John Smallwood: We saw the unremarkable Iguodala we've always seen

Spencer Hawes fouls Andre Iguodala as he goes up for a shot in the first quarter.
Spencer Hawes fouls Andre Iguodala as he goes up for a shot in the first quarter. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: November 02, 2012

I DON'T MEAN to be too hard on Andre Iguodala, because there are things to be said for his eight seasons as a 76er.

Still, sometimes you just have to tell things as they were.

Too much about Iguodala looked too familiar on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The uniform he now wears is that of the Denver Nuggets, but his performance in his first trip back to South Philly since the blockbuster trade that sent him west wasn't distinguishable from the 615 games he played while wearing a Sixers jersey.

It was another mostly unmemorable performance from a mostly unmemorable player from a mostly unmemorable era of Sixers basketball.

Iguodala is what he's always been: a nice player who does a lot of things well, but rarely does them at an elite or impactful level.

Perhaps the most telling thing about Iguodala was that the Sixers, in their 84-75 win, looked as if they didn't miss a beat after losing their only All-Star.

Conversely, at least on Opening Night, the Nuggets didn't look like a team that was greatly improved after gaining one.

"I think I was trying a little too hard," said Iguodala, who had 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. "Your first thought [about playing a former team] is always, 'Destroy them.' You want to win the game. First and foremost, you want to play well.

"Being human inside, it's hard to block that out, to not let it affect your game, not try to force it. At times, that affected me. If I hadn't had a shot in a while or wasn't being impactful as I wanted to be, I would think about forcing it instead of letting it flow."

I'm not one to knock Iguodala.

During his star-crossed era as a Sixer, I always said I appreciated what he did as a player more than a lot of Sixers fans.

I still say there are not many players who could average 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists while playing stellar defense the way Iguodala has done in his career.

But there were always deficiencies that Iguodala could not mask - things that showed up over and over too often and left fans exasperated.

Again, some of this stuff looked way too familiar.

Iguodala made the first shot of the game, but missed eight of his final 12, including all four of his three-point attempts.

He was 1-for-3 on free throws and had ballhandling flubs at critical times.

And with about 10 seconds left before halftime and the Sixers leading by eight, you could almost feel the crowd of 19,101 hold in a chuckle after Iguodala held the ball for a final shot, started his drive to the basket with 2.7 seconds left and slipped onto his butt while starting a pull-up jumper on the baseline instead of going hard to the rim.

It's probably not fair to say that that instant summed up Iguodala's entire tenure as a Sixer, but a lot of folks knew they'd seen that way too many times before.

That's not to say that Iguodala didn't get a respectful reception.

During the introduction, the Nuggets' starters were announced so quickly, you could hardly pick out Iguodala's name before the next player was called.

There was no time to cheer, boo or whatever.

But during a timeout with 5:40 left in the first quarter, the Sixers' organization played a 45-second video of Iguodala making the two decisive free throws in last season's Eastern Conference first-round playoff-clinching win over the Chicago Bulls.

A smattering of boos was quickly drowned out by the most of the crowd standing and giving Iguodala an ovation.

"I thought the crowd was great tonight," said Iguodala, who earlier in the day had posted a thank-you letter to the Sixers and their fans on his website. "They were really backing their team.

"It was nice what [the Sixers] did with the video during the first timeout. I was pleased with the crowd, because I thought they were very respectful."

But honestly, even that acknowledgement seemed a bit awkward, compared with those of other Sixers who have returned to Philadelphia.

The video shown of former Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo before his introduction on Wednesday was a 45-second montage of defensive and, yes, offensive plays he made during his relatively brief time in Philadelphia.

Iguodala's video was 45 seconds of one moment during a career of more than 23,000 minutes played in a Sixers uniform.

One celebration of Iguodala making the clinching free throws in the only playoff series he won in Philadelphia.

It was one remarkable moment in a Philadelphia career, highlighted primarily by unremarkable ones.


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.

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