For more than a year now the rumors have been floating about the NBA. You may have read them or heard them or heard about them:
The Warriors regretted signing Andre Iguodala.
The Warriors wish they could trade Iguodala.
Iguodala’s presence ruined the rise of Harrison Barnes
No, no and no.
Now that the Warriors have profoundly validated a decision made 23 months ago, the whispers will stop and the appreciation will start.
Iguodala isn’t too expensive, and he isn’t too old. He’s not a zero on offense or a has-been on defense. And changing his role – from starter to first man off the bench – did not diminish the value of the veteran acquired in July 2013.
He’s the MVP of the NBA Finals and, quite evidently, an indispensible member of the deepest, most talented Warriors team ever built.
[RELATED: Iguodala named NBA Finals MVP]
Iguodala is the primary reason why the Warriors, after taking the NBA Finals in six games over Cleveland, are champs for the first time since 1975. The award could have gone to Stephen Curry for his singular brilliance. It could have gone to LeBron James for carrying a severely wounded team further than anyone could imagine.
It went to Iguodala, as it should have, given his effective defense on James and his skillful puncturing of the Cavaliers defense.
“We all say God has a way for you, a purpose for you, and this was my purpose and I accepted it," Iguodala said.
“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph or it could have gone to LeBron,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But for us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre.
“He sacrificed (the starting) job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better and that set the tone for our whole season. For an All-Star, an Olympian, saying ‘OK, I’ll come off the bench,’ set the tone for everything we were able to accomplish. So it feels like full circle to me that Andre won the award.”
After not starting a game in the regular season or through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Iguodala was inserted into the starting lineup in Game 4. The Warriors had lost two of the first three games and needed to do something to quicken the pace. Andrew Bogut, a Rottweiler of a center, took a seat. And Iguodala, a greyhound of a wing, took the floor.
And the Warriors won Games 4, 5 and 6 to take the series.
“Guarding LeBron James has to be the hardest job in basketball,” Kerr said. “After the first three games, we decided to start Andre because he was, by far, doing the best job on LeBron. But he was also contributing in so many other ways.
“Their plan was to take Steph away and take Klay (Thompson) away and force Draymond (Green) and Andre to beat them. And Andre did.”
Iguodala is not a perfect player – his free throw shooting is atrocious – but he’s that exceedingly rare individual who is able to see and feel the game at all its various speeds, at both ends of the court. He almost always does the wisest thing.
“Andre’s a pro’s pro,” Green said.
The three players most responsible for the Warriors playing the best defense in the NBA this season are Green, Bogut and Iguodala. The player most responsible for wearing out James and making the Cavaliers work harder on defense than they had hoped was, in the end, Iguodala.
“He made us pay,” James said. “He made us pay tonight with big shots, timely shots, getting out on the break, getting rebounds, getting assists. He was pretty good for their team."
Back on June 5, after Iguodala’s wonderfully efficient Game 1 (15 points, 6-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, two assists), I walked over to general manager Bob Myers and asked him, with a wink, if he’s still in a hurry to dump Iguodala.
Myers furrowed his brow and stared at me. I grinned. He grinned.
“Why,” he said, “would we want to do that?”
Because, I said, “That chatter never goes away. The whispers never seem to stop.”
Said Myers: “They should. We understand how much he means to us. We understand it better than anybody. I’m pretty sure if we were to move Andre it would hurt our team more than help it. Would that make any sense?”
No, it wouldn’t.