- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
SAN FRANCISCO — For the first time since he was traded away last summer, Andre Iguodala faced off against the Golden State Warriors on Monday at Chase Center. Iguodala, 36, spent six seasons with the Warriors, winning three NBA championships and the 2015 Finals MVP award before he was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer to clear cap space.
Now a member of the Miami Heat, Iguodala received a pregame standing ovation Monday, after a video tribute was shown on the scoreboard.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everybody that supported us, supported me my entire time here,” Iguodala said during a brief speech to the crowd before tipoff. “It definitely feels like home every time. I just left, but it feels like home. Really appreciate you guys and appreciate you all being loyal Bay Area fans. My brothers will be back in action, full squad next year, to wreak havoc on the league for 80 games. Love y’all.”
Before Iguodala spoke, former Warriors teammate Klay Thompson gave a short speech praising Iguodala’s contributions.
“Obviously, it’s a special night for Dub Nation,” Thompson said. “We’ve got one of the greatest Warriors in the history of the organization back. We call him the Swiss Army knife. One of my favorite teammates of all time. He made me, Steph [Curry], Draymond [Green] and [Kevon] Looney’s job much easier, as well as Coach [Steve] Kerr and all the coaching staff. So we’re indebted to this man for what he gave us. And it’s good to have you back, Dre. And I can’t wait to see your jersey in the rafters one of these days, bro.”
Thompson spoke after cameras caught him losing a best-two-out-of-three rock, paper, scissors matchup to Curry before the ceremony began.
“I told him I hope that he isn’t that far onto his career or too old where he didn’t have goosebumps and a pit in his stomach,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Iguodala. “I did. Really, at the beginning, I was about to diagram a play and saw the tribute was going on, and that’s the respect of a champ. That’s a legacy that will go on for years on after this. In so many ways, you know, he’s the heart and soul of those teams. I just loved what Klay had to say about him on behalf of the organization. That is real.
“The respect that he has from the entire fan base out here, you just have to step back and tip your hat, greatness,” Spoelstra added. “I’m glad we are able to have him on our side. I mentioned that to Steve. Thanks for letting us have him for a short period of time while we are trying to do something. But you see what he brings. Those were impactful minutes. I don’t even know what his plus-minus was, but good things happen when he is on the court. And it has nothing to do with the box score.”
The ceremony clearly meant a lot to Iguodala, who was appreciative of the gesture, especially Thompson’s speech.
“I think with Klay being out there, it kind of was over-the-top because I have a special relationship with the core of the group,” Iguodala said after the game. “That was there the whole time. Draymond, Klay and Steph. Klay was more the quiet one. He didn’t speak too much. Hearing from him, it almost got me. I think the circumstances kind of helped at the same time. It’s a new building, so it was new and different. Joining this [Miami] team at the certain time, we really needed to get this win, it felt like. Focus was on the game and making sure we got the win.”
Iguodala was a plus-25 in 17 minutes, despite scoring just two points in a 113-101 Heat victory. Playing with Iguodala for the first time brought a smile to Heat star Jimmy Butler’s face after the game. Butler missed the previous three games because of a shoulder injury.
“It’s great to have another champion,” Butler said. “Another winner and just an overall great human being in our locker room. Just the joy he brings, he’s always reminding guys it’s OK to have fun. You have to love what you do. Competing is fun, winning is fun, but more than anything, he’s always smiling, always in a good mood.”
Earlier in the day, Green smiled when asked what it would be like to face Iguodala in a game after so many years as teammates.
“I’m going to flagrant foul him,” Green said. “Flagrant 2.”
When asked if it would happen in the first quarter, Green said, “As soon as I get a chance.”
Green, who has a history of ejections, joked that he wasn’t worried about leaving the game early.
“It will be worth it,” he said. “I get to talk about that for the rest of my life with him. It will be worth it.”
Iguodala, who gave Kerr a hug after he entered Monday’s contest for the first time, smiled as he spoke to reporters before the game while a large picture of him riding a float in a championship parade was displayed behind him. He said he hadn’t had time to process his legacy but understood last summer that a trade was brewing.
“I had a [Tony] Romo moment,” Iguodala said. “I sniffed it out before it happened. I’ve just been around the game for a while. You kinda see how things are played. You see how a domino effect can happen.”
Iguodala was asked if he thought other players would follow his path in finding a way to play for a team he wanted to join, after being traded somewhere he didn’t want to be. Iguodala made it clear that he didn’t want to play in Memphis and waited for a deal to come to fruition, despite taking heat from a few of the Grizzlies’ young players on social media in recent weeks. Iguodala brushed off the criticism and is confident that he has found a nice place to resume his career in Miami.
“I think everybody’s situation is different,” Iguodala said. “You have to assess all the moving parts of everyone’s individual situations. You gotta know how you stand with the organization. You are trying to work with them, more than anything. That’s what I was trying to do. My intentions were never to try to keep from playing with a certain set of basketball players, because I think that can be miscommunicated throughout the process. Having an agreement with the team and figure out what is the best move for both parties, and both parties are satisfied in the end.”
Kerr was happy to see one of his favorite former players back on the floor.
“I’ve said this before: I’ve never been around a smarter basketball player, and I’ve been around a lot of smart players,” Kerr said. “What makes him really unique is his brain, his combination of his fundamental basis with the athleticism. He is not as athletic as he was six, seven years ago, but there is only one other guy I think of when I think of that combination of the fundamental sound, constant nature of his game with the athletic ability as well, and that’s Scottie Pippen.”
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