Andre Iguodala has never truly captivated the fans of Philadelphia, despite possessing the type of versatile all-around game that any team would desire.
It says here that Iguodala has been held in higher esteem outside of Philadelphia during what has been a sometimes stormy eight-year career. The fact that he is among 20 finalists for the 12 spots on the U.S. Olympic team, truly shows how highly regarded he is.
It appears as if the fans are starting to warm up to Iguodala this year and vice versa.
His stoic manner on the court has never endeared Iguodala to the Philadelphia fans who love to see players show outward passion.
There have been playoff slumps, such as scoring just 19 points in the first three postseason losses last year against Miami.
There is the six-year $80 million contract, that fans have felt was too excessive.
And another bad public relations move came when Iguodala was vague while speaking to reporters about whether he wanted to remain a Sixer following the 97-91 Game 5 loss in Miami.
The next day he was again asked about wanting to remain in Philadelphia and Iguodala said, “I don’t control that so that’s not a concern of mine. I just know I’m always going to be prepared and my No. 1 goal is to want to compete for a championship.”
Again, things would have been easier if he said he wanted to stay here so there was the perception that he didn’t.
Whether it was true or not, it appears as if Iguodala is enjoying himself more than ever, even though the smiles remain limited.
Again, the perception of him outside the area has always been strong. Any time this reporter has asked an NBA coach about him, there were nothing but rave reviews.
Here is what Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said about Iguodala after he had scored 22 points in that final game 5 loss to the Heat. It was a series in which Iguodala alternated between covering LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
“He is so unique in how many things he does to impact a game," Spoelstra said of Iguodala. "He is such a great defender, is long, moves his feet, is an intelligent rebounder."
Sixers coach Doug Collins has been a staunch backer of Iguodala and says he’s heartened to see the fans reaching out to him.
“I see his face he is happy,” Collins said. “Yesterday it was neat to see that he hit a couple of shots and some of the fans starting chanting USA and little things like that.”
Then Collins added some perspective.
“Dre so wants these fans to appreciate what he brings as do I.”
Iguodala hasn’t always given off the best body language, but he has always played like a warrior. In five of his first seven seasons he played all 82 games. Last season he missed a career-high 15 games due mainly to Achilles tendonitis. It’s an injury that may have kept others on the sidelines much longer. He clearly wasn’t 100 percent, but never used it as an excuse.
Now he is healthy and the same can be said of his outlook.
When asked if he were happier this year, Iguodala wouldn’t allow the questioner too deep into his soul.
“I wouldn’t say happier,” he said. “I would probably say I am healthier and that is the biggest thing.”
While he has had some public relations gaffes in the past, Iguodala says he’s appreciative of the fans enthusiasm.
“We have really good support,” he said.
Maybe it’s his personality not to smile much, or to gloat over his accomplishes, but Iguodala seems to be enjoying basketball more these days.
The team is 10-3, he is an Olympic finalist and who knows, maybe he may make that first NBA all-star team, even though his scoring numbers are down, but effectiveness is greater.
He said it was exciting to be among the final 20, but wouldn’t gloat too long.
“I think they pick 12 so it’s great to be mentioned,” said Iguodala, who averaged 18.9 minutes when the U.S. won the title in the 2010 FIBA world championship in Turkey.
Anybody who knows Iguodala knows he wants to be more than mentioned. With the way he can defend on the perimeter, Iguodala could be a valuable member on the Olympic team.
For now, everything is going as smoothly as it ever has in his career for Iguodala. It’s enough to make anybody smile, even somebody who hasn’t always been a fan favorite but now has the chance to change course.