How Andre Iguodala helped Warriors to NBA Finals in his street clothes

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s uncertain whether Andre Iguodala will play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But the 38-year-old was in full workout attire, getting shots up with his team after a light scrimmage on the eve of NBA’s big day.

It was a welcome sight for teammates who know any bit of time the 2015 Finals MVP can give on the floor in these finals will have an immense impact. He’s been sidelined for 13 of the Warriors’ 16 playoff games and all of their last 12 games with a neck injury. He played just 31 games in the regular season with various injuries.

But even from the sideline this year, Iguodala is accomplishing what he set out to when he returned last offseason to Golden State — where he won three titles since joining in 2014 and being traded after 2019.

“You know, just trying to finish the season walking on two feet,” Iguodala said. “If I do that, it’s a successful season. You go back to my goals coming back, it’s similar to my sentiments when I first signed with the team in 2013. It was the same thing: Get us back to where we’re supposed to be.”

How has Iguodala helped the Warriors get back to the NBA fFnals for the sixth time in eight years? He’s made plenty of impact in street clothes as a quasi-assistant coach.

During game breaks or when a player comes back to the bench, Iguodala is up from his seat taking players one-on-one. When the clock is running, Iguodala is helping direct the defense. In the locker room, he’s not afraid to keep coaching.

“We had a great mentoring system in place this year with all these young guys playing with our vets who had seen it all,” Kerr said. “Andre, in particular, was just incredible this year and continues to be so with his counseling and advice.

“He does it in a way only Andre can, with humor and sarcasm and cryptic messaging.”

Iguodala has been in the ears of rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody all season. Not just alerting them to a missed defensive rotation, but keeping this playoff run, which most first-year players can only dream of, in perspective. He’s reminded them to take pictures along the way and keep memorabilia — a few things Iguodala wished he had done in his playoff trips.

“Historically they aren’t supposed to take on everything that comes with being in the Finals,” Iguodala said. “They’re supposed to be on college campuses learning about themselves, learning who they are as people, learning what they like, learning what they don’t like, instead of these guys making five-plus million dollars a year, got all the pressures, the madness of having money and being in the spotlight. You can become jaded. You can start taking these things for granted.

“It’s not their fault. I’m guilty of it, just being in the Finals so many times where I feel nothing. I just know it’s my job to go out and win. Really no joy in it, it’s just going to work.”

He’s also stayed on top of his more experienced players. And he isn’t afraid to be brutally honest.

Kevon Looney learned to expect a blunt Iguodala the first day he met him his rookie year in 2015, when Iguodala dismissed him to “go get some donuts.” It was an order Looney learned was given in jest given Iguodala’s strict healthy diet. But it set the tone.

“As a coach, he’s really blunt. He’s going to tell you the truth, even if you don’t want to hear it at the time,” Looney said. “I learned a lot from him, being on the court with him. He’s going to make sure that you get it down … I think he’s done a great job of teaching our guys the details and the small things, and he’s been a huge locker room presence.

“He has a great feel of knowing when to talk to people, knowing when to encourage or when to yell at people, so he’s just a great leader for everybody.”

Asked to describe Iguodala’s coaching style, Jordan Poole said he doesn’t leave any rock unturned. He sees all and makes sure the player he chooses to coach up hears about how he sees the game unfold.

“Extremely meticulous,” Poole said. “He likes to point out the details and small things. He has a lot of knowledge and he’s willing to share, which is really cool to be a part of … He’s also extremely real. He’ll keep it a rack, he won’t sugarcoat anything. Being able to have him in our corner as a vet is huge.”

After 18 years in the NBA, Iguodala has seen it all — and guarded nearly every position on the floor. In the 31 games he did play, Iguodala flashed lightning-quick hands that contradict his old age. He earned his Finals MVP for expertly guarding LeBron James. He’s stayed in the game with his anticipation and intelligence.

Though these skills are innate, Iguodala can translate what he knows to his teammates. His younger teammates are all ears. And he’s earned a special kind of trust with Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson that’s made him a powerful voice during the playoffs.

“He has access, not just physical access but emotional access that the coaching staff does not have,” Kerr said. “Frankly there’s a trust factor that exists that can’t possibly exist between players and coaches. That’s why the role is so important. He has a different vantage point and the guys believe in him so much and he’s just brilliant at demanding and embracing and everything in between.”