SAN FRANCISCO — The move signaled an abrupt end to the Golden State Warriors competing for NBA championships partly by relying on an established veteran, whose value often was rooted in intangibles over statistics.
The Warriors dealt Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2019 offseason, a trade the Warriors made reluctantly in hopes to save money and collect assets needed to offset Kevin Durant’s free-agency departure.
To some, the move also signaled an abrupt transition into Iguodala’s post-NBA career.
“I thought he was going to retire right away,” Warriors forward Draymond Green admitted. “I thought he would be like, ‘F— this, I’m out.’”
Green thought wrong. Nearly 2 1/2 years later, Iguodala has reunited with the Warriors.
After spending the past two seasons helping the Miami Heat the same way he did for the Warriors through three NBA championship runs in five Finals appearances, Iguodala signed with Golden State in the offseason on a veteran’s minimum deal.
No doubt, Iguodala hopes to retire in a Warriors uniform. When that moment happens, though? That remains anyone’s guess, including Iguodala’s.
“The NBA salary cap won’t allow me to play too much longer, but I’m going to enjoy it,” Iguodala, 37, told NBA.com. “Whether it’s one year or seven years left, I’m going to have some fun.”
The Warriors sure have fun welcoming a familiar face they originally acquired in a sign-and-trade deal in 2013 with the Denver Nuggets. The reason: the Warriors often equated Iguodala as the perfect piece on a chess board because he can move anywhere on it.
“He fits right back in seamlessly,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers told NBA.com. “I’m amazed on how he takes care of himself. He’s a good model for younger players to emulate as far as how he takes care of his body, how he takes care of his mind and how he keeps stimulated off the court. He’s a really good model for how to approach an NBA career.”
Iguodala accepted a bench role without complaint (2014). Iguodala won Finals MVP for his defense on LeBron James (2015). Iguodala complemented Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Green with positional versatility. Iguodala elevated the Warriors’ younger players with direction on and off the court.
The Warriors (5-1) enter Wednesday’s nationally televised game against the Charlotte Hornets (5-3) (10 ET, ESPN) back among the NBA’s best largely because of Curry averaging a league-leading 28.7 points and 5.2 3-pointers made per game. Yet, the Warriors also attribute their early-season success to Iguodala, who has fulfilled his familiar job description as the NBA’s second-oldest player behind ex-teammate and Miami Heat stalwart Udonis Haslem (41).
“It’s like we lost our soul a little bit the last two years,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Getting him back brings a level of stability, intelligence and basketball IQ. But he’s also mentoring the younger guys. Everything that he’s stood for during those championship years, he still stands for. We need that veteran presence. I’m thrilled that he’s back.”
How did the Golden State reunion happen?
After all, the Warriors never really wanted to part ways with Iguodala in the first place. Golden State only did so for practical reasons.
Following Durant’s departure to Brooklyn via free agency in 2019, the Warriors negotiated a sign-and-trade with the Nets so they could land D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors considered the move a decent consolation prize that would secure them an All-Star point guard that they could either develop or flip in a bigger deal. Because of salary cap rules, however, Iguodala became a casualty so the Warriors had enough salary relief to finalize the trade. Less than a year later after dealing Iguodala, the Warriors traded Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for veteran forward Andrew Wiggins. He has since cemented himself as a reliable perimeter defender and occasional scorer.
With the Iguodala deal, the Warriors also yielded a $17.2 million trade exception. The Warriors then used that asset on acquiring swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. in the 2020 offseason. The Warriors had hoped their additional financial and asset flexibility would help them adjust to life without Durant as well as an injured Curry and Thompson. Maybe so, but the Warriors have still missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons since Iguodala’s departure (although they did make the Play-In Tournament in 2021).
When the Warriors said goodbye to Iguodala, several in the organization still envisioned that a reunion would eventually happen. As Curry admitted, “I had high hopes, but you never know.”
“When we traded him,” Myers said, “you never know how people are going to feel about that and how he would feel.”
Iguodala had already wrestled with a team trading him unexpectedly. He had spent most of his first eight NBA seasons as the Philadelphia 76ers’ franchise player (2004-12), which coincided with five playoff appearances, an All-Star stint (2012) and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team (2012). But during Team USA’s run at gold, the Sixers dealt Iguodala to Denver as part of a four-team trade.
