Iguodala on his decision to sit out, criticism by Grizzlies, and joining the Heat
Marc J. Spears
MORAGA, Calif. – On Wednesday night, Andre Iguodala took a new pair of Nikes out of his gym bag, laced ’em up and got back to work knowing he’ll soon be back playing in the NBA.
The Memphis Grizzlies have agreed in principle to send Iguodala to the Miami Heat, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Wednesday. The three-time NBA champion also agreed to a two-year, $30 million contract extension with the Heat.
Iguodala told The Undefeated from a practice gym at St. Mary’s College on Wednesday night that he expected to take a physical with the Heat in Sacramento on Friday, but is uncertain when he will make his debut. The 15-year veteran never played for the Grizzlies after being traded from the Golden State Warriors last offseason for a 2024 first-round pick. Instead, he sat out the first three months of the season — a decision that has drawn criticism from Grizzlies players, namely Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks.
In the end, Iguodala’s decision to not report to Memphis paid off for him. He is headed to an Eastern Conference contender with two All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, he landed a contract extension and he will be in sunny Miami.
“My wife is always 100 percent honest with me,” Iguodala said. “I try to play everything cool. She was like, ‘Are you excited?’ I was like,‘No, I’m cool.’ But she knows me best. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. I want to be smart and not go out there and try to prove anything. You turn 36 and everyone thinks your game is fading away. But that IQ doesn’t show up in analytics. So, I have to make sure that I keep making the same winning plays and be patient. I’ll be ready to go.”
Iguodala talked to The Undefeated about his decision to sit out, the criticism from Grizzlies players, and joining head coach Pat Riley and the Heat.
How did you find out about the trade?
We’ve been on the horn. [Thursday] is the trade deadline. Everybody has been in position, ramping it up. I’ve been trying to find a good situation for both sides. That is something I wanted to do this entire time, to be able to compromise. Those are the best negotiations. The ones where both sides feel like they won and feel they got something out of it. … That is what I had in the back of my mind. ‘Hey, I wasn’t trying to screw y’all over. Don’t try to screw me over. We can do this without any harm when it’s all said and done.’ But you know how the game is played. I’ve been around it too long. People are going to posture themselves like they’re the one doing a deal in good faith.
It might get ugly from time to time. But you have to be patient and weather yourself through it. … I just knew to be patient. And when the right thing came along, be ready for it not knowing when it was going to be done. It could have been September. It could have been December. It could have been now. It could have been July 1st. I was just ready for whatever came my way and was prepared after the decision was made.
What would you tell your critics in Memphis?
Athletes are looked at in a different light. Talking to Kevin [Durant], when an athlete makes a smart business decision for themselves, I think [athletes] are scrutinized a little bit more because people deal with athletes with their feelings. Their feelings are a little more involved. We are a little bit more under the microscope. When you win in the [stock] market, someone is losing in the [stock] market. That money doesn’t just go into thin air. Some of those businessmen are making great deals.
But at the end of the day, if you’re winning, someone is taking somewhat of a loss. When those decisions and those deals are being done, they are looking at them as what? ‘That’s a great businessman. They keep winning. Look at the deals they’ve done.’ When you look at some of these agents that they’re getting for their players, it’s usually a white agent. That is what bothers me sometimes. ‘This guy is a great businessman. He’s doing great deals.’ But when athletes are in that situation, there are more feelings involved in all this. I am willing to just stand in there and take the heat. … The player that I am, I’m usually the most unselfish player. Sometimes I know when I’m handling my business. Sometimes you got to be selfish even though you are taking some heat with it.
What gave you the confidence to make that power move and was it hard to do?
No, it wasn’t hard. Everything I try to do, I try to prepare for ahead of time. All the work you put in is for a reason. Whether it’s on the court or off the court, you never want to be in a position where you have to show your hand or you’re going to fold or you’re panicking or get a little nervous. Everything I am doing off the court is to set myself up so I don’t have to rely on someone else.
