SAN FRANCISCO – The value of an NBA veteran can be assessed in many ways. Production on the court. Professional exemplar in the locker room and at practice. Tips on making the timely pass, the smart foul or the right restaurant. Mapping out a post-career plan.
With Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have someone who spans the spectrum. The ultimate hybrid.
The plan for Iguodala, who signed a contract with the Warriors on Monday after deciding Friday to return for his 19th and final season, is to contribute as a player. And as an assistant coach. And as a mentor. And as a constructive counselor. And as a sergeant-at-arms.
“He makes my job so much easier,” coach Steve Kerr said Monday, shortly after Iguodala put pen to paper.
That’s what quality veterans are programmed to do. Whatever it takes to keep the machine humming.
“We have so many young guys,” Kerr said. “They need coaching, they need mentoring. And Andre’s the best there is at that. And he loves working with the younger guys.
“As a player, he makes everything work because he knows exactly where he needs to be. He makes every lineup click. And if he’s not on the court, he’s teaching these young guys the same thing.”
The Warriors have six players in the 22-and-under club: Jordan Poole, 22; James Wiseman, 21; Moses Moody, 20; Ryan Rollins, 20; Jonathan Kuminga, 19; and Patrick Baldwin Jr., 19.
No matter how capable Kerr and his official assistants are, respected veterans tend to get a bigger ear. Youngsters want to please them, prove they, too, can forge a path in the league.
Kuminga is the youngster most associated with being a teacher/pupil match with Iguodala. As a superior athlete and a deep desire for stardom, JK has tremendous upside. He grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, but he will need occasional reminders of the labor behind the legend of Kobe.
“Obviously, we have high expectations for Kuminga,” he said.
While Kuminga is quick to point out that Iguodala’s influence might help dictate his direction, he also realizes all of his young teammates have a similar opportunity for an apprenticeship.
“I won't say it just to me,” Kuminga said. “Everybody here, team-wise, coaching-wise, he helps sometimes. Even if he’s one of the players, but sometimes he goes out there and helps as a coach – even if he is not a coach.”
Count Moody, who spent his rookie season soaking up some of Iguodala’s wisdom, as ready for more this season.
“I get a lot from Andre,” Moody said. “He's such a big personality on the floor, off the floor, in the locker room, on the plane, on the bus; you know when Andre is in the room.”
Iguodala, 38, wants the youngsters to understand, above all, “how cutthroat the league can be,” that one impressive season early in one’s career might not mean much the next season.
Iguodala is the guy who stayed on ex-Warriors big man Damian Jones, believing he could have a long NBA career – no matter how hard the road; Jones signed a two-year, $4.9 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in July.
Kevon Looney admits that one of the guiding principles behind changing his dietary habits was wondering if Iguodala would approve.
It’s not only the young Warriors that know what’s coming from Iguodala. When Draymond Green drew his sixth foul in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks last May, his stroll to the bench was met by a stare of bewilderment from Iguodala.
One of the reasons the Warriors have been successful is the rules of accountability. No one is above critique – as long as it’s for betterment of the team.
But you have to be a contributor, too. That’s the fine line Iguodala will walk this season, when he’s certain to miss a good portion of games but will be expected to perform when able.
That’s one of the reasons Stephen Curry, like Draymond, was among the group of players who persuaded Iguodala to play one more year.
“You hear a lot of people talk about him being a mentor first; that’s the narrative,” Curry said. “But he’s not coming back if he doesn’t think he can play and contribute, whether it’s 10 minutes, 20 minutes, a big game creeping up more even more. He’s not here to be a coach first, player second; I’m excited about what he can prove on that front.
“But, obviously, the mentorship is a big part of it. The presence that he brings in the locker room, on the court, the front office, management. He’s a sound box for everybody and a voice of reason for everybody.”
This is not the Udonis Haslem Program in Miami, where he’s a valuable member of the team despite playing a total of 28 games over the last four seasons.
This is the Andre Iguodala Program, unique to the individual and the team that understands it and welcomes it.