Andre Iguodala has guarded the best scorers, bullies, slashers and shooters that the NBA has had to offer this season. Now, he’ll be charged with stopping the King for the next few weeks.
Iguodala has gained national buzz this season as one of the premier wing defenders in the league. He’ll put that reputation on the line as he prepares to shadow LeBron James for the duration of the Sixers’ first-round series with the Miami Heat.
“We’re asking him to play the other team’s best perimeter player every single night,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
Iguodala and James have had plenty of battles over the years. Before the two teams met in late March, Iguodala said that he thought LeBron was “preserving his body for the long haul.” Now that the playoffs are here, there is no reason to leave anything in the tank.
“I shouldn’t say he doesn’t jump as high, because he jumps as high,” Iguodala said.
Complicating matters is the painful tendinitis in Iguodala’s right knee. He rested in the final two regular-season games in an effort to get healthy, but admitted last night that he doesn’t expect to be 100 percent anytime soon.
That means that defending LeBron could be more of a team effort.
“In this league, nobody can keep anybody in front of them for a whole 24 seconds,” said Thaddeus Young, who guards James if Iguodala gets in foul trouble. “I just try to keep my hands up and make him take him jump shots. I’d rather him take jump shots than get to the rim and just dunk all the time.”
For Iguodala, Young and the Sixers, that’s the No. 1 goal: Keep the King out of the paint.
4 Burning Questions
1 Is Sweet Lou healthy? Over the last two years, with the game on the line, the Sixer that has taken and made the most shots is Lou Williams. He’s the best at creating his own shot. If his pulled hamstring limits him at all, the end-game situations are going to be ugly.
2 Should the Sixers run? Against most teams, the Sixers’ fastbreak game is overwhelming. Using long athletes like Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, they can beat most teams down the floor. If the Sixers can’t outrun the Heat, it’s going to be a short series.
3 Does experience really matter? Three Sixers starters have never been to the playoffs. And since the opponent is the most scrutinized team the NBA has seen in the last 15 years, the hype and spotlight is going to be excruciating. We know the Heat can handle it. For the Sixers, it’s a learning experience.
4 Which bombers gets hot? Sixers only have one true 3-point threat in Jodie Meeks. The Heat will be firing away with specialists Mike Bibby, James Jones and Mike Miller. While Erik Spoelstra can afford to ride the hot hand, Doug Collins will have to pray Meeks regains the red-hot form he found in the middle of the season.