Andrew Wiggins

Warriors Notes: Curry, Wiggins, Green, Looney

Stephen Curry returned to the Warriors‘ lineup on Thursday night after missing more than four months due to a broken left hand. And while they couldn’t pick up a home win vs. the Raptors, the Dubs gave the defending champions all they could handle and looked like they were having more fun with their superstar back on the court.

Andrew Wiggins, who was acquired by Golden State a month ago in a deadline trade with Minnesota, was on the court whenever Curry was on Thursday, with head coach Steve Kerr aiming to establish some chemistry between the new teammates. As Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays, Wiggins expressed enthusiasm after the game about playing alongside Curry for the first time.

“He makes everyone great,” Wiggins said of the two-time MVP. “He makes everyone play better. He finds open men. He’s like the most unselfish superstar. That’s a good way to put it. He attracts so much attention that he’s going to find the open man, and he makes the right play, so it was fun.”

The Warriors are still an NBA-worst 14-49, but Kerr believes Curry’s return represents a turning point for the team. The veteran head coach, who said that Curry felt good after playing 27 minutes and will get his minutes ramped up going forward (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic), added that he expects to feel a “sense of energy and enthusiasm” in Golden State for the rest of the season.

“To me, this is sort of the beginning of next season in a lot of ways; and I think we’re all starting to get some clarity as far as what our team’s gonna look like,” Kerr said, per Friedell. “And having Steph back is, obviously, a huge, huge part of that now. The next step will be getting Klay (Thompson) back, but that won’t be till next season. But I think these last 20 games are really going to be a springboard into next year, so I think that energy will be high and remain high.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Draymond Green missed his fourth consecutive game with knee soreness on Thursday, but an MRI showed no structural damage, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “I know he would’ve loved to have played tonight, but the training staff just doesn’t feel comfortable putting him out there yet,” Kerr said. “We’re hoping that in the next couple of days it’s something that clears up.”
  • While it sounds like Green should be back soon, that may not be the case for another injured big man, Kevon Looney. He has missed three straight games with hip soreness, an injury Kerr referred to as “a concern,” per Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Warriors expect to have a more concrete update on Looney later today.
  • After a month with the Warriors, Wiggins said on Thursday that he feels “right at home” with his new team, according to Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. “It’s all been positive here. Just learning how they do things and what it’s like to be a part of a winning culture,” Wiggins said. “I feel like it was time for a change and this is the best fit that could have happened for me, so I’m happy.”
  • Wiggins hasn’t confirmed one way or the other whether he intends to suit up for Team Canada during the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament this June. However, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse – who is coaching Canada’s national team – is optimistic that the Warriors forward will participate, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca relays (via Twitter).

Curry Scrimmages, Confirms March 1 As Target Date To Return

Stephen Curry has cleared another hurdle in his quest to return to action March 1, relays Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Team doctors cleared Curry for full contact and he participated in his first scrimmage today since breaking his left hand in late October.

Speaking with reporters afterward, the Warriors guard confirmed that he has set next Sunday as his target date to return to action. Although he will need another positive week of rehab to make that happen, all indications are that the healing process is nearly complete.

Curry explained the details of the injury, which involved nerve damage in addition to the break. That’s why his recovery time will be about four months, rather than the usual two when a clean break happens.

“This was a serious one that had a lot of nuances to it with the two surgeries and the nerve damage and stuff I’m still dealing with,” he said. “Everything is new. If it was an ankle thing, I’d tell you everything every step of the way.”

Curry also shared his memories of the play, which happened when Suns center Aron Baynes tried to take a charge on a drive to the basket. Both players fell to the court and Baynes landed directly on top of Curry’s hand, causing the damage. Because Curry is right-handed, the injury shouldn’t affect his shooting, but Slater notes that much of his game is based on the ability to dribble, pass and make layups with either hand.

“I’m getting used to what the new normal is,” Curry said of the recovery process. “It definitely feels different than the right (hand). But you try to get to the point when you’re playing basketball, you don’t think about it — whether it feels all the way same or not, it doesn’t really matter, as long as I’m not worried about the things I’m trying to do, the strength part of it and how it bounces back the next day after pushing it in contact stuff. … Anybody who has had surgery knows it takes a long time to get back to true normal. Functionally speaking, where I’m not out there on the court thinking about it, that’s where I’m trying to get it to.”

With Klay Thompson already sidelined with a torn ACL, Curry’s injury eliminated any chance the Warriors may have had to reach the playoffs. Golden State is focused on returning to title contention next season, and Curry believes the team added an important piece in the deadline deal that brought Andrew Wiggins from the Timberwolves.

“I’ve been watching and seeing what he’s capable of on a nightly basis,” Curry said. “He’s a walking 20 points. The intangibles he can bring, in terms of speed, cutting, length on defense, all those things, will be a fun process to build that chemistry. This is a 15-month journey to spring next year.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Wiggins, Kings

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says his longtime team is “playing the best out of anybody” in the Western Conference right now, but acknowledges that the Clippers may have the deepest roster of the two Los Angeles teams, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

“If you look at man-for-man, (the Clippers are) probably better than (the Lakers) in terms of the bench,” said Johnson, who predicted the two L.A. clubs would meet in the Western Finals. “… Anthony Davis and LeBron James, to me they are going to be the key and they are going to have to dominate in that series. Then we’re going to need that third scorer (to step up).”

