I first met Andre Iguodala five years ago. There’s no way he’d remember chatting with a freelance video game journalist who was in New York for the first time at an NBA 2K9 release party (KG was on the cover), but since this was my first face-to-face conversation with an active professional athlete — and a very good one, at that — I never forgot the encounter.
We talked a little about video games, but it was when I brought up how he was one of my favorite players to utilize in fantasy basketball that he really became engaged. He wasn’t surprised that I made sure to draft him as often as possible in my funny little made-up leagues, but the conversation soon turned to how he couldn’t believe he was named to the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team the previous season. He even cited how he was sixth in the league in steals.
I checked the next morning. Yep, sixth in the league.
Here I was in some trendy Manhattan club with a bunch of NBA players and Usain Bolt, totally new to all this, astounded to hear such a rare point of view. An NBA player peeved about not receiving accolades, venting to some anonymous part-time IGN writer?
Turns out the situation wasn’t all that unique — Iguodala thinks about this stuff all the time. He feeds off these perceived slights, something that became clear as he repeatedly mentioned them on Wednesday afternoon, starting when he was asked if the goal for this season was 50 wins.
“Myself personally, I would say more than that.”
“I won’t say too much about wins. I’d rather fly under the radar, which seems to be the case with a lot of rankings, preseason rankings and backcourt rankings, things like that,” Iguodala said.
Welcome to the Warriors, Iggy. It’s going to take more than one surprising playoff run (with a series win against your old team, the Nuggets, another team that rarely gets much respect) to rise up those preseason rankings. Sorry, you don’t care for that nickname — old habit.
“I’ve never liked that. Since I was a kid I’ve been called that. But my teammates call me that. I feel like they know me, they can get away with that. But other than that, I’m not a big fan,”
Iggy Iguodala said.
But enough about nicknames Iguodala doesn’t like, and back to something else that irks him.
“I don’t think I got enough credit for what I bring to certain teams. Especially last year with the record we had, breaking the franchise record for wins. How we kind of kept everything together and pulled off a great season,” Iguodala said of his time in Denver, a team that jumped from 20th in points allowed per 100 possessions the year before he arrived to 11th during the 2012-13 season.
“I would say I had a lot to do with it, because I had a lot of responsibility. Especially in the pick-and-roll coverage on the weak side, having to cover two guys, the diver and the three-point shooter, which is damn near impossible. I see a lot of teams lose games off that,” said Iguodala.
But Iguodala didn’t spend the entire afternoon talking about himself. He mentioned every other prominent player on the roster, starting with a guy he looks forward to helping.
“He’s a better defender than people think. When you’re drawing those big assignments, it’s tough. On the East Coast trip you might have Melo, LeBron. You might have Luol Deng, who can sneak up on you. Then you might have to guard Kyrie, you might have to guard Joe Johnson or Deron Williams. And these are all six games straight where you guard 20-point scorers. People don’t know how hard that is and how much energy you have to exert just guarding those guys who are volume shooters. Going through that he might have had a rough patch, but he’s a very tough defender,” said Iguodala.
“Really excited for Klay. There’s going to be a lot of pressure taken off him without having to defend certain guys. On certain nights we can switch up the assignment defensively. I’ll take some pressure off him and let him do more work offensively instead of exerting so much energy on the defensive end.”
Tim Kawakami asked Iguodala about Peter Vescey’s tweet on Tuesday night about Barnes wearing out Iguodala and everyone else during these workouts, and while Iguodala had definitely heard what Vescey said (Iguodala, like Jim Harbaugh, seems to know everything that’s written about him), he didn’t seem all that bothered.
“(Barnes has) had a really good summer from what I’ve seen. He’s played a rookie year, he’s got a feel for the NBA game. Something rare is he got a lot of playoff experience, so he knows what that’s about. He’s had a lot of high expectations throughout his career, from high school going into college and now the NBA. He had a lot of doubters early on, so he’s been really working hard. He wants to establish himself as a great player in this league,” said Iguodala.
Did Barnes surprise him with his versatility in that series the Warriors played against the Nuggets?
“I don’t think he surprised me. I’d seen him play plenty of times before. When he was put at that four spot, it kind of threw our bigs off how to adjust to a guy like Harrison Barnes who can shoot the ball, he can attack the rim a little bit. So they weren’t accustomed to defending somebody like him. But I certainly wasn’t surprised.”
And in case it wasn’t obvious that Iguodala likes the idea of playing with Barnes …
“Harrison’s a great defender as well, so you’ve got three perimeter guys who can really defend. We can even play big. We’ve got so many things we can do with our team. That’s why we have high expectations of ourselves.”
That’s not to say Iguodala doesn’t like playing with Lee …
“D-Lee’s a different kind of guy. We’re both Midwest guys so I really understand him, nonverbal communication with him.”
That’s good, right? Let’s just assume it’s good until we see them play together.
“Steph had one day where he just couldn’t miss.”
“Bogut’s probably been the most dominant, because nobody’s really been able to guard him,” Iguodala said. “Becoming a big fan of Bogut. He’s been really good.”
Two defensive-minded guys who are brutally honest — these guys can’t help but get along.
The rest of the squad
“You’ve got some guys who are laid back. Draymond is an energy guy, Kent’s an energy guy,” Iguodala said.
“The good thing is we have a bunch of good character guys. I’ve played with some great guys, every team that I’ve been on. But I think top to bottom I fit in well personality-wise on and off the court with a lot of guys on this team … You’ve got different personalities with every team, but it’s a little easier with this team.”