OAKLAND – Andre Iguodala is counting down the remaining years of his NBA career. No need to count the days or weeks, because others have been doing that since, oh, about 2015.
“I’m going to be done soon,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “I could probably play a legit five more years, but I’ll probably max out at three more after this year – maybe three more.
“But if I’m not here, that will weigh heavily on what I will do. I possibly have another year here – if we win. That’s it. I know that. I’m fine with it.”
Possibly? Reminded that he is under contract for the 2019-20 season, at 17.2 million, the final year of the three-year, $48 million deal he signed in July 2017, Iguodala waves it off.
“That’s if we win,” he said. “If not . . .”
Iguodala is in his 14th NBA season. He is the oldest Warrior, two months from turning 35. This is his fifth season out of the starting lineup and the third during which his minutes will be monitored by the training staff. He has reached the career stage when NBA players begin wondering about their athletic mortality, leading to the questions most would prefer to dodge.
How much longer can I do it? Am I still making an impact? Do talent evaluators believe in me? Does my team appreciate me?
The Warriors appreciate Iguodala. His intellect and chameleon-like ability to adapt to circumstance and devote his energy to what the team needs at that moment have endeared him to coach Steve Kerr. His teammates marvel about Iguodala’s value being beyond the quantifiable. Don’t look at the numbers, they say. Watch the game.
It’s certainly true that no member of the Warriors is subjected to more debate about his significance. Some believe he’s overpaid; his salary ranks fourth among players that opened the season as reserves. Others are convinced he’s well worth the money as long as the championships keep coming.
“Perception can become reality for people in the position of filing out rosters, like GMs,” Iguodala said. “Sometimes, perception is their reality, even when it’s wrong. It could mess up someone’s perception of you, what they think of you as a player. They say, ‘Oh, he is done.’ That is really hard. I don’t really worry about it.
“But at the same time, it is a thing. I know it’s out there. But at this point, I know I’m still pretty good. I really believe that. But if people don’t know that, I’ll just be like, ‘OK, I’m done playing.’ ”
If it seems Iguodala has something to prove – or believes he has something to prove – it’s because that’s his nature. He’s a watcher and listener. He can’t ignore the noise because he needs to be prepared for anything. As much as he may want to silence skeptics, he realizes stepping out of character would disrupt the balance of the most successful NBA team since the Lakers of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
For the Warriors to prosper, they need Iguodala to do handle details both complex and obscure, particularly in big moments.
“It’s all about that balance,” he said. “Sometimes, I have to be the guy that says, ‘OK, we’ve got to play the right way.’ If that means I’ve got to pass up some shots to make sure everybody else is in the right flow, has the right mindset and is getting their touches, so be it – as long as I know that’s going to help us in the long run.”
Iguodala has started the past seven games, the first three at point guard and the last four at small forward. Few players in the league are asked to handle both duties in a season, much less in the same week. It’s an assignment he accepts because, well, now it’s working.
He also knows this is temporary, that he may return to the bench when Stephen Curry returns, likely this week, and certainly will go back to his Sixth Man role when Draymond Green returns, likely next week.
“We will still have to get back to finding our comfort zone within different roles,” Iguodala said. “A lot of guys on the second unit have been very aggressive, and we needed that. But with me going back to the second unit, I’ll have to be aggressive. Being in the starting lineup, I kind of tailored it back.
“It’s kind of like I’m itching to go back to the second unit.”
Why? Because that means the Warriors as projected will be intact. Iguodala can get back into his routine, coming off the bench to add the missing ingredient while wondering how many minutes he has before his career clock hits zeroes.