Who is Andre Iguodala?
If you were to ask New Jersey Nets general manager Billy King, he’d say that the 6-foot, 6-inch swingman is a “prototypical 3 man” who would be in high demand if he were to ever hit the open market.
According to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, Iguodala is an “incredible defender” who helped lead the U.S. men’s’ team to a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
But to many fans of the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala is an overpaid, underperforming player who rarely—if ever—comes through in the clutch.
Seven-plus seasons of familiarity have bred much contempt in the city of Philadelphia for Iguodala. Contempt that, at least on some level, appears to be a bit misguided.
Both supporters and detractors can agree that Iguodala has one of the more versatile skill sets in the entire NBA. Few in the league are more efficient at attacking the basket than Iguodala, who is an absolute terror in the open floor.
Defensively, his ability to virtually lock down opposing wing players is nothing short of impressive. Last season, Iguodala earned NBA All-Defensive honors for the first time in his career, but he’s been regarded as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders for quite some time.
Logic would dictate that a player with all of those talents would be embraced by the tough, blue-collar town in which Iguodala plays. But along with those gifts comes a man whose questionable body language often gives the impression that he isn’t always going full bore.
It also doesn’t help that Iguodala is following in the footsteps of Allen Iverson: a 6-foot, 165-pound superstar whose blue-collar work ethic (with the exception of practice) and underdog, never-say-die attitude epitomized virtually everything that Philadelphia fans want in their best player.
Iguodala’s devil-may-care demeanor is in stark contrast to Iverson’s emotionally-charged playing style, so to many in the City of Brotherly Love, the modern-day A.I. is committing a cardinal sin just by the way he looks while he’s out on the court.
Perception isn’t always reality, however. If Iguodala truly didn’t care, he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to attend a fan-organized “End of Lockout” party last month. And he certainly wouldn’t have scheduled (and paid for) a week of informal off-season workouts with his teammates during the lockout.
“Dre so wants these fans to appreciate what he brings as do I,” said 76ers head coach Doug Collins.
It’s going to take some time for that to happen, however. For starters, the memories of last April’s playoff series against the Miami Heat are still all too fresh in the minds of 76ers fans.
In terms of rebounds (7.0 RPG) and assists (6.8 APG), Iguodala had an exceptional showing against James, Wade, Bosh and company. But for many, the fact that he only averaged 11.4 points per game in the five-game series trumps all.
Last season’s showing against the Heat aside, Iguodala’s largest albatross is his performance—or lack thereof—when the game is on the line.
The very atmosphere inside the Wells Fargo Center becomes noticeably different when Iguodala is initiating the offense late in a close game. For Sixers’ fans, seeing the ball in the hands of their starting small forward during a crucial possession is the basketball equivalent of the “Sword of Damocles.”
Their reaction isn’t completely unjustified. According to 82games.com, in crunch time situations last season (fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by more than five points), Iguodala shot a paltry 30.9 percent from the floor.
That’s not to say that Iguodala isn’t built for those types of situations. In Game 1 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Iguodala hit a memorable, step-back 19-footer with 2.2 seconds to go—the game-winning shot in the 76ers’ 100-98 victory. But moments such as those have been far too infrequent for a man who is often ranked among the 30 or 40 best players in the NBA.
In a perfect world, Iguodala would be the Robin to someone else’s Batman. Although he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the entire league, his best skills—defense, playmaking—are more complementary than primary. But given his six-year, $80 million contract, Iguodala is expected to perform at a superstar level every night.
It’s clear that Andre Iguodala won’t ever be the 22/6/6 type of player that many envisioned he would be at this point. But if he were to consistently put up 15/5/5, play lockdown defense, and occasionally flirt with a triple-double every now and again, that may be enough to win back some of those who have already written him off.
A year after his trade to the Denver Nuggets, Iverson was asked about Iguodala’s ability to lead the 76ers to playoff success. In his familiar cadence, A.I. began the answer with a question of his own: “Can he [Iguodala] be ‘The Man’ in Philly?”More than four years later, 76ers’ fans are still asking themselves that very same thing. Source: thebreakdownshow.com
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