Iguodala just doing best he can for Sixers

Posted: April 15, 2011


People have seen Andre Iguodala walking down the streets of Philadelphia and altered whatever they were doing to come up to his face and curse at him.

Think about that, really closely, because this isn't a boo during a Sixers game at the Wells Fargo Center.

It isn't someone calling up talk radio to express discontent.

These are people who have made a conscious decision to change a course of action and use some of their valuable time to insult Iguodala. Why?

What has Iguodala done so wrong to invite that?

"Oh, I get that all of the time," Iguodala said with a good-natured smile yesterday after practice. "That's nothing anymore.

"I thought it was normal, because I've seen it so much. I was like, 'All right, I guess this happens to everybody.'

"I was with [former Sixer Reggie Evans] once, and he wanted to get the guy. I was, 'No, Reg, it's just the nature of the city.' The people are really passionate and into the game. It's nothing."

I've seen a lot of dynamics between Philadelphia athletes and Philadelphia fans. I have not always agreed with it, but I generally understood.

I saw both sides of the love/hate relationships with Allen Iverson and Donovan McNabb.

I understood why guys like Eric Lindros and Terrell Owens got free passes, while guys like Eric Snow and Cole Hamels got dumped on for the slightest mistakes.

I can't figure out why Iguodala is so derided.

I get that a lot of people don't think he's a superstar-level player worthy of his big contract, but is that reason enough to curse at him on the street?

His career averages of 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals shouldn't just be dismissed.

It's not Iguodala's fault that Sixers management hitched its wagon to him and offered him $86 million. I certainly don't think anyone believes he should have said, "No."

What I find odd is that Iguodala seems like the blue-collar, hardworking, give-it-all-he-has type of athlete Philadelphians have always appreciated.

Before this season, Iguodala had missed only six out of the possible 492 games during his first six seasons.

This season, he made 67 starts and averaged 36.9 minutes while dealing with painful issues of tendinitis in his foot and knee.

Tomorrow, he likely will take his sore knee out and try to slow down LeBron James as the Sixers open the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Miami Heat.

"He's the type of player who usually gets a lot of love from Philadelphia," said Sixers assistant coach Aaron McKie, who was raised in Philadelphia and played collegiately and professionally here. "Andre is a guy who works hard every day and gives it his all on the court."

McKie was winding down his career when Iguodala was drafted ninth overall by the Sixers. He might have the proper insight on the genesis of Iguodala's strange relationship with Philadelphia.

"Andre came after Allen Iverson," McKie said. "He was the guy who was pointed out as the one who was going to follow Allen.

"That was going to be hard for anyone to do."

Because of circumstance, Iguodala was thrust into a role he really was never intended to have - at least not at the stage of his career when he got it.

Andre Iguodala was not drafted to replace Allen Iverson.

The fact Iguodala was picked ninth, while Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in 1996, screams that he was not supposed to be a replacement.

Iguodala was drafted to complement Iverson.

During Iguodala's rookie season, Iverson averaged 30.7 points and was first-team all-NBA. The next season, Iverson averaged 33.0 points, while Iguodala averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

At that time, Sixers management had no intention of splitting the two "AIs."

It looked as if they had finally found someone who could thrive playing with Iverson. They wanted it to grow.

Then in 2006-07, Iverson had his final Philadelphia implosion and was traded to Denver.

And there was Iguodala, left to meet the expectations of replacing one of the most electrifying and popular players to ever wear a Sixers uniform.

Iverson was a natural-born game-dominator. Iguodala is a facilitator. His all-around skills weren't going to fill the void left by Iverson. So it got uglier, particularly as the Sixers continued to be a franchise mired in mediocrity.

Iguodala became the representative face of that fact to a lot of Sixers fans. And management's sustained commitment to a player they consider "All-Star" caliber only added kindling to the fire.

"I think it's like any other athlete," Iguodala, who averaged 21.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in the 2009 playoffs, said of his stature in Philadelphia. "It's kind of a love-hate relationship.

"I just try to let my game do the talking. I don't have any image problems. I don't have to be known as this type of player or that type of player. When I'm on the court, I just try to let my game do the talking." *

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