Warriors

Iguodala emerges from shadows, makes loud free-agent statement

Iguodala emerges from shadows, makes loud free-agent statement

OAKLAND -- With the finish line in view and the money close enough to touch, Andre Iguodala found his overdrive gear.

And he hit it. Hard.

As Kevin Durant was wrapping up his NBA Finals MVP award, as Stephen Curry was burying the Cavaliers in Game 5 of The Finals and coach Steve Kerr was dealing with very real agony and ecstasy, Iguodala stepped from the relative shadows of the Warriors bench to remind observers he remains a difference-maker.

“Andre lives for the big moment,” Draymond Green said after Iguodala’s sterling performance in a 129-120 victory that gave the Warriors their second championship in three seasons.

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Iguodala scored 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists, leading the way as the Warriors reserves outscored those of the Cavs 35-7.

Yet the most impressive total was 38, the number of minutes Iguodala played. It was the highest total of the postseason for the veteran forward.

“Steve and I had an interesting conversation this morning in shootaround, and he said, How many minutes you got?’ ” Igoudala recalled. “I said, ‘Whatever you need. I'll be ready.’ And I kind of just had a good feeling, that inkling like tonight's the night to attack and get it over with.”

Iguodala said he had been particularly “stressed” as the playoffs have progressed. He pursues perfection, and even as the team flirted with it felt there could be more attention to detail. These anxieties sometimes clashed with the acceptance that his role on this team, at this time, is to facilitate.

Oh, and he’s going to be a free agent next month.

“And it's stressful because it's a hard job that goes unnoticed,” he said. “You have to embrace it. It's really just sacrificing to make sure everybody else is eating.

“But then you want to look for yourself sometimes. Like you want to show people what you can do. And it just so happens that it's always been perfect timing. I think that's more of a blessing than anything else, is like when it's time for me to be a little bit more selfless and show what I can do, like nights like this or the whole Finals in 2015, it just shows that there's something powerful up there that I believe in that's working through me.”

Iguodala is 33 years old, and neither a consistent scorer nor a deadeye shooter. His knees require regular maintenance. His impact during the 17-game postseason ranged from negligible to essential.

He’s also one of the league’s smartest players, someone who sees and feels the game as well as anyone -- at both ends of the court. He also prepares like few others. And in Game 5, he was there when he was needed.

“Andre was unbelievable,” veteran big man David West said. “He was in the gym at 8 o’clock this morning.”

The prep work occasionally results in pivotal plays, such as Iguodala’s soaring, majestic dunk in the second quarter. With 7:58 left in the half, he concluded a blip of a 6-0 run that cut an eight-point deficit to two and forced a Cleveland timeout.

It was a signature moment of a game that ended with confetti falling and the Warriors taking a stage to receive trophies.

“He's one of the best professionals I've ever been around,” Klay Thompson said. “And two years ago he went to the bench, and it rewarded him; he was Finals MVP. Same thing this year. The guy's an Olympian, a champion, an All-Star, and one of the most complete players I ever played with. He just makes everyone around him better.”

Kerr most assuredly values Iguodala’s presence, perhaps more than his teammates. It’s why the negotiations between the Warriors and Iguodala will be interesting, even as both sides have maintained their desire to continue the relationship.

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Just before the Warriors officially lost the game in Memphis on Saturday night, their superstar point guard lost his cool.

After not getting a foul call with 43 seconds left in the game, Steph Curry chucked his mouthguard in the direction of referee Scott Wall in a fit of rage reminiscent of Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Wall immediately ejected Curry, who continued to argue with the officials.

After the game, Curry wanted to make it clear he wasn't trying to his Wall with his mouthguard.

"If I tried to throw it at him and hit him, I've got a pretty good aim," Curry said told reporters after the game. "I've thrown my mouthpiece plenty of times and thrown it on the floor. Probably not the best thing to do, but I've done it. I own up to it.

"If I was trying to throw it at him or hit him, I would have been able to executed that."

Curry explained why he reacted the way he did.

"That last play, I thought I got fouled. My frustration boiled over, did something stupid, deserved to get kicked out and that's what happened. Obviously learn from it and try not to do it again," Curry told reporters.

Now Curry and the Warriors wait to see if the NBA will suspend or fine him. He has an expectation of what the punishment will be.

"Don't think it will be a suspension or anything. My pockets will be a lot lighter," Curry said after the game.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

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What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.