There are few athletes in Philadelphia as polarizing as Philadelphia 76ers small forward Andre Iguodala. In 2008 Andre Iguodala signed a 6 year 80 million dollar contract that sent him on the path to stardom, in the eyes of many fans anyway. After a few years under then head coach Eddie Jordan, many fans were hoping that the young SF would show some promise under new head coach Doug Collins. In the eyes of many fans, he has. But there are many fans who expect Andre Iguodala to become a more polished scorer. During 2011 it seemed that Doug Collins relied heavily upon Andre Iguodala to score more clutch shots. With fans calling for him to be traded so younger players might see more playing time, he missed clutch 4th quarter shot after clutch 4th quarter shot.
But do we tend to overlook the skill set that he brings to the 6ers? I think we do. Andre was described last year as the Darrelle Revis. Andre has continued to be a shutdown player, creating lots of steals and breakout opportunities for other 6ers players. He is often praised for his passing, and deservedly so, as he has often opened up the floor to players to score.
Seeing this dilemma of Andre the defender vs Andre the shooter leads me to look at the ghost of 76ers past, present, and future.
As a member of the Eddie Jordan 76ers many saw Andre as a sign of hope in dark times. He was seen as a building block to sculpt the blueprint of the team around. He gave 6ers fans hope of a future without Allen Iverson. He was the bright light in a grim future of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Last year Doug Collins entered his first year as 76ers head coach. Doug brought along a substantial knowledge of defense and fast break offense. Doug praised Andre, muting any rumors of him being traded. Last year brought a surprise season, where the team struggled at the beginning then had a terrific second half and solidified themselves a playoff spot. But that ride came with much scrutiny as the team seemed unable to win close games and come away with big shots. Doug Collins kept going to Andre, despite his lack of scoring ability late in the 4th quarter. Doug appreciated his big play ability and said he would continue to go to Andre late in the game. Andre was a spectacular play maker last year, but his clutch shot never developed.
Enter 2012, a year in which the hopes and expectations of this team are raised. Doug Collins continually gave praise and dismissed any idea of Andre Iguodala being traded. At the start of the season Andre Iguodala and the 76ers flourished and showed much promise, as they solidified their spot among the top of the division, and were a top 4 seed. Midway through the season, though, it became apparent that the team still struggles late in the 4th quarter. But instead of just going to Andre Iguodala, Doug Collins has relied more on Lou Williams, who has been unable to get it done late in the 4th quarter. The problem has become though, the expectations for Andre Iguodala. But before we get into that, lets explore what the team might look like now without Iguodala, and what the future may hold without him.
I feel that Andre Iguodala brings a certain defensive presence that is unmatched by most in the league. He might not bring the prolific scoring that you expect from a superstar, but he will always be good for lots of steals. When you stick Andre Iguodala on the other team’s top scorer, the team’s other superstar’s effect decreases. Without him I think we would struggle defensively, and I don’t think we would have the exciting brand of 6ers breakaway basketball without Andre Iguodala.
Now as for the future, you have to really look at his contract. a 6 year 80 million dollar deal takes up a considerable amount of cap space. It would be safe to say it was a bad contract. But you can’t fault the player for that. Have you ever turned down a raise for it being too much? I doubt it. So surely getting rid of that contract would free up space for more big name players. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep Andre Iguodala on a reduced deal? Many believe he is one of the better role players in the league.
So in summary, I’m not asking that we stop criticizing Andre Iguodala. I am asking that we do it fairly. We take into consideration what he has done for the team with his defensive presence and veteran leadership. We also need to hold other players accountable when the team fails, not just the guy with the superstar contract. Lets make an effort to love Andre Iguodala for what he is, instead of what he isn’t.