The Philadelphia 76ers probably won't have Andre Iguodala around for too much longer. Sixers fans like myself fully expect him to either be traded this summer or next spring, or let go in free agency next summer - to the relief of many. Since Iguodala is the closest thing to a star for the Sixers, he has become the scapegoat for their struggles and a example of why Philadelphia can't get out of mediocrity.
But while he has a mixed legacy in Philadelphia, he has many more defenders in the United States - or at least on Team USA. As Iguodala begins his quest to help the USA win the gold at the Olympics, his temporary teammates are showing him more support than his long time city often has.
Kobe Bryant praised Iguodala on July 15 by saying he was a specialist who could do it all. Chris Paul also chimed in by saying Iguodala was "what we need" and would play a "serious role" in helping America win gold in London. That is high praise for someone who may be the most overlooked and least known player on Team USA - and who is even overlooked in his home town.
However, he has not always been appreciated with the Sixers because he had to take a role he isn't suited for - team superstar. For years, Iguodala had no support and was the best player in Philadelphia by default, and was blamed for not being able to overcome it anyway.
The likes of Bryant, Paul and LeBron James have still been leaders and superstars even with no supporting cast at times, but Iguodala is not built that way - just like the Sixers aren't built that way as a whole. They have no huge stars to take them out of the middle of the pack, and since Iguodala is the closest thing to one, he gets a lot of the backlash for not being enough. Even when he finally became an All-Star this past season, he slipped a bit in the second half and postseason and is still unlikely to stay in Philadelphia after 2013.
But on Team USA, Iguodala is finally in the right place as a supporting player. Since there are at least 11 other stars who can carry the load for him, he can focus on giving them the ball, playing defense and being a "facilitator" as the Philadelphia Inquirer's John Smallwood wrote on July 16. And when the Sixers inevitably let Iguodala go and he goes to a team with an established star or two, he will likely be more valuable there as well.
Maybe if Philadelphia had up and comers like Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner years earlier, Iguodala would have had an easier time blending in with them. But now it is too late for him to be the superstar that can take the Sixers and their would-be future leaders to the next level.
Yet it is not too late for him to be a valuable gold medal winner, even if he can't be an NBA champion at the moment. But if Iguodala lives up to the praise that Bryant and Paul have bestowed upon him, he may be inspired to go out with a bang for the Sixers - or at least be more attractive trade bait down the line.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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