Phil Sheridan: A fitting end to Iguodala's tenure in Philadelphia

Posted: August 11, 2012

LONDON - The Olympics, they say, can transform an athlete. Some arrive as unknowns and leave as household names. Some arrive with hype and high expectations and leave humbled and empty-handed.

Andre Iguodala arrived in London as a 76er. He'll be leaving as a Denver Nugget.

A few hours before taking the court for Team USA's semifinal victory over Argentina Friday night, Iguodala got the official word. The enormo-deal that had been rumored and reported for the previous 24 hours was official. After eight years with the Sixers, Iguodala had been traded to Denver.

Technically, Iguodala was first traded to Orlando along with Nik Vucevic and newly drafted Maurice Harkless. The Magic, their hand forced by Dwight Howard, needed to move their superstar center. But Orlando also wanted to get younger. The key to completing the deal, according to Sixers coach Doug Collins, was Denver's late entry and its willingness to take Iguodala.

"We had three teams that were locked in to doing it," Collins said. "But Orlando was looking for a home for Dre."

So in the league-shaking trade that moved Howard to the Lakers and Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, Iguodala was the afterthought. It was, when you think of it, a fitting end to his tenure in Philadelphia. Iguodala was never fully embraced by the fans.

He showed why Friday night. In his first public comments about the deal, Iguodala hid behind a screen of utter indifference.

"Did it surprise me?" he said. "The way our game is now, you're not surprised by anything. You've got to expect the unexpected. I don't have any words, really. I'm just focused on representing my country."

He just got traded from the only pro team he's ever known after eight seasons and his only concern is his reserve role on a team that has zero chance of losing the gold-medal game to Spain Sunday?

"I'm happy to be in the NBA, happy to still have a job," Iguodala said. "Only 400 guys get an opportunity to play in the NBA. I'm wearing this jersey, so I'm happy."

Happy to be going to Denver?

"I'm happy to be playing basketball," Iguodala said. "I don't care if I was playing in Alaska."

That should endear him to the fans in his new city. Surely, though, he has some feelings about his time with the Sixers.

"I feel great," Iguodala said. "I'm here and part of the reason is that I played great basketball and that was in Philadelphia."

You get the idea. Clearly, he never warmed up to Philadelphia any more than Philadelphia warmed up to him. That's not all his fault. Iguodala's game inspires appreciation from hoop fanatics rather than awe from the more casual fan. For most of his time with the Sixers, he was the best player on some not-very-good teams.

And it had to be just plain weird, getting a call in his London hotel from Sixers general manager Rod Thorn, informing he had been traded from Philadelphia to Denver. Iguodala deserved to enjoy this Olympic experience without that splash of ice water.

The Sixers didn't control the timetable - Orlando and the Lakers did - but there's no reason the deal couldn't have been made Monday. Let the Olympics have its semifinals in peace.

Pau Gasol, a Laker and member of Team Spain, was stretching before the semifinal against Russia when TBS dandy Craig Sager informed him the trade was official. Howard was a Laker.

"I was stretching," Gasol said, "before a semifinal game in the Olympics. Finally, I had to give him something so he would go away."

It's a shame Iguodala had to deal with this here. He was a solid player for the Sixers. And he did play a major role in the turnaround Collins oversaw over the last two seasons.

"We're going to miss Dre," Collins said. "The thing I'm happy for Dre about - the last two years, he finished on an uptick. What he did to help us win, the Chicago [playoff] game where he goes the length of the floor and makes two free throws to put us into the next round, the way he defended [against Boston in the second round]. I wish Dre well."

Collins was doing his NBC pregame spiel when Team USA took the floor for its game. When he was done, Collins called out to Iguodala. The two talked for a few minutes, then Iguodala returned to shooting jumpers.

"I just [wanted] to thank Dre for everything and wish him well," Collins said.

It was the right thing to say. But ultimately, so was goodbye. The only way the Sixers could regret this trade is if they didn't make it. After eight years, Iguodala made his biggest contribution to the Sixers by moving on - to Denver, to Alaska, to wherever.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

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