Accomplished veterans Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, like Klay Thompson, were restricted to watching from the bench Tuesday night, putting considerable tonnage on the shoulders of their less experienced teammates.
Who, then, could Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr. and the rest of the crew turn to for guidance in this Warriors-Lakers preseason scrap in Los Angeles?
That’s what old heads are for. And such circumstances explain why Andre Iguodala was summoned back to the roster for what likely will be his final NBA season.
“As soon as he steps on the court, he’s putting guys in position, putting guys where they need to be,” Porter said after a 109-99 victory at Staples Center pushed Golden State’s preseason record to 4-0. “He’s a leader out there. He’s been in this system before and knows how it operates. Just having his presence out there is wonderful for the team.”
In Iguodala’s 23-minute stint, his longest of the preseason, he danced lightly across the stat sheet but also supplied the cool head and steady hand necessary to allow his younger teammates to relax and play. He led a bunch that needed leadership.
There was immense value in his stat line – five assists, three steals, two rebounds, two points – but his presence was priceless.
Iguodala’s performance was precious practice for what will be his game-night routine during the regular season. He’ll come off the bench, keep the kids on point and occasionally join the veterans, reminding them that there remains plenty of game in that 37-year-old body.
“He’s done everything,” Damion Lee said. “Been an All-Star. Obviously won championships. Been a starter. Been a Sixth Man. At this point of his career – I don’t want to say he’s paying it forward – he’s that ultimate vet. Still knows the game, still can play.”
After Golden State’s lackluster and often scattered offensive first half, mostly against such LA regulars as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the Warriors by the middle of the third quarter looked much more like a unit. There were plenty of ragged moments, but suddenly there was sharper focus and an added jolt of intensity.
“I didn’t like our shot selection in the first half,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And then in the second half, we started to move the ball a little better and got better shots.”
That’s what Iguodala does, lubricating a stagnant or constipated offense.
“He just makes it so much easier on the defensive end, constantly communicating,” Lee said. “And then on offense, it’s the same thing, just trying to find ways to get the easiest shot. The best shot for the team.”
Six Warriors scored in double figures, led by 18 points from Poole, with Porter and Lee each adding 16. Payton and Wiggins each had 12, with Nemanja Bjelica adding 10.
All six benefitted from sharing the floor with Iguodala, who recorded four assists in nine minutes in the second half, when the Warriors shot 47.9 percent and posted 17 assists. It was a vast improvement over the first half, when they had 12 assists and shot 37.3 percent from the field.
“Dre has been around for so long and he knows what’s going on and the game is so slow for him,” Payton said. “He sees things that some of the guys don’t really see.
“He talks to us on the court. It’s pretty natural. He just opens it up and makes it easier for us. He knows when to drive, knows when to attack and he gets guys in the right positions. He puts you in a good position to succeed. After that, it’s up to you just to finish the easy dump off.”
Iguodala will be a bridge guy in the regular season, splitting his minutes between the first team and the second unit, where he is needed most.
That was the case on this night. Get used to it, because there will more of the same.