SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew Wiggins officially returned to the Warriors on Tuesday, when the veteran small forward spoke publicly for the first time since leaving the team for personal reasons in mid-February.
Wiggins, whose absence was the result of a serious medical condition with his father, was dressed in his Warriors practice clothes while sitting next to Golden State President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers during a press conference that lasted nearly 15 minutes and preceded his team’s game against Oklahoma City. Here’s what you need to know:
- While it’s unclear when Wiggins will return to action for the reigning champions, he has made it clear that it likely won’t be long. Warriors coach Steve Kerr wouldn’t rule out a return this weekend when the Warriors play in Sacramento on Friday and in Portland on Sunday.
- Wiggins has been training while away from the team, although Kerr has indicated that he turned down the organization’s offer to help someone from the team with his fitness while he was away.
- The Warriors supported Wiggins’ choice to leave the team throughout his lengthy absence, and that sentiment was there for all to see when Myers appeared to get emotional during his press conference comments.
What Wiggins said
Wiggins shared some details about his training regimen while away from the team.
“Just getting a lot of shots, little movements here and there on the court,” said Wiggins, who is known to have been working with a personal trainer. “Running on a treadmill. Working just a little bit. Lifting. Just trying to stay as prepared as I can under the circumstances.”
Judging by the thrust of his comments, it’s clear he’s done limited cardio work and will need to step up his conditioning.
Wiggins also discussed the strong support he had from the locker room.
“It was all just love and support,” Wiggins said. “I’ve had a lot of my teammates beat me up, send their love and prayers. I just appreciate it all. It goes a long way. It’s more than just basketball. … I’m excited (to be back). I’m so excited. That’s the best part about football.” The basket is, you know, the competitive part. So I’ve been away from the game for a little while, but I’m excited to be back.”
the athleteInstant Analysis:
Timing is everything
Better late than never, the Warriors got their team back. More specifically, they have two players in Wiggins and Gary Payton II whose defensive abilities were all title-related last season. And as Wiggins showed in the Finals against Boston last season, his two-way talents are essential to this club.
Given the defensive difficulties this time around – they’re 18th in the defensive rankings after finishing third last season – his return is a huge boon for a team that has struggled in this end all season. The Warriors, who went 12-10 without Wiggins while having the 14th-ranked defensive tackle in the league during that time, has gotten better at that end lately. Wiggins’ scoring (17.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting), rebounding (five each), and making the occasional play (2.3 assists each) will certainly come in handy, too.
The question now is whether they can put these familiar pieces back together in time for the title to run. As Kerr reminded reporters in his press conference, the first priority is securing a playoff berth. Going into play against the Thunder, the sixth-place Warriors (41-38) were just half a game out of the play zone (the Lakers and Pelicans are tied for seventh).
Wiggins’ absence started the game before the All-Star break, February 14 at the Clippers. This is the first season of his career that he has lost significant time. He had already missed 20 of the first 57 matches prior to this layoff.
Wiggins, the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was an All-Star in 2022. He signed a 4-year, $109 million extension last October.
(Photo: Carrie Edmondson/USA Today)
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