Fickle Philly fans warm up to Iguodala

Nowadays, Andre Iguodala(notes) is rarely heckled when he’s out getting a bagel.

The 76ers' forward loves to walk the streets of downtown Philadelphia while running errands or getting a bite to eat. But last season, the outspoken fans in the City of Brotherly Love made sure that Iguodala, the franchise's $80 million man, was aware of their disappointment.

“I heard some crazy things,” Iguodala told Yahoo! Sports. “I got cussed out in public a few times. People say, ‘You suck. Do this. Do that. You ain’t doing this and you ain’t doing that.' "

The 76ers failed to make the playoffs last season as Iguodala averaged 17.1 points. He's averaging only 14.3 points this season, the third in a six-year deal. On the surface, that doesn't bode well for a man making $12.3 million this year. But Iguodala is actually revered in Philly now for doing a lot of everything as the Sixers are poised to make the playoffs. They enter Friday holding the sixth seed in the East with 11 games left.

Iguodala doesn't rank in the top 50 in scoring per game, but he joins Miami Heat All-Star LeBron James(notes) as the only other player in the NBA averaging at least 14 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds this season. While his scoring average is much lower than James’, Iguodala shoots just 11.4 times per game while also averaging a team-best 6.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. The Sixers are 25-17 when he scores fewer than 17 points and 7-9 when he scores 17 or more. (He's missed 13 games this season, mainly due to tendinitis in his Achilles'.)

“We have a lot of depth with guys that can score the ball," Iguodala said. "So I just try to be able to facilitate to everybody and try to get my touches and put the ball in the hole myself."

Is too much weight put on scoring?

“I don’t think it’s overrated, but it can always skew the numbers,” Iguodala said. “It can be like a cover-up for everything else.”

His defense also goes largely unnoticed. At 6-foot-6, 207 pounds, Iguodala is asked to guard point guards like Derrick Rose(notes), scorers like Dwyane Wade(notes) and smaller power forwards like Kris Humphries(notes).

“He is as good, if not better, than any wing defender in the league and doesn’t get credit for it,” Sixers first-year president Rod Thorn said. And we don’t give him much help. How many guys can do that? There are very few that can do that."

Thorn admitted there was “some truth” to the trade rumors that swirled around Iguodala as the season began. The Sixers' early season struggles enhanced the whispers. But after watching the Sixers turn things around and seeing Iguodala’s all-around influence on the game, Thorn stopped talking to teams about him in late December. Today, Thorn says Iguodala is worth every penny and called talks about his salary “irrelevant.”

“I would never say I would never trade anybody because if the right deal came along you would trade anybody," Thorn said. "But we weren’t soliciting anybody at the end of December. Our team started playing well and you see what he meant to the team. There was nothing being offered that was near as good as him to begin with unless you just wanted to trade his contract and get under the salary cap. It just didn’t make any sense." While Iguodala hopes to be an All-Star one day, he refuses to succumb to critics who say he needs to score more.

“If I let it affect me, I’d be playing different right now," Iguodala said. "I’d be just playing for myself and trying to prove people wrong instead of playing how I know how to play basketball, which is being able to, I guess, be a chameleon and change to whatever situation I’m in for the team to be better.

“All I care about is winning. When we’re not winning, I’m not a happy person. So we’ve been winning this year lately and I’ve been happy."

That makes for pleasant trips to the bagel shop.

Homecoming for Russell

While standing in front of a packed room in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday night, Bill Russell told a story about when he almost got beat up by gang members as a high school student. One of them recognized him as a basketball player. They left him alone.

A tribute to the legendary Celtic turned into a plea by him to stop the violence and improve education in his hometown. Russell spoke with new Oakland mayor Jean Quan for about 30 minutes prior to the ceremony at the George P. Scotlan Convention Center, an event that benefitted local youth programs.

“If I have a legacy here it's to make life better for some of our kids,” Russell said.

Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, an Oakland native, football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, and local dignitaries were in attendance. Brown pledged to also get Oakland more involved in his Amer-I-Can program.

“I feel wounded when I hear about the violence in Oakland,” Russell said of the city that had 94 homicides last year.

Russell starred at Oakland McClymonds High and at the University of San Francisco prior to winning 11 championships with the Boston Celtics as a player. He also lightened up by telling several stories during his 30-minute unwritten speech about his childhood, his time with the Celtics, his fight against racism, not signing autographs and his friendships.

“Bill is an international hero," Morgan said, "not just an Oakland hero.”

Why Anaheim?

A source close to the Sacramento Kings’ pending move to Anaheim, Calif., scoffed at a television report that stated there was a plan afoot to keep the basketball franchise in town.

FOX40 in Sacramento reported Wednesday that there was a new plan that could solve arena problems, and a group of government and business leaders hope to talk with Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof about it as early as Friday.

Government officials were unaware of any new plan and described the chances of the team staying in Sacramento as a “glimmer of hope but pretty slim,” the source told Yahoo! Sports.

The NBA’s worst kept secret is that the Kings are on the move. Why would the franchise want to move into a market about 40 miles away from the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and Blake Griffin(notes) and the Los Angeles Clippers?

Here's why: An NBA franchise in Anaheim can draw from the 5 million people from Orange and Riverside counties and also another 3 million about an hour away in San Diego County. In Sacramento, the 23-year-old Power Balance Pavilion, formerly Arco Arena, has 17,317 seats for basketball and 30 luxury suites. The Honda Center in Anaheim has 17,608 seats, 84 suites, and over the past five-plus years more than $22 million was spent for arena improvements. The only additions needed for a pro basketball franchise is a new locker room and an off-site practice facility.

Considering the Kings’ lackluster record, would Anaheim support a struggling NBA team? The Clippers played a portion of their home-game schedule at the then-Arrowhead Pond from 1994-99. Despite dismal records, the average attendance was 65 percent better than their games played at the old Los Angeles Sports Arena, according to a source.

Anaheim mayor Tom Tait and Anaheim Arena Management, LLC turned down Yahoo! Sports' interview requests. Tait, however, said at the end of Tuesday’s Anaheim City Council meeting that the city is “closer” to having a pro basketball team.

Nuggets want Nene back

The Denver Nuggets entered Friday 11-4 in the post-Carmelo Anthony(notes) era. They have some nice young talent for the future, a boatload of draft picks and they re-signed coach George Karl to a long-term extension. But what’s going to happen with soon-to-be free agent Nene Hilario(notes), who is having a breakout season in Denver?

In his ninth year with the Nuggets, the forward-center is averaging a career-high 15 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. Nene is making $11.3 million this year and is expected to opt out of his contract that's scheduled to pay $11.6 million next season. The Brazilian has said he’d prefer to stay in Denver, but those close to him say he’s disappointed that a contract has not been offered yet.

Nuggets first-year president Josh Kroenke is optimistic Nene will stay in Denver.

“He’s obviously extremely pleased with how our team has been post-trade,” Kroenke told Yahoo! Sports. “Nene has been a big part of that. He’s been playing the best basketball of his career. I don’t think I will get something done before the season is over, but we definitely want Nene around long term.”

Keep an eye overseas

While the potential NBA lockout will likely keep some American college prospects from declaring for the draft, it's having the opposite effect for international players, who have a chance to be selected higher but could continue to play for their respective clubs abroad if there's an NBA work stoppage.

One NBA general manager said these players are top 20 prospects: Turkish forward-center Enes Kanter, center Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania, Lietuvos Rytas), forward Jan Vesely (Serbia, KK Partizan Belgrade), forward Nikola Mirotic (Spain, Real Madrid), forward-center Bismack Biyombo (Spain, Ayuda en Accion Fuenlabrada) and center Lucas Nogueira (Spain, MMT Estudiantes).