Andre Iguodala has been clear since the start. And the Golden State Warriors have been clear from the start.
The former has said that he’ll either return to the defending champions or retire, and he doesn’t know when he’ll make that decision.
The latter has said that there’s a spot with his name on it, and there will be a spot with his name on it whenever he makes up his mind.
We still haven’t gotten to the “makes up his mind,” part of the story, but you would think we’re probably close. After all, the Warriors training camp — and with it the quest to repeat — starts on Saturday. The team flies to Japan next week for a pair of preseason games.
It’s not July anymore.
Steve Kerr met with the media on Thursday morning and, as expected, was met with an Iguodala question. The answer was pretty predictable.
Steve Kerr on Iguodala: "I'm just really hopeful ... beyond that, I don't know what Andre's gonna do ... he's taking his time, and that's fine."— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) September 22, 2022
Kerr being hopeful is honesty. If anyone thinks that Kerr and the Warriors are just being nice in professing their desire for Iguodala to return, they’re not. The desire is real. And the fact that re-signing Iguodala will cost many, many millions of dollars in tax payments should be reason enough to realize that.
The reality is that Iguodala still makes so much sense on this roster. Despite being the oldest and most experienced player on the team (assuming he returns), he acts as the bridge between two eras.
He’s close — both in on-court chemistry and off-court friendship — to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Yet he’s far enough removed from their level of stardom to be able to relate to the young, unproven players on the team ... and, as last year bore witness, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
That’s one thing that this Warriors team is missing. Curry may be the most selfless superstar in NBA history, but there’s still only so much that he can do to tie the veteran core to the up-and-comers. Being an unproven youngster on Curry’s Warriors is like becoming Beyonce’s friend after she got famous. It’s real. But there’s only so grounded it can be. And rides on Klay’s boat are nice, but they only go so far.
It’s not a surprise that Iguodala and Wiggins became so close last year, or that Iguodala and Poole did. And it wouldn’t be the least bit shocking if the same thing happens this year with a few other players. It would be expected, even.
But beyond that, Iguodala on the court makes sense. The general perception lately seems to be that Iguodala was bad last year and while he was injured, I don’t think he was actually bad. He was still a strong defensive player, who graded out as one of the best in the NBA by the advanced metrics. When healthy, he received more minutes per game than Gary Payton II, and nearly as many as Kevon Looney, and there was a reason for that.
And yes, his offense was rough. It also is unlikely to be that rough this year. Iguodala is a career 33.0% shooter from deep, and shot 33.0% in 2020-21, before dipping all the way to 23.0% 2021-22. Did he get to his 18th season and just magically forget how to shoot? Highly unlikely, especially since he had his best free throw percentage since 2006-07.
A more likely explanation is that he shot only 74 threes, and a lot of variance can happen in 74 threes. Just ask Curry. We all remember how he shot the first few weeks of the season.
Iguodala’s days as a high-quality offensive player are behind him. But his days at a good defender are not, and his days as a solid role player who can give you 15-20 minutes a night every other game are not, either. And on a Warriors team with a few health question marks and a rather unproven bench, that could go a long way.
The Dubs don’t need him. But wanting him back isn’t just about being respectful, or about hiring an assistant coach who wears Nikes instead of loafers on game day.
He can help.