Andre Iguodala was enjoying “probably the best time” he’s ever had playing basketball this summer with Team USA when he was traded by Philadelphia to Denver. Just as the medal round was about to begin in London, he was thinking about arriving in the Mile High city seven time zones away. He got his gold medal, and then made his way to the NBA’s West to help the Nuggets find their luster. His defense, his calling card, has helped move Denver from 21st in defensive efficiency last season to 13th now. Per 36 minutes, Iggy averages 14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 52 percent true shooting. Now a spokesman for the NBA’s Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign, he recently talked to Dime about what it’s like to run George Karl‘s offense, which player always makes him better and how Andre Miller makes his job easier along the Nuggets’ wing.
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Dime: What’s it like this year being in a new place, new system, for a coach in George Karl who has his defined style? You knew what you were getting into when you were traded. How long does it take to get used to his style?
Andre Iguodala: It takes some time, it sounds easy to run up and down, up and down, but there are some specific things he wants you to do and some things he definitely wants you to do that I’m still adjusting with. The other thing is I haven’t been playing up to my level so the changes aren’t felt yet but we’re winning games. Defensively I’m there, that’s easy. Our team’s made a complete 180 as far as our defensive presence and getting stops when we need to and w’re not giving up 110, 115, 120 points on a nightly basis so we feel good with where we’re at, especially with how our schedule was set up the first 30 games.
Dime: Are those core tenets of his system surprising when you learn it?
AI: He wants you to constantly be in attack mode. He likes the layup, he likes the free throw and he likes the three. Not a big fan of really anything in between. I was able to really have my presence felt on the court with the ball in my hand and hold it and scope out these things and taking them apart. We want to be on the attack and kick, attack and kick. That’s probably been the major adjustment.
Dime: Last year’s team with Philadelphia, where you were the unquestioned marquee player but on a team that spread the ball around democratically, feels a lot like the Nuggets this year with a lot of good role-playing guys but not someone who commands the ball every possession. Is there a guy like that?
AI: I don’t think the voice has to be the guy who scores the most points and has the ball in his hands the most. I think as a team we do that collectively, Andre Miller and myself and the older guys. We have guys like Danilo who had the ball in his hand a lot in New York, Andre Miller always had the ball in his hand and Ty Lawson has established himself as the point guard here and he’s having the ball in his hands early and late in games. We all share responsibilities and that makes us a better team because we have a lot of attack points and we’re just always coming at you.
Dime: Deron Williams has said playing in the Olympics hampered his preparation for the season because he played too much, and didn’t rest enough. How do you view your Olympic experience? Do you wish you’d rested more?
AI: I didn’t think about it too much this summer. I had an incredible summer, probably the best time I’ve had playing the game of basketball. I really enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun. For guys like Carmelo Anthony I think it helps his game because it always takes him a while to get in shape and he came in in shape and he’s in the MVP role, the MVP race. For other guys it’s the opposite. I try to not let it play tricks on my mind sometimes, you get tired four games in five nights. It’s part of the game. But you get the most out of your body while you can because it can be over.
Dime: You joined a new team soon after the Olympics but did that gold-medal experience lend itself to you already feeling like you had a leadership role right when you walked in?
AI: We’re trying to get there, you just want all the guys to be pros. You want to leave you mark among your peers and the younger guys on the team. Guys are different and you have to approach them in different ways. Evan Fournier is always trying to get information out of me how to be a better player. You know, what scenarios do you take in certain situations of the game and I love things like that. Other guys you have to keep their mind on, “this is how it works, this is how you win.” So it’s a process and I’m just trying to make the most of it and enjoy it.
Dime: One of the players I’ve been so impressed with ever since college is Kenneth Faried. Are there things about the way he plays that, even as a veteran, they take you by surprise or impress you?
AI: He has an awkwardness in his game that’s really effective in our game in this era. In other eras it may not have worked but in ours it works for him. He has that energy, is so athletic and just gets after it. He’s nonstop just getting after it and you can never take that away from his game and can never complain how he plays. He plays as hard as anyone on the floor — sometimes it can hurt you but for the most part he’s the type of guy you need on your team. He enjoys in front of the crowd, he loves that attention, which makes him play even harder. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.
Dime: And how is playing alongside Andre Miller? Even though you’re a veteran, does he set you up in ways that put you in better positions than ever before or does he find ways to do that through other means?
AI: I’ve told a lot of guys on our team you’re spoiled when you have a guy like Andre Miller, especially if you’re a wing player. A lot of point guards in the game today in our generation is a lot of shoot-first point guards and they’re going to score, get their assists and makes it tougher for wing guys and slashers. He’s one of those old-school point guards who can hit me up for a shot or put me in the position where I can make the play myself. I was just telling him the other day I’m like it’s like old times, I’m scoring three or four buckets straight. We get on the break with two guys, Corey Brewer is making a living with his best year and he’s having his best year and a big part of that is Andre Miller and you look at a guy like JaVale McGee. He was in a situation in Washington where people considered him a bust or where he wasn’t getting the most out of his game and then he comes in here and he’s playing really solid for us. He might be top two in dunks and a lot of that is due to Andre Miller.
Dime: Does this mixture of guys have it to make it through to a second round in the playoffs?
AI: Definitely. In the West it’s all about matchups. You can have a seventh seed that one team might struggle with while the eighth seed you might sweep them. It’s all about matchups because you matchup so well with certain teams and then there are others around the playoffs you can really struggle with.
Dime: Who is your favorite matchup in the league then?
AI: I don’t know, that’s a good question. Myself more than anything, I don’t shoot enough. But guys I like going up against? I really liked going up against Paul Pierce, that was a fun matchup because both of us would struggle to get off good looks, like we’d smother each other with our defensive matchups. I’ve stolen a lot of things from his game to help myself into a better player early in my career. I really enjoyed playing against him.
Dime: Can you tell me a little about this diabetes campaign?
AI: Well the campaign is about dribbling to stop diabetes. The NBA in association with Sanofi US, the American Diabetes Association along with the WNBA, we’re just really trying to get the word out and get people to have the awareness about diabetes that affects 26 million Americans who have it. In part with NBA Fit which is a program dedicated to younger viewers who aspire to be athletes, not just basketball players, and how we want them to be out there playing basketball, any sport, just try to really be proactive and keeping their body healthy.
Dime: Does this affect you on a personal level with family?
AI: Family members have been affectd by it and I have other family members who I think will be if they don’t make the necessary changes they need to make. So it hits close to home, it’s not something I just heard about and became a part of. It’s something I’ve dealt with with family members.
For more information on the Dribble to Stop Diabetes, click here.
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