SAN FRANCISCO — Coming out of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors star Andrew Wiggins was seen in a new light with the way he dug deep defensively and dominating the glass to help his team to tie the series at 2-2.
The lean, athletic forward recorded 17 points, had a career-high 16 crucial rebounds, had a plus-minus 20 starting unit and held Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum to 23 points on 23 attempts. shot. His desire to win and compete showed in his 43 minutes on Friday.
There was a period during his six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves when his competitive spirit was called into question. Wiggins possessed athleticism, a quick first step and the ability to handle the ball at 6ft 8in, but he failed to become a star, leading critics to believe he was not looking to maximize his attributes.
“I would never say that I was never competitive. I was just on a losing team [in Minnesota]”Wiggins told Yahoo Sports after practice on Sunday. “I used to score more and do pretty much everything, but now I’m on a winning team. So everything I do, people will appreciate it more and that’s what winning does. No one respects losers, and I feel that. Everyone says they want to be a winner, but not everyone can do it. People respect winners and I’m happy to be in this situation.
That “uncompetitive” tag is being dropped in Wiggins’ third season with Golden State after being traded there in 2020. There is evidence from his rookie season that supports his claim that he always wore a competitive fire.
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Wiggins with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. And shortly after, LeBron James caused a stir when news broke that he was returning to Cleveland after spending the past four years guiding the Miami Heat to two titles.
From there, Wiggins’ fate was unknown as management suddenly had to quickly build a championship roster around James.
It was a tricky time for Wiggins that lasted nearly two months knowing he would likely never play a game for the team that drafted him.
“It was a tough time,” Wiggins told Yahoo Sports. “I can not lie.”
In a successful three-team trade in late August, the package’s two headliners saw Wiggins sent to Minnesota in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love.
And in both games against Cleveland this season, the eventual rookie of the year made sure the Cavaliers remembered why they took him with the first overall pick.
In their first meeting in late December, Wiggins drove in 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting in a losing effort at Cleveland. At the time, it was his second best production.
The last meeting of the season took place at the end of January. Minnesota lost again, but Wiggins broke for a career-high 33 on 14 of 25 from the field in 43 minutes.
“I definitely have them circled on the schedule,” Wiggins told Yahoo Sports. “I knew exactly when they were coming, that’s for sure. I was ready.”
A year later, in their third fight, Wiggins upped the ante by setting a career-high 35 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Wiggins and the Timberwolves would not beat the Cavaliers until his fourth season in the league. , but the young star made his point.
“I wanted to show them what they were missing, show them that I’m doing better here. That was my mindset back then,” Wiggins told Yahoo Sports. “It was always fun and competitive to play against a team that traded you. It wasn’t an easy experience, but I feel like that’s what kept me motivated and competitive.
The Cavaliers secured a title from the trio of James, Love and Kyrie Irving in their second season together after upsetting the Warriors in historic measures by overcoming a 3-1 Finals deficit in 2016.
Wiggins said he understands the route the Cavaliers took to surround James with established veterans and has no hard feelings.
But he wants to set the record straight.
“I’ve always been a competitor and I wanted to win. It should never have been questioned,” he told Yahoo Sports.