Andre Iguodala comes home to face Warriors for first time since trade to Heat

Monte Poole
NBC Sports BayArea

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the bus carrying the Miami Heat approaches Chase Center on Monday, passengers aboard will see no sign of their new teammate's impact on the suddenly storied franchise that plays its home games there.

They must wait until they get inside and glance up at those Warriors championship banners hanging in the rafters.

That is, unless they know and understand the history behind the building itself.

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Those who know the backstory and can connect the dots will realize Chase Center might not exist without Andre Iguodala.

If Chase might be loosely described as The Palace that Steph Built, it also is fair to say Iguodala represents the first wall to go up. Had he not joined the Warriors in July 2013, it's reasonable to wonder if they could have produced the magical six-year run that generated the momentum needed to clear the communal barriers and layers of bureaucracy necessary to go forward with a new arena.

It is by now profoundly evident that Iguodala is as much a business executive as he is a basketball player. The man knows income streams. Yet when faced with an offer from the Kings worth a reported $56 million over four seasons, he chose $48 million over the same span from the Warriors.

That Iguodala sacrificed $8 million suggests he was among the first to recognize the Warriors were onto something special. Not regular special. Historic special.

Less than two years later, Andre was the pivotal figure in a bold postseason lineup change that resulted in the Warriors winning their first championship in 40 years and him being named MVP of the NBA Finals.

CEO Joe Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber -- who bought the Warriors in November 2010 -- along with COO Rick Welts, had spent several years crawling uphill in San Francisco seeking a path toward a new arena. After a championship that served to unite and energize the entire Bay Area, those atop the organizational chart suddenly were rolling downhill, wheels greased, wind at their backs.

It's easier to gain the full support of a semi-controversial project when the faces behind it are immensely popular and capable of attracting more than a million fans to a parade.

The faces behind the Warriors were Stephen Curry, drafted 17 months before the arrival of new ownership; Klay Thompson, the first draft pick of the new group; Draymond Green, part of the new group's second draft; and Iguodala, who served as the insightful veteran (he was 29 when he signed) holding it together by dispensing bits of wisdom on and off the court.

By the time superstar Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in July 2016, the quest for a new arena was in full flight. A site had been secured. Naming rights had been purchased. KD's presence at the groundbreaking six months after his arrival -- and five months before he would earn his first Finals MVP award -- was ceremonial, a matter of ownership's desire to affix his name to the marquee alongside those of Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala.

During Iguodala's six years with the Warriors, they reached the playoffs in six consecutive seasons for the first time in 69 years of the NBA franchise's history. He always seemed to save his best work for when it mattered most. When Green refers to the league having "82-game players and 16-game players," there is no question which category fits Andre.

Which is why, when asked last summer about the reaction to Iguodala being traded to the Grizzlies, Warriors coach Steve Kerr described it as a "gut punch." It was a necessary move as part of a shift toward youth, but he was losing perhaps the most trusted member of the roster.

Iguodala never came close to wearing a Memphis jersey. He and the team's front office arranged conditions where he would be a chip to be traded, probably near the deadline.

[RELATED: How Dubs' trade for Wiggins was made with Steph in mind]

That deal occurred Thursday morning. Iguodala, 36, was traded to Miami, one of his preferred destinations. Always in supreme condition, he made his Heat debut Sunday night in Portland and posted a plus-10 over 23 minutes.

There will come a time when passengers of any bus pulling up to Chase will peek through the windows and see statues. Those coming inside with look toward the rafters and see names and numbers hanging. Curry. Thompson. Green. Durant. And Iguodala.

We know what Iguodala will see Monday when the Heat face the Warriors. Plenty of old friends and smiling faces. We know what he'll see and hear. A standing ovation. Maybe two.

Andre Iguodala comes home to face Warriors for first time since trade to Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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