“That was kind of crazy,” Iguodala said. “You’re representing your country and then you get traded by some folks. They say, ‘You’re my guy and you’re my family.’ Then the whole thing went down. It was a sense of disrespect. Not for me personally, but that’s how it can be when a guy is traded.”
Iguodala reacted much differently when the Warriors dealt him.
It helped that Iguodala learned about the Warriors’ possible plans beforehand. Iguodala even talked with members of the organization about its thinking before a deal even happened. Once Iguodala had to take off his Warriors jersey, he hardly had any thoughts of burning it.
“I know how the business of the game works,” Iguodala said. “There were no emotions thrown in there. I didn’t have any ill feelings toward anyone. I understand how I am as a person. I understand I may feel a certain way about certain things that others may not agree with. Whether or not that played a part of it, I accepted it. I built some great relationships. What we’ve been able to accomplish and are still accomplishing with this organization will stand the test of time. Nobody will ever take it away from us.”
Afterwards, Iguodala said he and Jacob Rubin, Golden State’s player development coach, “joked a lot about coming back.” Yet, Iguodala maintained he never envisioned that would actually happen.
Once the Grizzlies dealt Iguodala to Miami midway through the 2019-20 season, he set on maximizing his time there. Iguodala agreed to a two-year, $30 million extension that included a team option the second year. Iguodala then became the same valued role player in Miami as he did in Golden State by helping the Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals in what marked his fifth consecutive Finals appearance.
After last year’s first-round playoff exit to the Milwaukee Bucks, however, the Heat declined Iguodala’s team option. That opened an opportunity for the Warriors. They wanted a dependable veteran after Curry and Green led the Warriors only to a Play-In Tournament appearance while absorbing Thompson’s season-ending right Achilles injury and hiccups with the team’s young roster.
“The fact that he wanted to come back was probably the first part of the conversation,” Myers said. “It was easy organizationally for myself, Steve and ownership to conclude, ‘If you want to come, we have a spot for you.’ We didn’t have to have a long meeting about that one.”
Neither did Iguodala, who broke promises to his family not to have free-agency phone conversations during a pre-planned family vacation. But Iguodala could not turn down the chance for a reunion.
That explains why Iguodala veered away through his usual free-agency approach. Although Iguodala had also taken a pay cut when joining the Warriors as a free agent in 2013, he had remained business savvy with maximizing his earnings on and off the court. This time, Iguodala did not worry about that. He accepted a one-year deal on the veteran’s minimum just to rejoin the Warriors. Because the Warriors signed him at such a relatively inexpensive price, Iguodala argued Myers will win the NBA’s Executive of the Year.
“I’m joking, but I’m dead serious,” Iguodala said. “Bob and I have gotten to know each other really well on a personal level. There is a respect there with our values and how we see life in general.”
Myers laughed loudly when he learned about Iguodala’s prediction. “That’s why we miss Andre, just for comments like that,” Myers said. “That’s funny.”
After a few chuckles, Myers turned serious.
“Andre is worth more than we’re paying him,” Myers said. “I don’t necessarily think I’m going to be executive of the year. But I agree he’s worth more.”
Why does Iguodala keep playing?
After all, who can put a price tag on an established veteran that accepts his role, elevates his teammates and still shows flashes of his prime?
In recent years, however, Iguodala has hinted he would retire within the next one to two years. He then has changed his mind and agreed to a new contract.
“Once you give it up, you give it up,” Green said. “Most guys want to hold onto that as long as you can. You got the rest of your life to do everything else.”
Green may have playfully described Iguodala as “old as sh–.” But since the season started, Green also observed that Iguodala has looked “athletic” and springy.”
Iguodala has kept details mostly private about his regimen. Dating back to his first stint with the Warriors, however, Iguodala has said he has stayed disciplined with his diet (mostly fish and vegetables), sleep (eight hours a day), film study and reading.
“The mind has been really clear,” Iguodala said. “I have just been playing basketball without thinking. That is the ultimate kind of state.”
