We don’t know for certain that Andre Iguodala is upset that the Memphis Grizzlies still have not traded him or bought out his contract. The fact The Athletic’s David Aldridge reported on Monday that, according to league sources, Iguodala is prepared to sit the entire season if not released or traded to a team on his preference list would indicate Iguodala’s camp is, at a minimum, restless over the Grizzlies’ inaction.
We do know when Memphis acquired Iguodala in the summer as a part of the Golden State Warriors’ salary cap firesale, some sort of agreement was reached between the Grizzlies and Iguodala that would allow him to not report to Tennessee as the franchise sought a more competitive team for him in the trade market. Memphis, to our knowledge, never told Iguodala it would release him if a trade couldn’t quickly be found after the essential start of swap meet season in mid-December. In talking to reporters, Memphis held that they expected to trade the 2015 Finals MVP for a first-round pick.
Memphis was supposed to be terrible this season, building a young roster around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Instead, Memphis is pretty good — the No. 8 seed right now, as Morant looks like a near-term all-star and the roster around him fits together well. The Grizzlies have been the single biggest surprise of the season, and they currently stand to face off in the first round of the playoffs against teams most interested in Iguodala (the Lakers or Clippers).
The situation has changed. Iguodala still wants out, and Aldridge’s report sparked that conversation back up. Someone asked one of the Grizzlies’ young leaders, Dillon Brooks, about it Monday night. And Brooks said this.
Everything Dillon Brooks said about Andre Iguodala tonight. pic.twitter.com/1rDw0P2wp2— Mark Giannotto (@mgiannotto) February 4, 2020
Morant retweeted the shorter version of the Brooks’ quote with an approving emoji. And then he liked a tweet by a Memphis rapper that simply read “F—k Iguodala” -- except not censored. Morant also tweeted this at ESPN’s Rachel Nichols:
Clearly, the young Grizzlies are aggravated by the fact Iguodala is collecting a paycheck from the organization to stay away and, in some fashion, is still mad the team isn’t doing his bidding. Meanwhile, they are working their tails off for the organization, for the city, for the fans. Their aggravation at the burbling Iguodala story and at being asked about a dude most of them have probably never met is totally fair. They should be aggravated.
Iguodala’s own aggravation, assuming it exists (which we assume based on Aldridge’s report hitting at the start of trade deadline week), is understandable but not sympathy-inducing. Iguodala signed a pricey, multi-year deal with the Warriors a couple of years ago. He did not qualify for a no-trade clause. He knew this could happen, that he could be traded to a team he did not choose. (He even joked about getting traded to Memphis!) This is life in the NBA. It’s possible the toughest thing about being a well-paid NBA player: instability. Lots of players get traded every year. Iguodala has been traded before. It happens. Most players report and play, not negotiate a high-dollar sabbatical. That Iguodala was able to do so speaks to his stature, the player empowerment era’s effects, and Memphis’s low expectations for the season.
When Memphis acquired Iguodala and agreed he didn’t need to be a part of the Grizzlies, we don’t know exactly what, if any, promises were made. But we knew there was a market for Iguodala, and we knew that Memphis had no pressing need to speed up the process. They have the leverage. Iguodala doesn’t. Memphis does not appear to want him to play for the team, and the team — as in the players — are clearly over any prospect of him joining up for the stretch run.
A threat to sit out the entire season if not traded to a team on his list is not really a threat at all. It’s like a roommate who never cleans the bathroom threatening to stop cleaning the bathroom if he doesn’t get a rent break. There’s no teeth to it. It’s a fake threat. Iguodala’s camp surely knows it has little leverage, and stirring the pot is all it can really do at this point.
Consider the pot stirred. But the young Grizzlies’ reactions are probably not what Team Iguodala had in mind. One of the smartest, wisest basketball players of his generation is getting lit up by the stars of the most exciting young team in the NBA. It’s like watching an old trying to test teens on the internet. Bad idea, man. Bad idea.