So for me, I’m just trying to relax and wait it out. I got this other thing going on [working in the tech world] that I can dive into and learn as much as possible. I don’t do well with idle time. The brain has to be active and the brain has been active. It was kind of a blessing in disguise because I got some load off my legs. The last six years have been crazy. Only one of our six guys [Draymond Green] is playing basketball right now. And he is only playing in one of three games. And nobody is even thinking about that. We played a lot of basketball, and it showed with the injuries that we had.
So, it sounds like the Heat don’t have to be worried about you being out of shape or your past injuries?
I need to put on some weight, which is usually the opposite. Usually, it’s like, ‘He needs to lose some weight and shed some pounds.’ But for me, I was doing a lot of boxing. I was on the court a little bit. I was working strategic. I was working smarter, not harder, on the court getting into basketball shape. I was always getting my reps. But in terms of my endurance, I am ready to go.
What did you miss the most about not being on the court?
I occupied my mind so much that I didn’t give myself an opportunity to miss it. I was waking up 6 a.m., 7 a.m, every day. Playing ball, you don’t have to work out that early. You can sleep in late and get in 8, 8:30 at the earliest. But during this stretch I was waking up at 6 and 7 a.m. to start my days. I was making sure I was getting my work in whether it was in the gym or doing my other workout stuff. Then, I was going to my office in downtown San Francisco [from the East Bay Area].
Then I had my CEO fireside chats. I had 12-15 of those. I was just getting to it and getting to work. I wasn’t going to sit around and just wait. I was going to take some action and do what I had to do.
What is your message to players?
What I’ve learned is you got to learn what you can and can’t leverage. You got to know your situation. And then, you also have to understand more so than anything is that any opportunity can come at anytime. And you have to be prepared for it. You got to have a broad understanding of the history of the game, the business of the game. You have to know the people that are really well-respected throughout the league. Pat is one of those guys.
My homework was done before. [The Heat] kind of came in late as a team. They were really smart. If you get in too early, you can get leveraged because you show you have interest. Then, you can be used as leverage for someone else. They moved in silence, which was pretty smart.
What makes Miami a good place for you?
I know their makeup a little bit. I’ve seen their young guys play. Kendrick Nunn was on [the Warriors’] training camp roster [last year]. … Bam Adebayo, I knew a lot about. [Ex-Warriors teammate] Shaun Livingston has spent a lot of time down there and was telling me about it. You keep an eye of what is going on in the league.
I got a 2-year-old and a 12-year-old. It was more so getting comfortable with living so far away and what that would look like. One thing I didn’t want it to be was a rental-type situation where you can be there for like 80 days. You can’t really buy into that. You can’t settle into 80 days on any job. So, it’s let’s build for something.’ That really piqued my interest.
Pat really reminds me of [former Warriors executive] Jerry West. They’re very good. I am a huge fan of Jerry. He’s my guy. They’ve been around the league so long. They have been around so many eras. They’ve seen so much. I read Pat’s book [The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players] about four years ago. [West and Riley] have that smoothness to them. They can sell you anything, but it’s genuine. It’s not a fake dream. It’s a dream, something you can see in your realm.
Have you talked to Jimmy Butler?
No, they’re playing right now. Someone was asking me what I thought about playing with Jimmy. Everyone has their perception of somebody. I was like, ‘It is going to be very easy.’ I played with superstars when I was rookie in the league and some of the top players in the league in my 15th season. I’m going to complement him very well, and I’m looking forward to it.
What was your reaction to what the young players were saying in Memphis about you?
You got to take everything with a grain of salt. Rules shift from time to time across generations. There is a 10- [to] 15-year age difference. They don’t move how we move and the same wasn’t said about us when we were that age. ‘What are young guys doing now? What is respectful now?’ … It’s different.
