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Warriors won’t have Iguodala to help defend against LeBron

James: ‘He has very, very quick hands. That doesn’t get talked about a lot’

OAKLAND, California – The NBA Finals start Thursday night without one of its former MVPs in Andre Iguodala. But don’t expect the injured Golden State Warriors forward to gaze upon his two championship rings and MVP trophy to make him feel better, since he is not consumed by his hardware.

“I think I saw [the MVP trophy] once when we moved,” Iguodala told The Undefeated. “I think it’s in the corner of a spare bedroom. But I don’t have my trophies, so I don’t know where a lot of that stuff is. My mom has a bunch of them. I don’t even know where my rings are. I swear.”

The Warriors are certainly swearing about their misfortune of not having Iguodala in the Finals opener due to a left leg contusion and left knee bone bruise.

Iguodala is slated to miss his fifth-straight playoff game. He suffered the injury after colliding with Houston Rockets guard James Harden during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on May 20 and didn’t think it was this serious initially. The Warriors said on Wednesday that Iguodala is progressing, but the pain from the bone bruise persists, as well as nerve inflammation in his left knee.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pounder will be re-evaluated before Game 2 on Sunday. While Iguodala said he is “not too far away” from returning, he didn’t offer a tentative return date and said he has had “some really good days” and “really bad days.”

“Just trying to figure how to just move in general,” Iguodala said after the Warriors’ practice at Oracle Arena on Wednesday. “But we are making progress slower than expected. If you’re just being realistic about what it is, it would be this time, if not longer, in a different scenario.”

For the fourth straight year the NBA Finals will be a matchup of NBA star LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Warriors. Iguodala earned MVP honors during the 2015 NBA Finals due to his tough defense on James as well as his offensive production.

Iguodala averaged nine points, 3.5 rebounds, three assists and one steal in 24.5 minutes per game off the bench in two games against the Cavaliers in the regular season.

James offered strong respect for Iguodala before the Cavs practiced at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.

“He has very, very quick hands,” James said. “That doesn’t get talked about a lot. His ability to react to the ball either in the flight or while you’re dribbling or while you pick the ball up. But at the end of the day, his athleticism allows him to play some of the premier perimeter players in our league.

“He’s a guy that’s 6-8, long wingspan, athletic. He’s been like that since he was at Arizona. He’s just added to his game every single season he’s been in the NBA.”

Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) addresses the reporters during NBA Finals media day at Oracle Arena.

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not Iguodala is playing in the Finals, expect James to be guarded primarily by NBA All-Star forward Kevin Durant.

According to Second Spectrum, Durant guarded James a team-high 77 times in the two meetings this season. Iguodala and Warriors All-Star forward Draymond Green were tied for second, guarding James 17 times. The three-time NBA champion made 6 of 11 field-goal attempts against Durant, 3 of 6 against Iguodala, and 1 of 4 against Green in two regular-season contests both won by the Warriors.

James was also successful on his drives to the basket against Durant, according to Second Spectrum, recording 1.5 points per direct drive on 10 drives. However, the Cavaliers averaged 1.03 points per possession when James brought the ball up the floor. While the statistics lean toward Durant likely guarding James the most, Warriors coach Steve Kerr plans to defend the three-time NBA Finals MVP by committee. James is averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and eight assists through 18 playoff games.

“We’ve got lots of guys who can take on that job,” Kerr said. “It’s a group effort, anyway, guarding LeBron. So K.D., Draymond, Klay [Thompson], Shaun Livingston, they’ll all see time on him.”

Green recently told The Undefeated: “K.D. guarded him a ton last year. Sure, I will see some of him. We will mix things up. Hopefully, we can get ’Dre back.”

Iguodala isn’t feeling down about not being able to suit up for Game 1. The introspective 34-year-old won’t allow his mind to go there because he believes it will stunt his recovery.

“You can get impatient,” Iguodala said. “There are times where you can take yourself out of a good mood or a good manner because it is taking time, which actually takes away from the healing. The mind is a powerful thing, so it is good to go through difficult situations, because once you get out of it, you learn from it. So I have learned a lot from my time being out.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.