his role with Team USA, his role with the Philadelphia 76ers, and his chemistry with the League’s top scorer:
Dime: In the last couple of days you’ve played a game on the stage at Radio City Music Hall, then today in front of an almost empty MSG. Does playing in these non-traditional settings affect your play at all?
Andre Iguodala: Nah, not really. I mean, we have business to take care of and a lot of things to improve on with this team, so we’re using every opportunity we can to work on those areas. If we do have weaknesses, we need to turn them into strengths.
Dime: It looks like you and Kevin Durant have a good chemistry on the court. Have you played with or worked out with him a lot in the past?
AI: We just have high basketball IQ’s. We’re two guys on the wing who know where each other wants the ball. It’s like, if I have the ball, I know where KD likes to catch it, and vice versa. That’s why we’ve been getting some lobs and other plays in transition. If one of us gets the rebound and can push it on the break, we’re automatically looking for the other one, or whoever else is open.
Dime: In today’s scrimmage the team looked as good as it has all summer. Are you starting to build that right chemistry?
AI: Yeah. We’re getting good runs in. Getting good stretches. We’re getting our legs under us and not getting as tired so quick. We’re trying to play with a lot of energy at the World Championships; so we’re trying to get tired now so everybody has great wind (in Turkey) to keep pressuring up and down the floor.
Dime: How do you see your role on Team USA?
AI: Just to be a smart player. Locking up on defense, getting steals, rebounding the ball and knocking down open shots. There are a lot of great players on this team and they’re all willing to pass the ball, so you have to be ready to shoot.
Dime: How does this experience help you with the Sixers next season?
AI: It helps me, hanging around guys like Chauncey (Billups) and Lamar (Odom), guys with championship experience. Hearing stories about how they fought through games, about getting it done in the trenches, being down two, three games in a series and coming back to win it. I’m learning how to be a better leader. When I get back to Philadelphia I want to get my teammates ready for the season by setting the tone early.
Dime: How do you think yourself and Evan Turner will play together?
AI: We just have to play basketball, that’s the main thing. We can’t get caught up in who gets more shots or who’s playing what role or who gets the ball more. We’ve gotta do it as a team. Like on (Team USA), we’re not worried about who’s shooting and who’s not. It’s about doing the things you need to do to win the game.
Dime: A lot was made about Evan struggling in the summer league. Did you see any of it?
AI: I watched some summer league. I don’t think it’s a big deal. I remember when I was in the summer league, I didn’t do that well because we had a lot of good players and I was just trying to get used to everything. Our summer league team this year had Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights, Jodie Meeks, and all those guys played great. Jrue was incredible.
Dime: How are the Sixers going to make a run at the playoffs next season?
AI: Defense. We have to play better defense. It doesn’t matter if we have three or four guys who can score 20 points a game; if we don’t get stops we’re not going to go anywhere.