He’s the man who goes unnoticed until you can’t stop watching him, the guy who gets his teammates’ — and his coach’s — praise, but rarely gets the headlines.
Andre Iguodala’s problem is not that he isn’t a key component of the Warriors but that he’s not Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. Or Draymond Green or Kevin Durant,
That happens in team sports on very good teams, which of course the Warriors are. There are only five starting positions. There’s only one basketball. But there are many ways to play the game, and Iguodala, at 33, and in the NBA more than a decade, knows every one of those ways.
Need a defender? Bring Andre off the bench. Need a scorer? Bring Andre off the bench. Need a pot stirrer — you remember those comments two weeks ago, about doing what the master says — find Andre in the locker room.
Iggy didn’t say much Sunday night when the Warriors won their seventh in a row, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, 106-94, at Oracle Arena, but as usual he did a great deal, with 20 points (7 of 8 from the floor including an emphatic dunk), seven rebounds and four assists. What doesn’t show up in the stats is his relentless defense.
“Both ends of the court,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, “Andre’s been the best player here the last few weeks.”
Not the highest scoring, not the fanciest passing, not the most relentlessly hounding, the best. On a team with Steph, Klay and Company. On a team with the best record in the NBA.
Someone called Iguodala the new Scottie Pippin, the do-everything All-Star who had both the good fortune and misfortune to be on the Chicago Bulls teams with Michael Jordan. And part of the time with Steve Kerr.
“It’s a really good comparison,” agreed Kerr, “because what made Scottie so great was a combination of elite athleticism and elite basketball IQ. Scottie was basically our point guard in Chicago for all those years.
“It didn’t say it on the score sheet, but he was our main ball handler and distributor. That’s kind of what Andre does. He brings this incredible level of athletic ability and amazing awareness of both ends of the floor. Great defender. Recognizes the game, the angles and setting screens.”
And now, in his year with the Warriors, the special quality to be a substitute after starting for years with Philadelphia — which took him in the first round of the 2004 draft — and Denver.
It was in the 2015 playoffs, when he would perform superbly enough for a Warriors team headed for the championship he would become MVP of the finals that Iggy said he still was not comfortable as a reserve. Of course that didn’t prevent him from playing brilliantly.
Iguodala grew up in Illinois, an all-around athlete who was mesmerized by Michigan’s Fab Five in the early 1990s. He started at Arkansas, then after Nolan Richardson left as coach, transferred to Arizona where one of his teammates was Luke Walton, who until shifting to the Lakers was one of Andre’s coaches with the Warriors.
“To see a player of his skill and ability willing to play the unselfish way is definitely rare.” Walton said of Iguodala when they were teammates.
Rare is the appropriate word.
“You know I’ve been watching Andre for a long time,” said Draymond Green. “You knew exactly what you were getting when we signed him.”
Someone asked Curry, also a golfer, if he sensed when Iguodala would be a factor, as he almost always is. “Probably,” after he’s had a good round.”
Fore! And forward with Andre.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.