Andre Iguodala might not be ready to rejoin his Golden State Warriors teammates on the court just yet, but the veteran is finding other ways to help his team in the Western Conference Finals.
Iguodala has been out for a long stretch of the playoffs with a neck injury, watching on as his teammates dispatched the Denver Nuggets in five games and the Memphis Grizzlies in six to advance to the doorstep of the NBA Finals. Though the team is missing his defensive contributions on the court, coach Steve Kerr said Iguodala has been playing the role of assistant coach to help his teammates prepare for the Dallas Mavericks.
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Iguodala Moves Into New Role
On the eve of Wednesday’s Game 1 against the Mavericks, Kerr spoke about Iguodala’s contributions to the team. The Warriors coach said Iguodala has been working one-on-one with teammates, helping them prepare for how they’ll be guarding the offensively talented members of the Mavericks.
“He’s like an assistant coach, only one who the players can rely on for real-time advice,” Kerr said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s actually guarded all these guys that we’re going to face. As an approach, we can draw something on the board and say, ‘This is going to be our scheme.’ Andre can go directly to our guys and say, ‘When I guarded [Luka] Doncic, when I guarded [Jalen] Brunson, this is the tendency.’ This is what can help you.’ ”
That was one of the main reasons the Warriors brought back the 38-year-old for his second stint with the team. Iguodala has served as a mentor of the team’s younger players throughout the season, especially second-year center James Wiseman.
“That kind of hands-on advice, player to player, is really important,” Kerr said. “That’s been part of his role all season long, he’s a mentor for these guys. He feels really strongly about passing on his knowledge. He’s talked about how when he got into the league he had his own vets who mentored him and realized later on in his career how important he can be for his younger teammates.”
Iguodala’s Return Still Uncertain
It remains unclear just when Iguodala will be able to make contributions on the court. Back on May 12, the team announced that Iguodala’s neck injury would be re-evaluated again in one week, meaning he will miss at least the first game against the Mavericks.
As SI.com noted, the Warriors listed Iguodala as out for Game 1 on Wednesday, along with teammate Gary Payton II, who suffered a fractured elbow in Game 2 against the Grizzlies.
Without two of their most important defensive players, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater suggested that the Warriors could turn to rookie Jonathan Kuminga to play a role in guarding Doncic. Slater noted that the Warriors had some success during the regular season in calling on wing Andrew Wiggins to serve as Doncic’s primary defender, but that Kuminga could take a turn on the All-Star guard as well.
“Kuminga is a wild card option on Dončić for brief stretches,” Slater wrote, adding, “Kuminga is long, quick and aggressive. He does have some physical tools that bother Dončić a bit. But he’s also over-aggressive and foul-prone. The Warriors will need to avoid that matchup if they’re in the bonus or trying to avoid it.”
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