OAKLAND, Calif. – Andre Iguodala’s impressive resume heading into this season featured an Olympic gold medal, All-Star appearance and first-team All-NBA defensive team honors.
One of the few things Iguodala hadn’t done since entering the league as a first-round draft pick in 2004 was come into the game off the bench.
So when Iguodala easily accepted that role as a reserve for the Golden State Warriors back in training camp, it helped set the tone for the team’s success.
David Lee also went from All-Star to reserve without a peep. Andrew Bogut didn’t bristle when he got his fewest shots per game as a pro. The players on the deep bench had no complaints when they went from key contributors to not playing, depending on the matchups.
But it started when first-year coach Steve Kerr decided to start Harrison Barnes over Iguodala.
“There’s no excuse for anybody else,” Bogut said. “When you have David Lee getting DNPs and have Andre Iguodala backing up a third-year player in Harrison Barnes and all these kinds of things and not complaining, you don’t have a right to complain. It’s been infectious for our team chemistry.”
Including the playoffs, Iguodala had played 806 NBA games before this season and never come in as a reserve. No player in the league in that span had played more games without being a reserve.
“Usually you can let the game come to you starting,” he said. “You don’t have to force any shots. I know I’m going to get my shots here. I know my rhythm will come to me. I know I’m always going to be loose. But coming off the bench, you’re a little stiff. You want to make an impact when you’re in the game, so you have to pick and choose when to force up a shot, when to let the offense come to you, when to be aggressive. That is probably the hardest part.”
Iguodala has handled it well but perhaps never as well as he did in Golden State’s 108-100 overtime win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland on Thursday.
Iguodala hit 6 of his 8 shots for 15 points.
Perhaps more important was his defense against LeBron James. Despite scoring 44 points, James had trouble when matched up with Iguodala, shooting just 4 for 13 in that matchup.
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