So, I don’t look at it as personal. I don’t know if it’s from them. But the only thing I will tell them is that I love them. Those are my guys. [DeMar] DeRozan said Lou Williams. He said Lou is my brother and he would give him his last dollar. I feel the same way about every player in this league. I felt the same way about those two guys. Ja is going to be rookie of the year and he is playing amazing basketball. I’ve been watching him this year even though I knew we’d never be teammates. This guy is a talent.
You could have [gone] into free agency instead of signing an extension. There were rumors that you could re-sign with Golden State as a free agent. What made you comfortable agreeing to an extension with Miami?
I really sat and thought about it. You try to assess what that means for yourself, for the family. You have to look at the landscape, too. You go across the salary caps of every team. You do your homework as well. You have an agent run a number so it all makes sense. All of that plays a part in it.
The makeup of the [Heat] had a lot to do with it. We have a lot of young talent. A lot of guys that are fearless that can play. What I feel that not so much they are missing, but what they can improve upon greatly, I can bring that whether it’s showing them on court or showing them in film or just being around me every day. I am going to take that level of play up a couple notches. Offensively, they’re really good. Defensively, there is some gamesmanship things I can put in the arsenal to make everyone better on the court.
What did you tell your son about the news of you going to Miami?
He is 12 now. It’s an interesting phase for him. He didn’t quite [understand]. He said, ‘Are we gonna leave right now? Do we have to leave, the whole family?’ I was like, ‘No, no, no. You can finish out the school year and leave in June. He relaxed a little bit after that. I told him that we might be there for a couple of years. Kids these days, you got to be a little sensitive about how you drop news on them. You have to lay down the plan going forward to ease the transition.
He’s a good kid. He has some really good friends. As Kevin Hart said, ‘These soft private school kids. …’ [My son] is going to be mad I said that. He’ll be 6-8. When he’s 6-8, fills out and starts looking like me, he will be tough.
Have you talked to Dwyane Wade?
D-Wade and I have a mutual friend. He is really close to both of us. So, I talked to [my mutual friend] for a hot second and we were just together two weeks ago. He hit D-Wade up and we are supposed to connect sometime soon.
Any of your former Warriors teammates text you?
Draymond [Green] texted me. Draymond and I have this funny, interesting relationship on how we view negotiations or the business of basketball or team dynamics or what team would I fit with, what team would he fit with. So, we think the same way in basketball terms. We think with a high IQ. So, when it got done [with Miami], he texted me and we had a really good laugh.
When he signed his deal, we had a really good laugh about that. When he made the All-Star team, we had a really good laugh. This, we felt, was another accomplishment in terms of getting back on the court. I’m excited for this opportunity.
What can pro athletes, in particular black athletes, take from your power move?
More than anything, especially this stage in my career, having yourself set up to make decisions on what you want to do. Not what you have to do. That more than anything. It’s not about I got a good deal out of it or I still get to play. But yes, I still got a good deal and I still get to play. But it is because I wanted to. Not because I had to. And everything I was doing when I was out was a testament to that. I still have something that I really love doing. …
It’s the same with black athletes. We don’t have an opportunity to have some of these doors that I have been able to step foot in opened for us. That’s what the Players Tech Summit is all about. I have had an opportunity to get into these [tech] doors, but I am bringing my [fellow NBA players] with me now. The fund [Catalyst Fund] that I am representing is a fund for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. We’re focusing on areas that haven’t been funded historically. It’s not about, ‘We got to make some room or place for a minority group.’ We don’t even call it that. There is great talent coming from great backgrounds. Great entrepreneurs that will have opportunities. We’re going to tap into that the same way we do any other company.
At the end of the day, it’s a business. We always say it’s a business. We all have business minds. We just have to find it. We know how to speak it in our own language. But, it’s just about coming up, figuring out how to speak it in their language and take their expertise. We always talk about generational wealth. Jay Z’s album, 4:44, was eons above people’s thought process. The whole album was about us getting together. Husbands building the kind of wealth that is going to last beyond our kids. I still listen to the album to this day.