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Iguodala on Kuminga: ‘He’s really good, but he’s a knucklehead’

Andre Iguodala is back to support - and heckle - the Warriors’ young forward

Andre Iguodala defends his locker neighbor Jonathan Kuminga against the referees.
Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Andre Iguodala has been officially back with the Golden State Warriors for only a few days, but he’s already in mid-season form when it comes to mentoring Jonathan Kuminga. Talking to Dikembe Mutombo in Japan, Iguodala both praised and razzed the team’s 19-year-old forward.

“He’s good, he’s really good,” Iguodala told Mutombo. “But he’s a knucklehead.”

Iguodala was a mentor to both Kuminga and rookie Moses Moody, but Kuminga was a special project. Their lockers are next to each other, and last season you’d often see Iguodala on the sidelines in street clothes, pointing Kuminga in the right direction on defense and yelling encouragement or criticism. It was a constant push-pull of priase and critique.

This was perfectly encapsulated in Kuminga’s response to Andre’s return, and Andre’s reaction to that.

Kuminga welcomes Andre back, Andre threatens to put his foot somewhere unpleasant. Even when Andre was announcing his return, he took the time to warn Kuminga and Moody, “If I get on this court, you ain’t doing something right.”

It’s similar to how Steve Kerr has treated Kuminga. After Kuminga put up 26 points against the Raptors in December, Kerr focused on where Kuminga still had to improve:

“He’s got to get more than one rebound in 36 minutes, especially with that kind of athletic ability. He kind of showed how talented he is, how young he is, how high the ceiling is and how far he has to go, all in one night.”

When Stephen A. Smith said that Kuminga was “short-changing the Warriors” with his lack of focus and poor work ethic last month, Iguodala defended his locker buddy:

“He took some licks from Stephen A. I don’t know how warranted they were because from what I heard he been doing what he supposed to do this summer.”

Iguodala went on to praise how Kuminga had played for his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, over the summer. “Kuminga’s getting busy. I mean fastbreak, reverse, pull-ups, he’s in his bag. ISOs, getting to it, making shots,” Andre raved. Of course, because this is Andre, he also twisted the knife at the end. “But every clip, they down 20, 25.”

That’s the Jonathan Kuminga experience in 2022. He helped the team get to the NBA Finals - then played just eight scoreless minutes in the Finals. He’ll regularly wow the team with dunks - and then get benched after blowing a defensive assignment. Luckily, it’s easier to stop being a knucklehead than it is to become a hyper-athletic dunking machine.

And that’s the value of Iguodala. He’s appreciative, but not impressed. And if Kuminga keeps acting like a knucklehead, well, there’s some choice emojis that will describe Andre’s response.

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