Now his sage wisdom is rubbing off on the Miami Heat’s young role players while logging valuable minutes off the bench. Iguodala scored two points and dished out eight assists in 25 minutes on Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. Look beyond the box score, though.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra used the versatile 36-year-old all over the court, including point guard after Tyler Herro left with back spasms in the fourth quarter. The ageless wonder’s importance cannot be overstated. He’s averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game this season.
“I can’t say enough about Andre,” Spoelstra told reporters after a tough 125-108 loss. “I just think he has such an incredible class and IQ to his game. He can play any position on the court. He’s already done that for us. He has played the five, the four, the three, and then when we’ve had so many guys out, we can just plug him in without any thought and literally just play him at point guard. He’s a world champion for a reason.”
Iguodala, who was drafted ninth overall in 2004, has a sterling resume to back up Spoelstra’s talk. He is a three-time NBA champion and earned Finals MVP honors in 2015 while serving as a defensive stopper for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. He’s seen and done it all in his 17 seasons, including getting the best (and worst) out of Bryant. Miami’s undermanned young squad can learn a lot from the savvy veteran before he retires.
“I have about a year or two left,” Iguodala told USA Today last August. “I’m serious this time. I got two left.”
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Heat Not Blaming ‘Fatigue’ for Back-to-Back Losses
Miami will return home after a grueling road trip that saw them trapped in their hotel in Boston for 48 hours before heading to Philadelphia for two games in three nights. They haven’t been on their home court since Jan. 6 while being undermanned due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Heat played back-to-back games with an eight-man rotation. It’s been a grind, but the team refuses to blame “fatigue.”
“I don’t want to hear anybody say anything about fatigue or anything like that,” Spoelstra told reporters on Thursday. “Our guys were fine, they felt fine, Philly just outplayed us tonight. We didn’t do enough good things defensively to keep the game close, and you have to credit Philly.”
The Heat (4-6) played without starters Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo and watched the 76ers race out to a 73-58 lead at halftime. All-Star guard Ben Simmons was the victim of trade rumors all week, then he dropped his 30th career triple-double (10 points, 10 assists, 12 rebounds) on the Heat. Again, no excuses. No fatigue.
“They were picking us up, and pressuring us, and trying to get us out of our normal timing,” Spoelstra said, “and they did a pretty good job with that. But our group is going to be just fine. Some things we did well in this game. The young guys will bounce back. We have a very talented group of young players, and we just need to get home, get healthy, and get ready for the next one.”
The next one is Saturday (Jan. 16) at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. against the Detroit Pistons (2-9).
Back to Full Strength?
The NBA has been strict about its contact-tracing policy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s unclear when the Heat will be back to full strength. They have been down eight guys — Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo, Moe Harkless, Avery Bradley Udonis Haslem, KZ Okpala — since Jan. 10. They have been quarantining and following the rules, but for how much longer? No one knows.
“I don’t know,” Spoelstra said when asked when his players would be back. “I don’t know yet.”
Meanwhile, center Meyers Leonard sat out Thursday’s game with a strained left shoulder and guard Tyler Herro left in the fourth quarter with back spasms. There is no further injury update on either player at this time.
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