He's probably right about Iguodala's personality. He can come off as reticent or awkward at times. As Donovan McNabb learned, that sort of disposition can make things difficult around here. The part that stuck with me, though, the part I can't shake, was the line about how he's "more respected outside of Philadelphia."
Maybe he's right. Maybe executives all over the NBA hold him in high regard. But even if that's true, I wonder whether his peers feel the same way.
In Game 5 of the playoff series in Miami, Iguodala had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. It was best performance of the series - right up until the end when he took and missed a crucial shot with the Sixers down three and only 16 seconds left in the game. Doug Collins said he didn't mind the shot, but the miss seemed to validate the biggest and most often heard criticism of Iguodala - that he wilts under the hot lights of important, pressurized, late-game situations. After the Heat advanced, LeBron James implied as much.
"He hit some tough shots, the same shots he's missed over the course of the series that I've made him take," James said. "Those are the shots that I want him to take, the step-back jumper, the crossover jumper. I'm playing the numbers."
Ouch. He's right, though. It's a simple matter of math: LeBron James + his lack of respect for Iguodala's game = a pretty damning insult. Real, as they say, recognize real.
If there's one indisputable truth about the NBA, it's that you need at least one, if not more than one, superstar to win a championship. As I've pointed out in this space in the past, only eight different teams have won the title over the last 30 years. Just one of those squads - Larry Brown's 2003-04 Pistons - managed to secure a parade without an obvious future Hall of Famer on the roster.
Which brings us back to the Sixers and Iguodala and why it's probably time for the organization to thank him for his effort - and then fold him into an overnight shipping envelope and mail him off to whichever team will take him. He'll make $13.5 million next season. That's superstar money for a guy who simply isn't a superstar (for his career, he's averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and almost 5 assists per game). The money isn't his fault. They offered it and he took it. Who wouldn't? But at some point someone in the Sixers front office needs to look at his production relative to what they're paying him and realize they aren't getting a solid return on their investment. If Stefanski is right and executives outside the area love Iguodala's game, it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to make up the guest bedroom and give him a new home.
While we're on matters of perception, it's interesting to note how Iguodala evidently sees himself. After Iguodala gave a cryptic answer about expecting to "be back in the NBA next season," he likened himself to some of the true greats who have played for the Sixers in the past.
"I think it's something that I always dreamed about - playing in the league," Iguodala said. "Once I got here I always wanted to be in one place, not having to move around a lot, being comfortable in one spot. I still feel the same way. Being able to put a stamp on my career and in the Sixers' record books. I always think about that, keep climbing the charts with some of the greatest basketball players ever. Doctor J, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain. Just for my name to be brought up as one of the guys with the most steals in team history is something I've always thought about."
The steals mark is nice enough, but the only one bringing up Iguodala's name in the same sentence as some of the aforementioned Hall of Famers is - hold on while I double check the old quote archives . . . ah, yes, here's the answer - Iguodala. That's it. That's the list.
Stefanski mentioned one other thing about Iguodala during our conversation. He said some people expect Iguodala to be a leader and a star because of the money he makes.
"I don't think that's fair," Stefanski said.
He's right. It isn't fair - to the Sixers or their fans.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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