OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are a team that the most sought-after free agents have avoided for most of the last two decades, nothing more than loveable losers with a faithful following and an ambiguous name on the NBA map.
Maybe no more.
Owner Joe Lacob, general manager Bob Myers, assistant GM Kirk Lacob and coach Mark Jackson already had started the process of turning around the futile franchise with last season's playoff run. The foursome saw the latest evolution when they met with free agent Andre Iguodala and his agent, Rob Pelinka, in his Los Angeles office on July 1 — the first day of free agency.
"Before we could say too much, he was telling us how much he admired our team, he admired our coach and our players," Myers said. "We said, 'Do we have to sell you on anything?"' He said, 'Look, I feel like this is the place I want to play.' That moment was a transformative moment for our franchise."
That new perception is finally reality.
The Warriors introduced Iguodala at the team's downtown Oakland headquarters Thursday, nearly a week after he agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal despite more lucrative offers. Golden State believes Iguodala's arrival puts the franchise on new footing, going from a stopping point for middling free agents to a desirable destination among the NBA's most prized players.
Iguodala said he wanted to come to the Bay Area because he can connect with the franchise's vision. He got a glimpse of that last season when the Warriors knocked out his Denver team in the first round of the playoffs.
The experience left Iguodala wanting to play with "smart big men" such as Andrew Bogut and David Lee, promising rookie Harrison Barnes and sharpshooters Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, whom he jokingly said is "like the second coming of Jesus Christ. He's like the most loved man on earth right now."
"I think they were missing one piece," Iguodala said. "And hopefully I can be that piece to get that team to where we all want to be, which is to try and win a championship."
Just the process of bringing Iguodala to Golden State showed the commitment from both sides.
The Warriors entered free agency with little wiggle room. Keeping their own free agents — Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, who inked deals with Cleveland and Sacramento, respectively — seemed improbable. Signing top-tier talent? Almost laughable.
Pelinka, who worked alongside Myers for years as an agent, approached the Warriors about Iguodala. At first, Myers never thought the Warriors could make a deal happen.
"He was looking at a team that was financially strapped with arguably no way to get him and saying, 'I'd like to come play for you,"' Myers said. "And that motivated us as an organization."
After days of back-and-fourth phone calls, text messages and meetings, doubt started to creep in for both sides.
Iguodala also had other offers to consider, and some started to evaporate. The Sacramento Kings pulled a four-year, $52 million deal off the table. Denver made him a frontloaded five-year, $60 million offer, and the Dallas Mavericks also got into the mix.