2022 NBA Finals: Warriors vs. Celtics

NBA Finals Notebook: Iguodala optimistic about return, cherishing the moment

The 2015 Finals MVP is keeping an open mind on whether he will extend his NBA career or retire following his 18th season.

Andre Iguodala says he's doing everything he can to be ready for his 7th NBA Finals appearance.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors’ respected veteran conceded uncertainty when he will play, let alone if he can replicate the performances that made him an NBA Finals MVP and valued on-court leader during their three previous title runs.

Yet, Andre Iguodala said he has kept an open mind on whether he would extend his NBA career or retire following his 18th season.

“We’ll wait until we see how it ends. It can go either way with wins or losses,” the 38-year-old Iguodala told NBA.com. “I know my answer. But I don’t want to put it out in the world. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

The Warriors listed Iguodala as questionable for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics on Thursday at Chase Center (9 p.m. ET, ABC) after missing the past 12 games with an injured left cervical disc. After completing all of Wednesday’s practice without restrictions, Iguodala quipped he’s “just trying to finish the season walking on two feet.” He also missed 50 regular-season games amid various ailments to his lower back (22), right knee (16) and left hip (12).

Nonetheless, Iguodala maintained he feels “optimistic with everything that’s going on with the body” after “doing everything I need to do around the clock.” It remains to be seen how Iguodala’s health and the Warriors’ championship fortunes will influence his future.

“I got a couple of weeks left with just cherishing the moments,” Iguodala said. “You get jaded through it all. You’ve seen the good and the bad from both ends. So, I’m trying to enjoy it and make sure the guys are locked in. I’m watching for really small things that I can pick up on and help them.”

The Warriors signed Iguodala to a veteran’s minimum deal last summer partly because he excelled as a mentor during his first stint in Golden State (2013-2019). Unlike in other seasons, injuries have prevented Iguodala from providing on-court intangibles with his positional versatility and smart decision making. Iguodala has averaged only 4.0 points on 38% shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 19.4 minutes per game as a reserve.

“He’s the same Andre. He’s just in a different capacity where he knows he can help us, since he’s had a tough go with the injuries,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “If he’s not available on the court, he’s been amazing at just being a voice and a presence for the young guys. It’s not just in the locker room and during practice. Obviously, you’ve seen him up and demonstrative during games on the sidelines.”

Ultimate Preview: The Celtics and Warriors will open the 2022 NBA Finals on Thursday night in San Francisco.

Injury updates, Celtics edition

The Celtics listed guard Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and center Robert Williams III (sore left knee) as questionable for Game 1.

Boston coach Ime Udoka said Williams will be listed “day-to-day the rest of the way” considering he has felt periodic soreness after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee on March 30. Williams didn’t return until Game 3 of the Celtics’ first-round series with Brooklyn before also missing three games in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami.

As for Smart? He described his injury as “pretty serious” after missing Games 1 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Udoka added that Smart still has swelling and pain in his right ankle.

“I’m thankful to be able to play, let alone still be walking,” Smart said. “It hurts, but my mom always told me, ‘If you are going to be on the court, you can’t make excuses. If you’re hurt, then sit your tail down.’ If I’m going to be out there, no matter how much pain I’m in, I can’t let it affect me.”

Injury updates, Warriors edition

The Warriors listed Iguodala, Gary Payton II (left elbow fracture) and Otto Porter Jr. (sore left foot) all as questionable for Game 1 after completing Wednesday’s practice and scrimmage without restrictions.

Payton has not played since Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks committed a Flagrant Foul 2 on him in Game 2 of the Warriors’ second-round series. But Payton said that he feels “excited” and “better every day.”

“Still got a couple boxes to check off,” Payton said. “A couple green lights from some [medical] guys. Other than that, I’m ready to go.”

Why Warriors respect Smart as a defender

Back when the Warriors and Celtics last played on March 16, Kerr yelled at Smart after he injured Curry while diving for a loose ball. Kerr described the incident as “a dangerous play,” which resulted in Curry missing the Warriors’ last 12 regular-season games with a sprained left foot ligament.

