Dribble Drive

by January 16, 2013

by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

The way Andre Iguodala sees it, playing defense and preventing diabetes are a lot a like.

“People talk about how I’m a great defensive player, and I really tell them it’s nothing special,” says Iguodala. “It’s about being proactive instead of reactive. With the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign, we want people to be proactive—don’t wait until it’s too late and then you have to make drastic changes. If I know the play that’s coming on defense, if I know the play they’re going to run, I know what position I have to be in to stop the play. It all ties in.”

The connection between playing D and preventing diabetes might sound like somewhat of a stretch, but Iguodala would know best. After all, the 28-year-old has not only been voted to the NBA’s Second-Team All-Defense in the past, but he also has family members who suffer from the incurable disease.

The former skill, along with his versatility and athleticism, is one of the many reasons why the Denver Nuggets acquired Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers this past summer; the latter news is why Iguodala has chosen to align himself with the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign, which is run by the NBA in conjunction with Sanofi US and the American Diabetes Association.

“[W]e, as Americans, tend to take things for granted, like, it couldn’t happen to us,” says Iguodala. “Well, it can happen to us and we just need to understand how to prevent it.”

We caught up with Iguodala to discuss diabetes and prevention, alcohol and Twitter, advanced analytics and Kobe Bryant and more.

SLAM: First off, congrats to you on getting that @andre Twitter handle. Who’d you have to bribe to make that happen?

Andre Iguodala: Man, I got it as a Christmas gift. We had been trying to get it for a while and that was tough. It’s so funny—I get a lot of Spanish @mentions. I know they’re not talking to me, but they’re trying to @mention some Andre.

SLAM: Who had it before you?

AI: I dunno. It’s been through a couple of people, but they would never tweet. I guess if you go a certain amount of time without tweeting… I dunno. We went through a bunch to get it.

SLAM: Changing subjects, we’re here to talk about the Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign. I mean, if every player has the responsibility to use his success to further one cause is it safe to say that this is your cause?

AI: Yeah. I don’t think this is my one and only cause, but I’m so close to it—I have family members effected by it—I feel like, like you said, I can use my celebrity to continue to get the word out and to spread the word. Not just for others, but even for my family members, because we, as Americans, tend to take things for granted, like, it couldn’t happen to us. Well, it can happen to us and we just need to understand how to prevent it.

SLAM: Because you’re so closely tied to it, do you feel more of a responsibility towards raising awareness about diabetes than if you had just aligned yourself with any other cause?

AI: Definitely. It’s funny because I’m always pestering family members, cousins and friends about the types of foods they eat, what they put in their bodies, their weight; I get on them about working out. They’re like, ‘Why you always getting on me?’ ‘Well, it’s because I care about you first of all.’ It’s the same thing with spreading the word. It’s kind’ve our responsibility, getting out the word, and just getting people to realize how importance it is for them to live a healthy lifestyle and to get regular doctor checkups. There isn’t a cure for diabetes; once you have it, you have it.

SLAM: It’s weird in a way, but when you talk about healthy eating I don’t think about NBA players. It feels like, between the late night flights and hotel food, players have it hard in terms of trying to eat right and do the right things to stave off diabetes.

AI: Yeah, we do have that problem with what we eat. We get in late to hotels in there is limited menus in terms of what we can order—mainly, chicken tenders and fries. But the thing with us is that we’re so active, our bodies, our energy, our adrenaline is always going. We’re always moving, working out, lifting weights, so we’re not at-risk as much as someone else but we are at-risk and do need to be aware of that.

SLAM: Along the same lines, I know you don’t drink too much alcohol. I also know, from hearing it around the League, that you counsel young guys to watch their alcohol intake for performance and personal reasons. Is that something you’ve always felt a certain way about it or is it a more recent thing?

AI: I don’t know where it came from, but I was just never a drinker. I’ve had peer pressure, people trying to get me to drink in college and in the League, and I just never got a hold of it. It can be special occasions, New Year’s or whatever, and my teammates will be like, ‘Why don’t you have just one drink?’ I’m at the point now where it’s been years since I even played around with a drink. I used to joke with my mom and touch my lip to the alcohol, and she would laugh at me. I just don’t drink. It’s come to a point now where I’ve gone this long with being disciplined, I might as well just keep it going.