While the Clippers have solidified their rotation by trading for Marcus Morris and reaching a deal to sign Reggie Jackson, the Lakers have been quiet this month. They’re still monitoring the buyout market as they consider how to improve their title chances, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Assuming the Clippers finalize their reported deal with Jackson today, they’ll still be $767,620 below the tax line, giving them enough breathing room to remain below that threshold even if and when they sign a 15th man, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
  • Andrew Wiggins has yet to evolve into the sort of lock-down defender that many talent evaluators believed he could become out of college, but Draymond Green is confident that the newly-acquired Warriors forward can still reach that level, Slater writes for The Athletic. “I think he can be an All-Defensive player. That’s one of my goals for him,” Green said of his new teammate. “As a leader of this team, that’s one of the things I really want to push him on.”
  • In his latest mailbag for The Sacramento Bee, Jason Anderson answers questions related to Vlade Divac‘s future, Marvin Bagley III‘s health, and possible roles for Alex Len and Jabari Parker. Anderson doesn’t believe Divac’s job will be in jeopardy this spring, but says the GM’s seat could get hot next season if the Kings are healthier and still don’t take a significant step forward.

California Notes: Wiggins, PG-13, Kings, Lakers

New Warriors wing Andrew Wiggins, the centerpiece of a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota, is off to an excellent start with his new team, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, is a reclamation project in what amounts to a redshirt year for Golden State.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is grateful to have part of a season to develop Wiggins in the 12-43 Warriors’ motion offense before Golden State’s Big Three of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is fully reinstated next fall.

“He’s a great weapon to have, and we’re still learning how to use him,” Kerr said of Wiggins. “We’re going to experiment with some things the last couple months of the season.” The 12-43 Warriors have ruled Thompson out for the entirety of the 2019/20 season.

There’s more out of California:

  • After Clippers star forward Paul George critiqued a disparity of foul calls favoring the home Sixers in a 110-103 Philadelphia victory as ”home-court cooking,” the NBA fined George $35,000 on Thursday, as NBA.com details.
  • Several factors will determine how the Kings close out the stretch run to what has been disappointing season, according to James Han of NBC Sports California. The development of core Kings players De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes is a crucial element.
  • The 41-12 Lakers boast the best odds in the Western Conference (+180) to win the NBA title, per Caesars Sportsbook, writes David Purdum of ESPN. Los Angeles has a four-game lead on No. 2-seeded Denver (38-17) for the best record in the West.

Timberwolves Owner Talks Saunders, D-Lo, Wiggins

Although Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is responsible for making roster decisions in Minnesota, any trade requires the approval of owner Glen Taylor. As such, Taylor was very involved in basketball decisions at this year’s trade deadline, when the Wolves traded away half their roster in a series of major deals.

In a conversation with Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune, Taylor said that he and Rosas “talk quite often” and that the team had spent much of the season preparing for moves like the one that sent Robert Covington to Houston and especially the one that saw D’Angelo Russell land in Minnesota.

Taylor said he’s “excited” to have acquired so many promising young players that are in the same age range as Karl-Anthony Towns, suggesting that the team’s hope is for those players to continue to improve and grow together.

Taylor’s conversation with Hartman included a handful of other noteworthy comments, including the Wolves owner’s thoughts on head coach Ryan Saunders‘ job security, trading former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, and more. Here are a few of the highlights:

On whether he has considered replacing Saunders during the Timberwolves’ current 6-29 stretch:

“No, no, no, he is hired. A young guy and he is going to get better as time goes on and we just have to give him that time.

“[Saunders] is excited about this change that now he has guys that can play the kind of basketball he wants. He is really a believer in the three-point shot, moving the ball fast, and getting up and down the court. He needed some players that were better three-point shooters than what we had previously.”

On the front office continuing to push for Russell after completing its Covington trade:

“They kept working on Russell, that was the main thing that they wanted to accomplish. They were able to do that and get two young guys out of Denver (Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez) that were part of our hopes for the future. It just dragged on — these things are difficult — almost to the last few hours before everything fell into place. But it was very interesting to me that normally if part of this would have fell into place, we would have been happy. But in this particular case, everything went our way. We think we have helped our team and we have probably helped some other teams. It is probably a win-win.”

On Wiggins becoming easier to move this season than he was last summer:

“I don’t think there was any secret to that. Andrew worked really hard. He didn’t have the best year last year, and we worked really hard with him this summer to improve and I think we saw some improvements. That allowed us to have the chance to make a trade this year where last year I don’t think it was there with any team.”

“… I think [Warriors head coach] Steve Kerr said it exactly right, this should be a win-win. Us getting Russell should really help us and them getting Wiggins on their team should really help them. Wiggins won’t be expected to be the main scorer. He can fit in with their team. I’m hopeful it works out for him, and I’m confident it will work out with Russell on our team.”

