OAKLAND -- Warriors general manager Bob Myers was still sporting his scruffy free agent beard. His eyes still told of the diligence it took to land once-All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala.
He all but gave up on the hope several times. But then he worked out a little front-office magic.
"We feel like he's the missing piece of the puzzle for this team," Myers said. "It's a thrill."
All along, Myers said, Iguodala was their guy. Yes, they chased the Dwight Howard pipe dream. No, they didn't have an abundance of salary cap space to lure Iguodala. But the entire time, they had one guy they knew could take them from last season's Cinderella to next season's contender.
And the 6-foot-6, 207-pound swingman viewed the Warriors the same way. At 29 and entering his 10th season, Iguodala said he's looking for a new level. He's ready to spend his prime in a place that can maximize what he has left.
And by the time Golden State finished off a first-round upset of the Denver Nuggets, Iguodala knew exactly the place.
"Wasn't happy that we lost," Iguodala said. "But at the same time, you saw kind of something brewing in their unit. And their core guys are still really young. ... That core is only going to get better and I could see them growing and they're going to be scary. ... I've been through a lot of playoffs series and I've been in big games in the world championships and been able to play alongside some of the best players in the world at the Olympics. Being able to add that piece to this team ... is going to be great."
In many ways, Iguodala is perfect for the Warriors.
The fit is obvious on the court. Iguodala is an elite defender who automatically upgrades the Warriors on that end of the court. And though his scoring has dropped over the last three years, he figures to play a big role on offense.
Since his days at Arizona, Iguodala has been an effective facilitator. He has the ball handling, court vision and speed to create offense off the dribble, with the athleticism to create mismatches and finish with authority.
With Jarrett Jack -- last year's trusty backup guard who was the floor general down the stretch -- now in Cleveland, the Warriors will lean on those skills of Iguodala. Swapping him for Jack makes Golden State's best lineup bigger, better defensively and better at rebounding.
But it goes beyond that. Iguodala is not looking to be the face of a franchise. He had that role for most of his eight seasons in Philadelphia and managed to get out of the first round once in five playoff appearances.
That's ideal for Golden State. Here, Iguodala doesn't have to be the man all the time. Instead, he can be the versatile glue guy who makes his teammates better with his intangibles. Some games he will need to take over offensively. But perhaps for the first time in his career, he's on a team that won't put too much on his plate but also won't leave him hungry.
At his core, Iguodala is a basketball player. He's one who appreciates the beauty of the pass, the challenge of defending, and the harmony of teamwork. The Warriors surround him with talent and yet gives him multiple tasks to keep him busy.
"This is going to be a great place for him to do all the things he does best," Myers said. "This is a place where he's got a lot of weapons around him for a playmaker. I think this is a place he can flourish. Obviously, I'm biased. But I think even if you ask him ... He's been around, he's seen different teams, he's had different coaches. He looked at this as a place where he can flourish and excel."
Another reason he was a good fit for the Warriors: Clearly, with Iguodala, it wasn't just about the money.
He opted out of a contract with one year and $16 million left on it to become a free agent. Then he turned down bigger offers from Sacramento and Denver. He balked at the Kings' reported four-year, $52 million offer even before Golden State's $48 million offer looked possible.
For a team with no salary cap space and up against the cap, his willingness to take less money kept the Warriors alive for one of the most coveted free agents on the market.
But that also pointed to the unselfishness Iguodala is known for, which is the kind of attribute that made the Warriors work last season. The Warriors are a sucker for the humble, professional, good-guy type in their locker room. Now they have another one.
"From my experience with him, he's a really low key guy who works hard," said point guard Stephen Curry, who spent most of his time with Iguodala on Team USA in the summer of 2010.
"He's not high maintenance or anything. Doesn't have an ego. That's pretty much the makeup of our locker room. He can be a vocal guy, a guy that can check somebody but be respectful about it. He fits that accountability style we're going for."
From Iguodala's perspective, basketball wasn't the only reason Golden State was a fit. He professes to be a family man, a man of faith. He said he was attracted to the Warriors' chemistry and the spiritual bond they share. He said it mattered to him that the Warriors have a fan base arguably unrivaled in the NBA.
And, to be sure, Iguodala has his eye on the bay area's business possibilities.
"I talked to Joe (Lacob) extensively about the business side and the market and the Silicon Valley area," said Iguodala, who interned with a Merrill Lynch venture capitalist during the 2011 NBA lockout. Iguodala said he sought advice from coach Mark Jackson -- who he said he once recruited to coach in Philadelphia. Iguodala said he's felt like he's been stuck the last couple seasons.
His tenure with the 76ers soured. Denver didn't fit. So Iguodala asked Jackson a question.
"How do I put a stamp on the foundation of the career I've built?"
They had the same answer. That's why he's a Warrior.
monte Poole online
Warriors general manager Bob Myers has cooled the hottest seat in Bay Area sports. Read more at www.mercurynews.com/sports.