The Golden State Warriors asked me to answer a few questions about this upcoming first round series for their “Bloggers Roundtable.” I’m going to begin this post with the answer to the final question.
What do you think will be the X-factor in determining the outcome of this series?
That question is a lot like the ever-popular “who’s the face of the franchise,” in that you can make arguments for or against any answer one could possibly think of. The whole “X-factor” thing, if I understand it correctly, presupposes that all the stars are going to play like they normally do, and some supremely important “factor” is going to determine who wins the series. Here’s what I submitted to the Warriors.
I’m guessing Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green will get a lot of mentions here, but I’m going with Andre Iguodala. He has 41 games of playoff experience, he’s been conserving energy over the second half so he could rest his knee (translation: max out in the postseason), and it certainly wasn’t his fault the Nuggets fell to the Warriors in the first round a year ago. He averaged 18 ppg 8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2 spg and shot 50% from the field (48.3% on threes) in that series, and why George Karl never put him on Curry is anybody’s guess.
Iguodala’s responsibilities could include guarding Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and/or Chris Paul, running the offense to give Curry some time off the ball, and shouldering more of the scoring load in what could be a fairly fast-paced series. If Iguodala can come close to matching his first round production from last year, the Warriors could surprise some people.
Of course neither Jordan Ramirez (Warriorsworld) nor Grant Hughes (Bleacher Report) named Thompson, Barnes or Green. But with my X-factor answer in mind, I hopped on BART this morning to attend the latest Warriors media availability session before they headed to Los Angeles. (I’m also on my way to Los Angeles as I write this, so if you’re in the market for Warriors coverage from Staples you’ve come to a place — hopefully it’s the right place).
The Iguodala signing was celebrated by many, but as the season progressed and fans realized he wasn’t going to make buzzer-beaters every week or even average double figures in points, there were some murmurs of discontent. Most of Iguodala’s impact was felt on the defensive end this year, and many wondered if that was enough, considering what Golden State was paying.
We’ve seen glimpses. Just recently, Iguodala has shown exactly how vital he can be on both ends against two playoff-caliber opponents. In the last-second overtime win over Dallas, Iguodala had 16 points, shot 7-for-9 and had eight rebounds and seven assists. The Warriors lost in Portland by two, but Iguodala shined with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. It was a fitting final regular season game for Iguodala, who the Warriors kept in street clothes for seven of the season’s final 14 games.
Iguodala’s game is predicated on so much more than scoring, but that 18 ppg figure from the Denver series is so tantalizing. Without Andrew Bogut the Warriors’ size advantage is no more, and it probably was more like a size equivalency against the Clippers, anyway. Golden State is going to have to run, run, run, score, score, score, and Los Angeles will surely throw some defensive wrinkles at Curry.
In steps Iguodala, who’ll have no more back-to-backs or restrictions as Golden State tries to pull off another first round upset. Today I asked Jackson if we’d see an “unleashed Andre Iguodala,” and no joke — his eyes lit up, and he didn’t utter one cliche.
“He’s a guy that when the lights get brightest, he plays better. He did that against us last year in the playoffs. He was the best Denver Nuggets player against us in the playoffs. We fully expect him to have a tremendous impact. That’s why we went out and got him,” Jackson said.
That last sentence should help Warriors fans sleep a little better, as long as the promise is kept. That’s why we went out and got him.
Even when Bill Simmons questioned the Warriors’ title aspirations at the beginning of the season, he said something that stuck with me.
“Iguodala, we both like. That’s a guy you can go to war with in the Finals.”
Apparently Simmons and I share more than the “sports guy” moniker.
I requested Iguodala when the Warriors PR staff came around and asked if we’d like to talk to anyone in particular. You could tell this postseason stuff is old hat when Iguodala made his way over to the interview area behind one of the baskets.
“Get ready for the world’s most boring interview,” he said. “Let’s roll, we’ve got to battle.”
He answered the first question with, “We play the game to win. So that’s our goal, to win four games.” (Seriously)
But Iguodala is honest, and honesty is fun, even if the one dispersing said honesty thinks it’s boring. So I prefaced my question to Iguodala by discussing how he’s been around a while, he’s played 41 postseason games, and clearly he and the Warriors have worked to preserve him for this exact moment.
“Is this the time when we see your game unleashed?”
“That’s the plan,” Iguodala said. “Try to help the team win any way possible. If that’s doing a little bit more scoring, being a little more deliberate on the offensive end, I’m ready to do that.”
That’s something fun about Iguodala, he’s smart enough to toss out words like “deliberate” that actually mean “I’m going to stop deferring to everyone else on the team.” If he provides more tangible fun, as in 18-20 ppg against the Clippers, Iguodala will show the Warriors were right to go out and get him.