Andre Iguodala…Transformative…?

I’m not bitter by Andre leaving the Nuggets. He had all the right to leave. He turned down more money. He wanted to play with players he liked and a coach that appreciated his talents. He was a free agent and he was traded to the Nuggets. He did not sign here under his own accord. But…there a few things that I can’t stop thinking about in the weeks that have gone by…

As we’ve heard in the media, he participated in Chapel with the Warriors players during the playoffs and it doesn’t take a blind man to see that he was the narc in the Curry-Gate drama. Iguodala didn’t quit on the Nuggets, in fact, he played the best ball of the year in that series. I knew, though, from the time I saw him chumming around with Mark Jackson that his time with the Nuggets was limited. You can’t force a player to play somewhere he doesn’t want to be and isn’t contractually obligated to be.

I hope the Warriors understand what exactly they are getting though. While Iggy was mere hours away from joining the Mavs he always wanted to play with the Warriors. I can see that a few things here were true: 1. He didn’t want to play for the Nuggets (boo hoo), 2. He wanted the money over the location.

Warriors fans are pumped. They should be after all. ESPN and other networks have led them to  believe that Iggy is a star…a superstar even. You SHOULD always listed to ESPN and SHOULD always watch SportsCenter every morning…

Iggy’s PPG the last 6 years has gone from 19.9 to 13…his PER (player efficiency rating) has dropped from 18.8 to 15.2. His steals have gone down and assists and rebounds have stayed relatively similar. Field Goal % has gone up and down, three point % has done the same (Iggy is an awful shooter but is streaky as he showed in the playoffs)…The most telling sign of his decline as a scorer and “transformative” player would be his Free Throw % dropping from 72% to the AWFUL 57.5 % that it was last year. Teams can’t rely on a 57% free throw shooter in the playoffs (Iggy will be on the bench more often than not in crunch time minutes).

But I get the he “fits” in with the Warriors. They have young shooters. They run a fast-paced offense that gets “up and down the court.” Iggy is going to cause a few problems but the worst problem of all is who he will send to the bench. If I am a Warriors fan (and I’ve been a Nuggets fan my whole life) I am worried about sitting Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in favor of someone who can’t shoot (because they both can). Do they move to a “Stretch 4” with Barnes starting at Power Forward…I can’t see this being a fit. Iggy’s defensive skills have also been greatly exaggerated. He’s a great help defender and he’s long enough to clog the passing lanes but an on-ball defender he is not anymore. Providing advanced statistics and video footage would be pointless…the Warriors will be on TNT and ESPN enough this year, just watch them.

The Nuggets finally avoided a headache in Free Agency (see past headaches Nene and Arron Afflalo) and did not have to pay market price for a player that they did not want. 57 wins is a long way off and ALL Nuggets fans should be patient with this team. Between Evan Fournier, Erick Green and Jordan Hamilton we have young talent that can help contribute and grow. Brian Shaw turned Lance Stevenson into a serviceable player and he’s a lunatic unstable. The Nuggets have been on everyone’s “least improved list” this summer and it is probably warranted for now. However, this must be taken in context. Were the Nuggets automatic contenders with Iggy? Was he the ‘transformative’ player that would have made the difference? The Nuggets weren’t going to win a title with Iggy and we’re better off without him.

Spending $14 million per year for a 33 year old who can’t shoot or play perimeter D anymore is a risk that I am glad that the Nuggets don’t have to take.

Journey to the Top

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I need to preface this blog with a few statements:

1. I lived in Colorado for 17 years and never hiked a 14’er…or went on a hike longer than 4 miles

2. I don’t like doing anything in which the end result could be my imminent death

3. If it weren’t for moving to California, I might have never challenged myself physically as much as I have in the past 6 months

Nikki and I had made a “Things to do before we turn 30” bucket list…one of those items was to hike Half Dome in Yosemite. Up until two weekends ago we had never gone to Yosemite Valley, I had only seen Half Dome in photos and hadn’t bothered looking into what all it took to hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome. I guess I imagined it to be like a normal hike but with some technical aspects. Viewing Half Dome for the first time immediately changed my view of its difficulty (watching an instructional ‘scare tactics’ video produced by Yosemite did the trick to F with me).

I did my due diligence the night before and purchased new trail running shoes (needed more grip, worked great), batteries and energy gels (love energy gels). Our group (Steve Borland, Josh Phanco, Mike Rizzotti and two of Mike’s friends) departed at 4am day of and got to the trailhead by 6:15am. We understood that the trip would be 14-16 miles and take 10-12 hours. Hiking up the Mist Trail on the way up was excellent. Climbing right next to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls provided a great start to the hike, albeit steep.

We all powered through the flat hike through Little Yosemite Valley and up to the shoulder of Half Dome. Straight up the shoulder was the “hardest part of the hike.” Switchbacks carved into the granite was the last hurdle before the cables and Half Dome. Coming to grips with personal mortality, Steve and I went right to the cables, put our gloves on and said “What the (Heck).” I didn’t look anywhere but the rock right in front of me and after only 10/15 minutes made it to the top for lunch, brotherhood and some of the best views I have ever experienced. After an hour at the top we made out way down…coming down ended up being much easier than I thought but being on “flat ground” was still a huge relief.

All-in-all we spend 9.5 hours on the trail and hiked 16.4 miles…Yosemite is one of a kind but when you can experience the park by foot it becomes something larger than life. Even a 4 mile round trip hike to Nevada Falls would be something special.

I can’t say that Yosemite was a completely physical accomplishment for me as it was just as much spiritual. I was not lucky enough to meet my grandfather on my mom’s side. He and my Uncle Michael never agreed on church/god/spirituality. Michael told me a story years ago when I was visiting him in California about the last trip that his dad took to visit him. They went to Yosemite and did a day hike that put them on a place overlooking the Yosemite Valley. It was at this time that my grandfather and Michael had their spiritual awakening. Something along the lines of “I understand what you have meant all these years…If you can’t see God’s work here, you can’t see it anywhere” was said and a mutual understanding was finally achieved. I never met my grandfather but I felt like he was there with me at every turn. I needed that and I needed the awareness that something larger than me was at work. I would challenge anyone who does this hike to feel anything differently.

I can’t wait to hike Half Dome again and hope to bring Nikki with me to share in the experience.

We’re headed home in a few days and can’t wait to see family and friends again. We are super pumped for B and Sarah and their wedding, we are very excited to spend time with family but we won’t lie at how excited we are to escape 110 degrees and the Fresno inferno.

Ben