10/31/12 9:31 am EST
At the start of every new NBA season, there is a renewed of belief, hope, and confidence. For the Sixers, 2012-2013 is no different. Even though, the true (unspoken) goal is to just be able stay in the same ballpark of class as the Miami Heat.
Nonetheless, there is a unique, almost poetic feeling about Wednesday night’s season opener at the Wells Fargo Center. As the Sixers begin a new chapter of their franchise’s history, they will be forced to look their past dead in the eyes; in the form Andre Iguodala.
As Iguodala brings his Denver Nuggets to Philadelphia, he carries a truckload of baggage with him, including memories (both good and bad), 8 years of frustrations, and a fractured relationship with the 76ers’ faithful.
Whether he was loved or hated, he was a much maligned, polarizing figure, partly because of his salary, demeanor, skill-set, and lack of team success.
Ironically enough, his final season as a Sixer would be the one where he actually began to be appreciated. He earned his only All-Star appearance; he led his team to their first playoff series victory in a decade, and nearly took a talent deficient team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But, by then it was already too late.
His Philadelphia story had already been written.
He had the athleticism and the talent to be loved by a city that seemingly worships his kind. After all, he never was the flashy type. His entire game consisted of defense, grit, and grinding, But something was just amiss.
Perhaps, it had nothing to do with him at all. Perhaps he just a scapegoat for a franchise who had no hope and was going in a circular motion like a nomad wandering aimlessly in a slow painful fashion.
The fact is that during Iguodala’s tenure, the Sixers only had 2 seasons with a record over .500 (2004-2005 and 2011-2012). During that time period, he was the clear face of the franchise. When it comes right down to it; that is why he was dealt the heavy handed slap of the anger and dissatisfaction of a rabid Philadelphia fan base that didn’t know what to make of him.
It was always a bizarre dynamic. He was never selfish; in fact he always sought to set up his teammates, unlike the previous AI who was beloved. While he was certainly a team player, Iguodala never backed down from being the star, on court leader, and the franchise (whether he should have been or not).
Thus, the responsibility and the weight of the team and the city’s basketball hopes rested on upon his shoulders. He seemed to be always at fault after a disappointment, but it rarely seemed that it his effort led to whatever success that existed.
Even after the 76ers playoff victory over the Bulls last spring, he was almost an afterthought. The story wasn’t Iguodala. It was Evan Turner’s emergence, the surprising play of Lavoy Allen, or the play of Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Dre could barely buy any credit.
Still, over the years, he was no innocent victim in all of this. While he was always a consistent player, his main pitfall in Philadelphia was just that. He was consistently the same player without any regression, but more importantly, without any progression. His shooting, especially in big moments, and ineptness at shot creation were always his biggest mountains. Unfortunately, for him, he never climbed them. But, superstars and great players make the climb. Iguodala stayed in the perpetual solid player valley.
The fervent Iguodala defender would obviously say that he never had any help. It’s not like he was in the front office signing Samuel Dalembert to extensions, overpaying for Jason Kapono or Elton Brand. Ultimately, he didn’t pay himself $13 million a year either. The front office did, and that blame shouldn’t belong to him. But in a city like Philadelphia, it did.
In the end, Andre Iguodala was simply a figure head to the results of a team that was stuck in the middle of transition that simply lasted too long.
Years from now, history will probably view Iguodala’s Philadelphia years as neither entirely positive nor totally negative. His time in Philadelphia was simply a bridge between the Allen Iverson era and (potentially) the Andrew Bynum era.
It was just a bridge that and just stretched out long and went nowhere. That’s ultimately the legacy of Andre Iguodala as a Philadelphia 76er.
The bridge’s exit finally arrives on Wednesday night, as a new chapter of 76ers’ basketball begins, with Iguodala there to witness it.