The “soul” of the Warriors’ championship squads is back in Golden State and enjoying his veteran role as a storied career nears its close.
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.”