Just like Iguodala’s first stint with the Warriors, his statistical contributions remain modest in points (4.2), rebounds (5.6) and assists (2.4) in 21.8 minutes off the bench. Iguodala also missed the Warriors’ third game of the season because of left hip soreness, an example that illustrates how the Warriors will handle him with care all season over minor ailments.
Just like Iguodala’s first stint with the Warriors, they value him for other reasons. They have credited Iguodala for helping the Warriors’ reserves and crunch-time lineup with running the offense. They still found Iguodala capable of limiting the opposing team’s top scorers. And they marveled at him throwing down the occasional dunk.
“When he came here, there was that narrative that he’s just a locker-room presence and just a veteran who’s going to be a chaperone and make sure the young guys stayed on the straight and narrow,” Curry said. “But he made it clear from day one that he still has a lot left in the tank. What he’s going to do on the floor will be as meaningful as what he does to boost our culture and the young guys.”
The reason Iguodala remains motivated to keep offering those valuable on-court play and off-court intangibles? He referenced “The Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav, which stressed, “once you master something, it’s your duty to give it back.”’
“I’ve had some really good vets, and I’ve seen some really bad vets,” Iguodala said. “You want to be on the right side of that.”
Iguodala wants to be on the right side of the Warriors’ quest to win another championship.
He has shared details with the Warriors about the Heat’s more structured culture and valued the Heat’s disciplined nature just as much as the Warriors’ more laid-back approach.
“We were so talented and were veterans, so it was at our speed and we were in control of everything. It was so free flowing,” Iguodala said. “Everything [in Miami] is more of a controlled setting. It’s just tapping in with the young guys and getting them to understand the importance of figuring out the balance of it all. It’s very controlled there, but it’s good for you. You can use that to get the mind freed up away from the court and away from it all and balance the two. For me, I became a much better leader with seeing that side of things.”
Iguodala has also taken interest with helping second-year center James Wiseman, who remains sidelined with a right knee injury. Before suffering that injury last season, Wiseman fielded mixed reviews as the Warriors’ No. 2 pick with his consistency, decision making and confidence.
“He’s already head and shoulders above anyone around his age,” Iguodala said of Wiseman. “But he has so far to go. It’s about getting him to break it down in terms of, ‘You’re going to get there, but you’re not going to get there tomorrow.’ There’s so much noise that’s involved in athletes’ lives now. It prevents them from getting there. They don’t understand the journey of it all.”
Iguodala has also argued that few understand Curry’s journey, even if he has already won three NBA titles and climbed to No. 2 on the league’s all-time list for most 3-pointers. Therefore, Iguodala’s return also stems from wanting to help his star teammate’s chances of collecting another championship ring.
“When I say protect Steph’s legacy,” Iguodala said, “I’m here to service everybody around Steph to get them not just to complement him, but to put themselves in a position to succeed while complementing him.”
Iguodala has not just talked to his teammates about succeeding on the basketball court, though.
He has educated them about stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. Warriors forward Damion Lee said Iguodala also brought some of his investors to talk to the team about making business-savvy decisions.
“I got a lot of things planned in terms of player empowerment and in terms of getting the guys into those doors,” Iguodala said. “It’s just about opening the door. It’s about giving them the knowledge to know how everything works on the inside. Just doing my duty.”
How Iguodala supported Wiggins on whether to take the COVID-19 vaccine
Iguodala also considered it his duty to help Wiggins when he initially refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Given Iguodala’s role, it does not seem surprising he played a key factor in Wiggins eventually receiving the shot. Yet, Iguodala approached this subject far more delicately than when he has offered blunt criticism about a teammates’ performance or effort.
During the Warriors’ media day, Wiggins declined to explain his skepticism on a vaccine that the FDA has considered to be safe and effective. Shortly afterwards, Iguodala defended Wiggins to reporters and argued his inaction had little to do with refusing to take safety protocols seriously.
“I was really upset with how people were trying to put this perception on him,” Iguodala said. “In our world and the league that we’re in, perception can become reality. It can really affect you financially and it’s unjust. So, I was trying to get the message out there — ‘Do your homework on this guy; he is an incredible human being.’ If you get down to the bottom of it, there’s a way that he carries himself about life that a lot of people should try to adapt or take on.”
Iguodala then clarified his statement.
