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Commentary: No Iguodala? No problem


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Tom Knauer
staff writer
By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 19, 2004
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Right now, he's probably just waking up, tired from logging minutes as the starting small forward for the Philadelphia 76ers. They had a game last night against the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe Bruce Bowen guarded him, he of four consecutive NBA All-Defensive Team appointments. Andre's quicker, but Bowen has the savvy.

I bet Andre's in some giant pain right now.

Believe it or not, the team he left won't be. Not today in practice. Not the next day. Not even Sunday against Virginia at Charlottesville. Without Andre Iguodala, the UA men's hoops team will be just fine.

It's sad that No. 24 won't be stalking Lute and Bobbi Olson court anymore. It's unfortunate to lose his triple-double potential from an offense that's now built for it.

But you must understand. Andre Iguodala really did the Wildcats a favor when he decided to bolt for the pros after his sophomore season. Sure, the Midnight Madness dunk contest this year was all the worse because of it, but so was 2003.

Why? Take away Andre's 12.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists - tops on the team in the latter two categories - and what was left was a logjam at the forward position. No question, Iguodala was most effective as a small forward. That's where he carved his niche, made the plays and signed his transfer papers to the NBA Draft.

That's also where Hassan Adams needed to be.

Take nothing away from either player: each has unique talents that are best supported at the three. Unfortunately, having two players of equal talent competing for the same role doesn't work so well. Can't have one coming off the bench, not when the rest of the roster is already talent-short, thinned by injuries.

So Hassan moved to power forward. It got a lot of attention at the time, having someone 6-foot-4 pound the paint with the nation's top goliaths. But believe it or not, the experiment worked. Hassan played in all 30 games and ended the season as the team's top scorer.

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But you must understand. Iguodala really did the Wildcats a favor when he decided to bolt for the pros after his sophomore season.
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Then came the move.

It wasn't a popular one, to be sure. Andre-hating became in vogue campus-wide. After losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, after just managing to extend the men's hoops team's 20-win season streak, we wondered, why? Why leave now, when such talented young players as Mustafa Shakur and Ivan Radenovic and Adams were ready to take the next step? Why leave now, when Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire and Isaiah Fox were entering walk years of their own? Why abandon us now, Andre? Have you no heart?

Andre Iguodala has spent the last six months showing how much heart he has. So anonymous in being picked ninth in April's NBA Draft that even some video games left him off the Sixers' roster, Andre excelled in the summer leagues. He averaged more than 10 points per game and led his team in both rebounds and steals. Now's he starting. Now, and for the next six months, he'll be bumping elbows with the NBA's top talents, sharing the woes of defeat and the thrills of victory with his new teammates. With Kenny Thomas and Glenn Robinson. With Allen Iverson, a former league MVP and an All-Heart Hall of Famer.

Meanwhile, his former teammates will continue on, running suicides and conducting defensive drills ad infinitum. Thanks to a potent mix of experience, energy and undeniable vengeance, this year's Wildcats may be some of the best in recent memory, challengers to the days of Dickerson and Bibby, Elliott and Kerr. Frye and Stoudamire are playing for NBA contracts of their own, and perhaps Adams will take his own bows as the season concludes. People are saying that Arizona will go a lot farther into the Tournament this year, perhaps into the Elite Eight and beyond. Seton Hall? Hell, let's take on Syracuse.

But don't worry, Andre. You have what you want now. You have the money, the prestige, the reputation. In a few years, you'll be a star in Philadelphia, one part of a core, a fleet of budding young All-Stars. You'll be ready to help the Sixers rise above the depths of the A.I. era - After Iverson.

That, of course, is all in the future. Today, Andre will go to practice - yes, I'm talking about practice - and he'll get his shots in, his boards, his assists, his steals. He continue to play as a do-it-all dynamo in an increasingly athletic league. Someday, he'll get his reward, in the form of a lofty, multi-year contract. Down the road, Philadelphia fans will talk of how fortunate they were to receive Andre when they did, right before the 2004-'05 season. Perhaps they'll call it The Year That Was, for its hint of good things to come.

Around here, we couldn't agree more.

- Tom Knauer is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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