Golden Nugget: Olympian can't wait to come to Mile High City
With gold medal secured, Andre Iguodala turns focus to Denver Nuggets
The next game was the most important game and little else mattered.
He took that same approach while helping Team USA secure Olympic gold in London. With the gold medal in hand, he turned his attention to joining the Denver Nuggets in their pursuit of an NBA title.
In case there was any question, Iguodala is very much looking forward to joining the Nuggets in the wake of last week’s blockbuster trade that sent him from Philadelphia to the Mile High City.
“As soon as I made the Olympic Team, my focus was all on USA Basketball and winning a gold medal,” Iguodala told Nuggets.com. “I didn't let that change when the trade went down, so it really wasn't until I left London that I started to really think about it and get excited.
"I really like what they're building in Denver and I look forward to being a part of it."
The Nuggets acquired the All-Star swingman from the 76ers on Friday as part of a four-team, 12-player deal that also included the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic.
The trade became official in the midst of Team USA’s gold-medal run in London, and Iguodala tried to politely deflect questions about his new NBA destination.
During one post-trade interview, he said he was thankful for the opportunity to play in the NBA and added that he would be happy playing basketball anywhere – even in Alaska. Some misconstrued the comments as ambivalence toward the Nuggets.
Behind the scenes, Nuggets president Josh Kroenke got a much different impression.
“Andre is someone we’ve coveted for years,” Kroenke said. “I met him a few years ago, and I had the chance to spend some time with him in London after the trade. His passion and excitement are contagious. He doesn’t care about headlines. He just wants to play ball and win, period. Playground. Olympics. NBA. Alaska."
Having helped Philadelphia advance to the playoffs in four of the past five years, Iguodala is a proven winner. In Denver, he will join one of only three franchises to reach the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons.
Rest assured, Iguodala has taken notice of the success.
"I like the roster that Josh and (executive vice president of basketball operations) Masai (Ujiri) have assembled,” Iguodala said. “It's a high-energy group with a lot of athleticism.
“I've played with Andre Miller and know how valuable a player he is. Ty (Lawson) is one of the best young point guards in the league and Danilo (Gallinari) can really stretch the defense with his shooting and can do a lot of other good things offensively. The young bigs like JaVale (McGee), (Kenneth) Faried and (Timofey) Mozgov are all talented guys who will only continue to get better."
Already considered one of the fastest, most athletic teams in the NBA, the Nuggets managed to get even faster and more athletic by trading shooting guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington for Iguodala.
They also added an elite perimeter defender who has been in the top 10 in steals six times and an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection in 2010-11.
"To get a player like that, you obviously have to give up a lot,” Kroenke said. “We lost two leaders in Arron and Al, but we feel good headed into the season and added a dimension that’s rare in basketball – an All-Star who can do a little bit of everything and doesn’t need to get you 30 points to win.
“He just represented his country alongside other elite NBA players and brought home a gold medal. Andre is unquestionably a huge addition to our team."
It also should be a good fit. Nuggets coach George Karl loves to run; Iguodala loves to run. Denver loves to create offense with its defense; Iguodala is a lockdown defender who can create turnovers.
“I think my strengths as a player fit in very well with Coach Karl's system and the way he likes to play,” Iguodala said. “I like a more up-tempo game, and I know this team gets up and down the floor being among the league leaders in scoring and possessions per game last year."
If that’s not enough to convince people that Iguodala is excited about joining the Nuggets, just follow the evidence on social media.
Shortly after the trade became official on Friday, Iguodala tweeted that he was excited to be heading to Denver. On Tuesday, he sought out the names of Nuggets on Twitter, so he could connect with his new teammates.
While respectful of the past, Iguodala is focused on his future.
“This was a great year for me - making the All-Star team, leading Philly into the second round of the playoffs and winning a gold medal with our Olympic team,” he said. “I'm looking forward to building off that, and I think Denver offers me a great place to do it."
Come opening night, Nuggets fans should be just as excited as Iguodala.