“People are going to say that ‘Andre Iguodala says that people should be like Andrew Wiggins and shouldn’t be vaccinated.’ That totally isn’t the message because I’m vaccinated,” Iguodala said. “But his approach with how he goes about what he puts in his body and doing his homework? That makes sense. This guy moves a certain way.”
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association never agreed to require players to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Still, the league has loosened its safety protocols for those that have taken the shot. In the Warriors’ case, they are subject to San Francisco’s rule that requires everyone at a large indoor gathering to be vaccinated. That left the Warriors facing the possibility that Wiggins would miss all of their home games.
“We just had a conversation with him about the whole thing. The conversation is never going to be, ‘You need to get vaccinated so we can win a championship,’” Iguodala said. “I’ve heard that and that’s been on my mind as well. At the same time, we have a duty to our communities that we come from. Historically, our communities haven’t been treated well with government dealings.”
Iguodala cited the government-backed Tuskegee Syphilis Study that took place from 1932-72 in Macon County, Ala., which entailed Black people being denied treatment for syphilis after being told they would receive free medical care. Amid his own concerns about the country’s racial inequities in the medical field, Iguodala spoke with NBA medical director Dr. Leroy Sims shortly after the vaccine became available to the general public earlier this year. Sims assuaged Iguodala’s initial concerns because of his medical expertise.
Iguodala made sure Wiggins had the same information. Since then, Wiggins has credited Iguodala’s support for prompting him to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during training camp.
“It’s not about me trying to tell you to help us win a championship,” Iguodala said. “It’s giving you the facts and getting you comfortable with a tough decision.”
What will Iguodala do in retirement?
At some point, Iguodala will have to wrestle with another tough decision. What will he do once he retires from the NBA?
“He’s taking over Mike Brown’s spot right next to me,” Kerr said, laughing. “I haven’t told Mike yet. I haven’t told Andre yet, either.”
Should Brown anticipate Kerr firing him as the Warriors’ lead assistant coach? Is Iguodala ready to patrol the sideline instead of the court?
“I don’t know how I would be as a coach,” Iguodala said, laughing. “As a player, I can make my impact on the court and then curse a guy out and show them that I know what I’m doing. But as a coach, you really can’t show it the same way. That’s why I don’t think that’s the best thing.”
Neither does Kerr, who rescinded the offer as quickly as he dangled it.
“I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want any part of that,” Kerr said. “Andre can do whatever he wants. If he wants to be a head coach in the league, he can do that in his sleep. But he’s also probably a lot smarter than that to make that decision. He has a lot of options.”
Iguodala and Kerr often agree about basketball partly because of their mutual upbringing as former players under Lute Olson, the late University of Arizona basketball coach. No surprise Iguodala said that Kerr is “100 percent” correct about his future, too.
“The only way I’ll coach is if I’m absolutely bored or I’ve accumulated [Jeff] Bezos-type of money,” Iguodala said. “If I coach because I don’t need the money, I might. We’ll see what happens in 10 to 15 years.”
In 10 to 15 years, it appears Iguodala will have already mastered post-retirement.
In 2016, Iguodala led the NBPA Tech Summit, which introduced current and former NBA players to executives in the media and technology sector. In 2017, Iguodala and Curry led the inaugural Players Technology Summit, which features speakers in the media, venture capital and sports communities.
Since rejoining the Warriors, Iguodala said he secured five additional investments within a week. In total, Iguodala said his tech portfolio has expanded to 76 investments, 12 exits and a 70% return since 2014. During a recent phone interview, Iguodala abruptly ended it to approve a wiring transfer with one of his investors. Iguodala called back moments later.
“I hope he gets a chance to lead and not just be an investor in a company,” Myers said. “I would like to see him lead an organization.”
That’s why Iguodala has not just weighed his investment’s monetary value. Beyond maximizing his business earnings, Iguodala has partnered with companies that help Black-owned businesses.
“The future is still set in stone in terms of things that I’m doing off the court,” Iguodala said. “Not to say that basketball is on the backburner. But everything that I learned over time is there is a much bigger impact I can have with leveraging basketball to build some things that I’m trying to do.”
That moment has not come just yet. Nearly 2 1/2 years after Green anticipated his retirement, Iguodala has remained intent on bridging his pleasant past with the Warriors into a promising future.
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