Iguodala stays focused on task at hand in return to Philly

Denver Nuggets swingman faces former team on Halloween
by Aaron Lopez

Some will boo. Some will cheer. Some might even do both.

When Denver Nuggets guard/forward Andre Iguodala returns to the city where he blossomed into an All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, he will acknowledge the Philadelphia fans for their passion and support.

And then he will do his best to break their hearts.

As fate would have it, Iguodala’s first game in a Nuggets uniform will take place in the arena he called home for his first NBA seasons. Denver opens the 2012-13 schedule Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

Though respectful of the fans and his former teammates, Iguodala is focused more on getting a victory than how he will be received by the Philadelphia crowd.

“It’s not like I don’t care about the fans, but whether it’s a warm or cold welcome, just because it’s that first game, you really want to get off to a good start,” Iguodala said after practice Monday.

“I’m just trying to focus on what I can control and controlling my mindset going into the game. First game, you always want to get a win and get things started off on the right track, so that’s where my focus is.”

The Nuggets acquired Iguodala from Philadelphia as part of a four-team trade on Aug. 10. He arrived in Denver several weeks before training camp and quickly established himself as a leader on the court and in the locker room.

Denver coach George Karl repeatedly called Iguodala the best player on the court throughout camp. He expects to that to continue on Halloween night in Philadelphia.

“You’re going to have a very intense, focused player,” Karl said. “The first time you do it, it’s interesting."

Karl said he still remembers getting booed when he returned to Cleveland as coach of the Golden State Warriors for the first time after being fired by the Cavaliers in 1986. Warriors guard/forward Pervus Short told his coach that fans boo people they respect.

“I’ll remember that line,” Karl said. “They don’t boo people they don’t care about.”

Drafted by the Sixers ninth overall in 2004, Iguodala averaged 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists for Philadelphia. He was named to the 2011-12 Eastern Conference All-Star team and later helped Team USA win the gold medal at the London Olympics.

The subject of trade rumors for several seasons, Iguodala never expressed interest in leaving Philadelphia.

“I’m pretty sure (the fans) liked him there, so it’s probably going to go crazy,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “He played there for eight years and he’s loved there. It’s going to be a good welcome-home party for him.”

For Iguodala, success will be measured on the scoreboard, not by the number of No. 9 jerseys in the stands or the words of support from the fans.

“You are dealing with sports,” he said. “They have really passionate fans there, so you’re going to have both sides. It’s probably even.”