Game 15

Game 15

Friday, January 20, 2012
Game 15: Wells Fargo Center
Sixers 90, Hawks 76

PHILADELPHIA — Let’s say, for instance, you are a really good painter. In fact, you’re such a great painter that galleries fight to hang your work and critics can’t get enough of it.

And yet even though you are a terrific painter, people still get on you because you are a lousy sculptor. You’re going to say that doesn’t make sense, right?

Yeah, well, welcome to Andre Iguodala’s world.

When it comes to playing defense in basketball, there are very few people on the planet as good as Andre Iguodala. Truth is, Iguodala is such a good defender that he very well may earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team set to defend its gold medal in London this summer.

“If you would talk to the best scorers in the league that he’s guarded and say who is one of the toughest guys you have to go against, they would say, Andre Iguodala,” Sixers’ coach Doug Collins said.

“From a coaching standpoint, you understand what he brings. I love what Andre does for us.”

Yet for some reason the biggest criticism of Iguodala is that he is an inconsistent offensive player.

How does that make sense?

There is perception and then there is the reality when it comes to Iguodala and his weird relationship with certain segments of the fandom. The problem with that is the perception is usually the part that gets the most fanfare.

Often, Iguodala is criticized because his salary is “excessive,” yet it barely cracks the top 40 of all NBA players. Meanwhile, it seems as if Iguodala’s perceived unpopularity comes from his personality. He’s neither boisterous nor zany. He’s not one to suffer fools as evidenced in the 2006 Dunk Contest where he pulled off the most impressive and nuanced dunk of the show only to lose to Nate Robertson because he’s short and a better story. Rather than grin-and-bear it, Iguodala hasn’t appeared in another competition figuring there are better ways to have one’s time wasted.

Iguodala is all nuance and professionalism. There are all the things we can see like the fact that heading into last year he had missed just six games in six seasons and played in 252 regular-season games in a row. He’s led the league not only in games by playing in all 82 in five of his seven seasons, but also minutes played and average minutes per game. The dude plays the game and he's rare in that he's a ridiculously talented athlete with instatiable hard-nosed/blue-collar chops, too. He's the best of both worlds and he shows up and goes to work.

He earns his pay.

Last year he played the final two months of the season with tendonitis in his knees. Actually, his condition was similar to the injury that forced Phillies second baseman Chase Utley to miss the first two months of last season, yet Iguodala is rarely talked about as a gritty and scrappy player the way Utley is.

Ah, so maybe there’s a personality issue or something.

Iguodala is a bit of a rarity in sports in that he is a truth teller. He’s immune to cliché (well, as much as possible) and actually answers questions. Want an answer? Iguodala has one. And though it could be off the mark like some of his long-range jumpers, he’s always provocative. For instance, last year Iguodala and the team's top draft choice, Evan Turner, clashed a bit. It wasn't anything serious, just two guys from diffrent perspectives trying to figure each ither out. So, when asked about it, Iguodala presented a thoughtful, honest answer.

“Evan and I have had a pretty interesting year together — good and bad,” Iguodala said. “We’ve always tried to lean on each other. Over the past week we really bonded and I was happy to see him be in position to do something good and follow through with it.

“I’ve been saying all year that he’s a confidence guy and when his confidence is high, he plays really well. When his confidence is down, he has a lot of self doubt and he doesn’t believe in himself,” Iguodala explained. “But we all know he can play ball and we’ve had many arguments throughout the year in regard to talents and he’s going to prove a lot of people wrong.

“We had a chance to sit down and we had dinner together and were together for about three hours. We just reflected on the whole year and things that happened and what could have changed and things that made us better people or held us back a little bit. It was a good chat.”

When do athletes ever talk like that? It’s kind of like when asked a simple question about whether he will return to the Sixers next year and instead chooses to discuss the legacy he hopes to build.

“I always think about that, keep climbing the charts with some of the greatest basketball players ever — Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain. The franchise has been here forever. And just for my name to be brought up for the guy with the most steals in team history is something I've always thought about,” Iguodala said. “I want to continue to climb the charts and take the team to the next level.”

No, Iguodala is not like most of the athletes that have come through town. He seems to be a strange mix of Charles Barkley, Donovan McNabb and Scott Rolen. At different times all three of those guys were the most beloved or loathed athletes in town. Iguodala is just different. He's the guy a lot of folks just can't accept for who he is.

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