Kerr’s frustration has since subsided. He has a soft spot for Smart after coaching him as an assistant with Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Kerr described Smart as “the guard version” of Warriors forward Draymond Green.

“He’s just all over the place defensively,” Kerr said. “He’s really, really smart. He anticipates plays. He understands angles. And the versatility to guard 1 through 5, it’s all there. So, there’s a reason he won Defensive Player of the Year.”

Smart called Kerr “a great guy and a great coach” both for his basketball intellect as well as how he speaks out on gun violence and social issues. As for the Smart-Green comparison?

“It’s an honor to be compared to a guy of Draymond’s caliber — a champion, great leader, great defender,” Smart said. “I like to look at myself as that way. I definitely take some notes from Draymond with the way he leads and the way he plays the game.”

Green recently said he felt snubbed making the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team, even if that mostly had to do with missing 36 regular-season games because of various injuries. Yet, Green has repeatedly argued that Smart deserved the DPOY award.

“He really thinks the game,” Green said of Smart. “You can see it in the way he plays, the way he’s teaching guys and the way he’s commanding attention in huddles and going through the Xs and Os.”

A tight tandem

Sometimes, teammates fracture over playoff shortcomings. In the case of the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown?

“That made us closer in the sense of we just wanted to figure it out,” Tatum said. “Not necessarily to prove people wrong, but just prove that we can win.”

For the past four seasons together, Tatum and Brown experienced two losses in the Eastern Conference finals as well as a playoff exit both in the first and second round. The Celtics labored through a 17-19 start this season, which coincided with Brown’s injury issues through early December. That hardly shook Brown’s belief that he and Tatum could excel as a duo.

“We play in a city that it has no patience for any excuses, so we didn’t make any,” Brown said. “But as things started to come together, we got healthier. We made a couple moves in the front office that were vital for us, and things started to fall in line.”

Splash Brothers still feel young

Curry and Klay Thompson might have plenty of experience with five Finals appearances. But they hardly view themselves as grizzled vets just yet.

“I try not to let my mind think about that too much because I don’t want to feed into it,” said the 34-year-old Curry. “I want to feel like I’m still in my prime for as long as I can go out there and hoop the way I am.”

Thompson, 32,  admittedly has not been the same player since returning from left ACL and right Achilles injuries that sidelined him for 2 ½ years. Though those adversities have caused him to reflect more on his career, Thompson hardly sees the finish line.

“I still feel very young, and I still think I have great years ahead of me,” Thompson said. “I think I have a lot of wisdom compared to where I was the first time we did this. So, I can be an old head in that sense.”

Better representation

Key members of the National Basketball Players Association conveyed both frustration and encouragement with a recent development.

The NBA has 15 Black head coaches out of the league’s 30 teams, a stark increase from the league’s head-coaching representation last season (seven).

“I don’t understand what took so long,” said Brown, a vice president on the NBPA’s executive committee. “I think that, of course, now it’s a great thing to see and you see a lot of coaches that are getting an opportunity to flourish in these moments.”

One of those coaches is Udoka, who has guided the Celtics to their first NBA Finals appearance in 12 years. The other coaches include two recent coaching hires (the Lakers’ Darvin Ham; the Kings’ Mike Brown). The other coaches include seven that managed a playoff team (Udoka, Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers, Dallas’ Jason Kidd, Phoenix’s Monty Williams, the Clippers’ Tyronn Lue, New Orleans’ Willie Green and Atlanta’s Nate McMillan.

“We haven’t had those narratives that put us in a bad light,” said Iguodala, the NBPA’s vice president. “A lot of the former players who got opportunities, who are African American, if it didn’t quite go their way, that narrative was really drawn out and it was really hard for them to get more than one opportunity. Their only opportunity was make-or-break. You had to overachieve, or you never got the opportunity again.”

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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