Sixers' Iguodala has good shot at U.S. roster

Posted: July 26, 2010

This was the Andre Iguodala that Doug Collins had been waiting to see: a versatile player more concerned with team continuity, with defense, with making the necessary plays. The empty eyes and sagging shoulders of last season with the 76ers were gone.

"I think he's back," said Collins, preparing for his first season coaching the Sixers.

This was after watching 2 days of the USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas, where 19 players were competing for 12 spots on the U.S. national team that will participate in the world championships, Aug. 28 to Sept. 12 in Turkey.

This was also after watching the USA Showcase Game Saturday night in which Iguodala - playing for the White team - put together 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and committed just two fouls and two turnovers in 23 minutes, 28 seconds. With Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant scoring a game-high 28 points, the White squad beat the Blue, 114-96.

"Before the camp started, I asked my son, Chris [an assistant to U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski], what kind of words I could offer Iguodala to encourage him," Collins said. "Chris said Coach K was looking for Andre to be his best defender, that he had other guys who could score, that he needed a lockdown defender. Andre really embraced that. His attitude all through the camp was terrific. He played with energy, he had a lot of fun playing. I want him to embrace that with the Sixers, too. If he does, he'll be a better player and he'll make us better.

"To me, he's in a really good place right now. I think he can feel the environment [with the Sixers] changing. I think he sees the work our coaches are putting in. His experience with the national team has been great. When he's defensive-minded, when he gets in the open floor, when he's creating for others, that's when he's at his best.

"I could see him taking ownership in a way maybe he hasn't before, leading with not just points or stats, but with energy, with his work habits, with his defense, with the way he interacts with his teammates."

Said Iguodala: "When you are playing basketball and playing hard, then [you] are having fun. Doing that is the greatest feeling for a lot of these guys. We all enjoy being around each other; it's great competition and we all have a common goal, and that is to go to Turkey and win a gold medal."

Of Saturday's game, Iguodala added, "I just wanted to have fun . . . There were a few things that I wanted to accomplish during the game; play unselfish basketball, take care of the ball and play hard on defense, and I think I did that. I also wanted to create some pressure on defense so it would rub off on other guys and get everybody into it."

Krzyzewski, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and their staff will cut the roster from the current 19 to probably 15 for a second camp next month in New York. One obvious deletion will be Delaware County native Tyreke Evans, of the Sacramento Kings, the NBA's Rookie of the Year; Evans has been out with an ankle injury and did not play Saturday.

At the same time, Collins - who is not part of the decision-making process - said, "Unless something dramatic happens, I could see Andre being a starter at small forward opposite Durant. Coach K is very comfortable with him."

Krzyzewski probably also appreciated Iguodala being one of five players to show up for an optional workout Saturday morning.

After the game, in which Iguodala hit five of his six shots from the floor, including all three of his three-point attempts, Krzyzewski said, "I think Andre has had a great week. I think any of these guys would tell you that he's an easy guy to play with. He doesn't need the ball. I told him right after the ballgame, out on the court, that he was beautifully efficient. I'm not sure anyone has ever called him beautiful before; I know no one has ever called me beautiful.

"I was looking actually for a return of him saying, 'Well, coach, you look beautiful, too.' Maybe as we get to know each other more, he'll do that. Andre, yeah, he can defend. You need guys out there who don't have to touch the ball long. He's a fun guy to play; he'll be one of the key guys for our basketball team."

For more Sixers coverage, read the Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at http://go.philly.com/sixerville.

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