I try to say the same thing to my rookies. You know, just be careful. Even when I look at players, I can tell by their body type who eats well, who drinks, who’s fit. I can tell these things by just looking at your body.

SLAM: Right. So what’s it like following in Allen Iverson’s footsteps and moving from Philly to Denver?

AI: Yeah, that was a little strange. It’s funny because when I got traded Masai [Ujiri], our GM in Denver, was two doors down from me in the hotel at the Olympics; I had walked past him like five times that week and didn’t realize he would be my boss soon. Right after the trade happened, I just walked down the hall and we had a little meeting. It’s funny how that happened.

SLAM: In terms of basketball, you guys seem to have found your stride of late. Safe to say that it’s something that’s sustainable and you’ll be able to keep building off of?

AI: Yeah, and the thing is that I haven’t even scratched the surface offensively. I’m still trying to find my way within our offense, because we’re just moving so much I haven’t really found my rhythm. But we’re winning games, so I’m really happy right now with where we’re at. Once I get it going offensively, we’re going to be really scary—and we just got Wilson Chandler back. We just have to continue playing at a high level and we’re going to sneak up on some people.

SLAM: With Wilson back, the team is so deep and so talented at so many positions. Do you feel like this is maybe the most talented team you’ve been on?

AI: Yeah, we have a really good team. We can mix up our lineup—we can play big; we can play small—our biggest thing is our youth. We’ve got to grow up and be smarter basketball players, which is easier said than done. We’ve struggled with the veteran teams, teams that move the ball really well, and that comes with experience—and they’re getting a lot of minutes, so we’re learning out there. We’re only going to get better, because we have a lot of talent, and we’re only going to get smarter.

SLAM: Now that you’ve played in the both places, can you feel a real difference playing in the Western Conference?

AI: Eh, I mean, basketball is basketball. There are a few differences as far as concepts and schemes, but at the end of the day you just have to mentally be tough every single night. The West is a little bit more about offense, you’re going to score a little more, you have more possessions to play with. In the East, you have to protect the ball, less possessions, whoever wins the turnover game seems to win the game. All of that comes into effect, and than this team struggled defensively last year. I think they were last in guarding the three. This year, we have the most possessions and we’re 13th in defensive efficiency—which is incredible with our pace—so we’re getting better defensively.

SLAM: Right. I’ve seen where you said your other career plan was to be a math teacher, so does that mean you are big into advanced stats?

AI: Not really. I’m not a big fan of stats. People say numbers never lie; I say numbers always lie. You can skew the numbers to be anyway you want at any given time. Take something out, and it’ll be the complete opposite if you put it back in. At the end of the day, it’s just about communication, teamwork, mental preparation, mental toughness and how you can get the most out of five guys who can play on the same page.

SLAM: Speaking of the Western Conference and numbers, Kobe Bryant has said he’ll retire in two years but do you think he’s as good as he’s ever been?

AI: He’s not the best ever—there’s this guy named MJ…

SLAM: Nah. I mean, is he playing as well as he ever has?

AI: Oh, he’s playing at a high level. I think he’s exerting a lot of energy, but Kobe does so much—speaking of our awareness campaign—off the court with his body and his preparation and that’s why he’s playing at a high level. He has a chef, who puts the fuel in his body for him to play a high level. He has a trainer, who I used to work with, and he’s always in the weight room, always working on stuff. He has a physical therapist, who I’ve worked with as well, and he has a masseuse. He’s really doing everything to get the most out of his game, and that’s similar to our campaign. We have to do everything we can to get the most out of our bodies, and that includes how we use it and what we put inside of it.

SLAM: I have to ask—do you still get to watch the Sixers play at all?

AI: I got close friends there so I try to watch them a lot. I watch Lou Williams play in Atlanta; I watch Jodie Meeks play in L.A.; Evan Turner’s my guy, and Jrue [Holiday] and Thad [Young] and Lavoy [Allen] and Spencer [Hawes], I always check their stats to see how they’re playing.

SLAM: So do you think Jrue should be in the All-Star Game?

AI: He’s playing at an All-Star level, and he’ll be an All-Star many times. Their record isn’t too good right now, but he’s definitely playing at that level.