It's been a long season for Andre Iguodala. His back hurts. His weight is down. So is his field-goal percentage. He is feeling the fatigue - physically and mentally - of all his on-court responsibilities with the 76ers.

But all of this appears to be fine with Iguodala. The entire season has been a learning experience for him since he acquired added responsibilities after the departures of Allen Iverson and Chris Webber, including that of the primary go-to guy.

"I think this is the first time in my career I've been tired after games," Iguodala said after the Sixers held a light practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

" It has taken its toll. But it's helped me really understand how to prepare for each night, being that I am the go-to guy, and just having that mental preparation.

"The mental outweighs the physical part. . . . Just having that much weight on you, you've got to mentally put yourself in a position where you can fight through anything, even if you're not feeling well."

Iguodala leads the team in scoring with an 18.2-point average and is second in assists (5.7) and third in rebounds (5.8). In his last nine games, however, he is shooting just 38.0 percent from the field.

The poor shooting is mostly because of his back, which he hurt in a fall during a Dec. 16 game at San Antonio, then tweaked again sometime last month. It also has curtailed his aggressive drives to the basket, which result either in baskets or free-throw attempts.

"When I get contact, I really feel it," he said. "But other than that, I'm fine."

Still, his minutes are up because he doesn't want to sit for fear that his back will stiffen up. Coach Maurice Cheeks said that plan doesn't figure to change even with the Sixers virtually out of the playoff hunt with nine games to play.

"I think we'll play it by ear night in and night out," Cheeks said. "We're certainly not going to try to kill him, but we want him to try and do some of the things that he's been doing before."

Iguodala wants to be able to contribute in the ways he can with a relatively healthy back - play defense, set up his teammates, rebound, score, and shoot a higher percentage.

"It's just been a long season," he said. ". . . I haven't been able to shoot as much as I want to in practice. But we've still got nine games left, so I can get back on track at any given time."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

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