|Getting Shruggy With It|
The signature player in a disjointed and unsatisfying decay era, he was miscast and overpaid to be the face of the franchise as AI1, Allen Iverson, went intro retrograde. His game had too many holes -- shaky handle, erratic shot, increasingly poor from the line, which led to trouble in late and close situations -- to withstand close scrutiny, let alone the white-hot glare of comparisons to Iverson. His signature moment as a Sixer, a crazed charge down the floor to end a crippled Bulls team in the only happy playoff of his time here, was a nice moment, but even when it was happening, we all knew that this wasn't going much further than this. When the club finally moved him to Denver, just as they had moved Iverson before, it was depressing, but we'd all been beaten down enough. Go, be happy, enjoy life with a franchise that wasn't so doomed.
What has become increasingly apparent since leaving, of course, is all of the strengths to his game. He's as lockdown a wing defender as there is the Association. He finishes in transition, maybe not with the same authority he once had as a rubber-legged rookie, but with either hand and in traffic. His shot from distance has become increasingly reliable, and he's gotten so much smarter about only taking it from the places where he's best. The turnovers have gone down over the years, especially now that he's playing with teammates where "hockey assists" are common. And since he didn't take the demotion from the starting lineup as an opportunity to become a distraction, he was fresh for the Finals when the team needed him most.
No one on the planet "stops" LeBron James, just as no one stops Stephen Curry; that's not how hoop works. But what Iguodala does is make James inefficient, and when he's inefficient, the Cavs are beatable, because James isn't working out of double-teams to hit wide-open shooters, or feeding dunkers at the rim. All series long, Iguodala was devastating in the open court, answering the Cavs' good moments with points, especially in the closing three Dub wins, and making life for James as hard as anyone makes it.
I didn't agree with the selection of Iguodala as the Finals MVP. Without James, Cleveland doesn't stay within 20 points of the Warriors in most halves, let alone win two games and stay close throughout the vast majority of minutes. But there's no doubt that he was the best player on his team, and that's an amazing thing to say when you have the league MVP raining down threes on the court. James was merely great for the end of this series, and I suppose you could make the argument that giving him credit for massive counting stats is just old-school thinking. So if you have to give it to someone on the winning team, Iguodala is as good of a choice as any...
And, well, I'm just glad for the guy. He took a bench role all year without puling about it. He's an amazing teammates. He plays unselfish. He didn't care about his stats, or his numbers, or ride the refs when James was doing his bully routine. Short of a mildly over the top shoutout to the Association's chaplains that speaks to his faith, there's not even a media moment to make him unlikable. And he still misses free throws, just to prove to the world that he's still the same guy that started here.
He's got a ring. He's got a trophy. He's in the perfect situation, and the world knows just how valuable he is. Couldn't happen to a nicer hooper, and I'm not even bitter that he had to leave town to get it. Moving on...