He giveth, he taketh away
I too have seen it. Even before THC's less-is-more bombshell below, I'd been planning to tell the world how I feel about Igudola. He's defensive stopper of Artest-like proportions, an all-out hustle guy who holds things together on either end of the court, a deadly finisher that can raise the roof and ignite a run, and less and less afraid with taking big shots. In short, just the kind of player you need in the playoffs.
I'll take it a step further: he's the key to the Eastern Conference playoffs. Webber or no Webber, with Iguodala stepping up and becoming the man he should be, the Sixers could very well be Nuggets East. Korver has game-winner written all over him, Jackson continues to impress, Dalembert is a seven-foot dynamo in a conference in which height still matters. But with Iguodala liable to explode or shut down the other team's best scorer on cue, it's not just a matter of how much the Sixers can put together on paper--they've now got what it takes to actually get under even Miami's skin, play over their heads, find that next gear when things get seriously competitive. Iverson's always had it, but he's never had anyone who can match his intensity. Iggy not only complements AI, he turns that whole team into a momentum swing waiting to happen. Unlike the Answer, he's not the kind of player that you shake your head at in disbelief. He's more like Artest himself, inspiring everyone by letting their team effort inspire him.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite; Eddy Curry could have been the most important player in the playoffs, but instead his absence could very well spell the end of the Bulls' miracle season. As deep and balanced as that team is, there's no replacing a hyper-athletic, seven-foot beast who can score at will in the post and gets in position like it's no thing. Say what you will about Curry--lazy on defense, can't rebound, has the kind of personality that might not even register the heightened circumstances of the postseason. But he's maybe the only person in the league capable of matching up with Shaq one-on-one, holding his ground on defense and willing to take it to him on offense. And don't tell me that, with the game on the line in a half-court tempo, Curry couldn't single-handedly take things over and deliver a victory. Gordon's fourth quarters have become the Bulls' signature offensive weapon, but over a seven-game series, Curry in the paint could guarantee you three or four consecutive baskets without having to rely on magic and highwire creativity.
P.S. I've said before that I thought getting O'Neal back might actually disrupt the Pacers' current hot streak. I still stand by that. But if Stern lets Artest out of the doghouse, that team finds a whole new sense of purpose—and believe me, they shall be avenged.