Lacob Talks Wiggins Trade, Tax, Warriors’ Outlook

In the days and weeks leading up to last week’s trade deadline, there was some skepticism that the Warriors would actually trade D’Angelo Russell. Even though the point guard didn’t necessarily look like a long-term fit in Golden State, it seemed likely that the club would want to wait at least until the offseason to fully weigh the trade market for Russell. That would have given him a chance to play alongside Stephen Curry, who is aiming to return from his hand injury in March.

However, the Warriors decided to act sooner rather than later, sending Russell to the Timberwolves for a package that included Andrew Wiggins, a first-round pick, and an opportunity to get out of luxury-tax territory this season. Speaking to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic about the deal, Warriors owner Joe Lacob suggested the club didn’t think it could’ve done better if it waited until the summer.

“We got what we wanted,” Lacob said. “I think if I would’ve bet before the trade deadline, I probably would’ve said we would’ve re-evaluated in the summer, gone through the whole year. But we were fortunate. We got what we wanted, and we did it.”

Lacob offered up a few more interesting comments about the trade and the Warriors’ plans going forward. If you have an Athletic subscription, the conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights:

On the deal being a win/win for the Warriors and Timberwolves:

“Anybody who can’t see that this is a great deal for us, I don’t know what they’re thinking. You can sit and talk about what his salary is, but (Wiggins) had the same salary as D-Lo. They’re both good players. They’re different players. You can question whether this is a better fit; we think it is, as much as I liked D-Lo. He’s a really good player. And I think it’s good for him, too. So it’s a fair, good thing for both teams.”

On why the Warriors wanted to get below the tax line this season:

“Here’s the deal: When you are competing for a championship, I’ve always said we’re going to pay the tax. … But when you’re not winning this year and you’ve got … as good as those players were for us, they’re (expiring contracts after this season), it just didn’t make sense. So I think getting out of the tax so we could get out of the repeater (tax) next year … it’s not about the money. It’s more about the opportunity this summer to flush out our roster that’s the best possible roster for next year.”

On whether the Warriors will be willing to use their mid-level exception and $17MM+ trade exception in the summer, increasing payroll well beyond the tax threshold:

“Yes, I’m talking about mid-level exception, I’m talking about trade exception, any of the possibilities. Doesn’t mean we will, doesn’t mean we’ll be able to, but we have the opportunity, we have the chance to do that now.

“… It’s going to be the highest payroll we’ve ever had next year. We know that. The question is how high. If there’s a trade-exception (deal) that we really want, that’s worth it, let’s consider it. Mid-level exception? Very likely to use. The first pick in the draft, if we were to get that? With luxury tax, (that contract would be) huge.

“Really, the emphasis is on next year. The next two years, our window — Steph’s last two years under contract, before we hopefully bring him back again — we need to field the best possible team we can. That was the emphasis.”

Warriors Notes: Wiggins, Curry, Chriss, Luxury Tax

Andrew Wiggins‘ first game with the Warriors may have eased the doubts from those who wonder if he will be a good fit for the organization, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Acquired Thursday in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, Wiggins posted 24 points and five steals Saturday night. Coming to Golden State gives him a chance to change the arc of his career after five-and-a-half seasons with the Timberwolves.

“We lost a lot in Minnesota,” Wiggins said. “So coming here, being part of a winning culture, it’s different. Losing’s never fun. Being here, you can tell by everyone’s attitude, everyone’s approach, everything that’s everywhere, they’re winners. That’s something I’ve wanted to be my whole career.”

Slater points out that one of the benefits of making the Russell deal now instead of hoping for a better return this summer is that Wiggins has 30 games to adjust to the Warriors’ style of play. Ideally, he will evolve into a new version of Harrison Barnes, who was able to play power forward in brief stretches next to Draymond Green at center.

“A huge part of this trade is we know Andrew is a better positional fit for us than D’Angelo was,” coach Steve Kerr said. “… To be able to get a valuable wing player is not easy. There’s very few of them in the draft according to scouts and very few of them available in free agency. Wings are hard to come by. Just by bringing in a positional fit, a guy who has a lot of talent, I think the move makes sense.”

There’s more Warriors news this morning:

  • Stephen Curry confirmed on last night’s broadcast that he’s targeting the first week of March to return from his broken hand (video from NBA.com). Curry played just four games before suffering the injury in late October. He called his rehab “a work in progress.”
  • Marquese Chriss gave himself flexibility by signing for two years rather than three, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Chris will be just 24 years old when he becomes a free agent in 2021.
  • After reshaping the roster at the trade deadline, general manager Bob Myers talked about the importance of getting under the luxury tax line for this season (video link from Slater). “To see the numbers of being a repeater the level we would’ve been, the numbers got pretty high,” Myers said. “If we would’ve drafted in top five … the (taxpayer mid-level exception) … the traded player exception, all of a sudden you’re talking high 200 (millions).”

Andrew Wiggins To Premiere As A Warrior Tonight

Newly-acquired Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins will see his first on-court action tonight for his new squad, in an ABC home tilt against the West-leading Lakers, a source tells the Athletic’s Anthony Slater (Twitter link).

After being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick out of Kansas by the Cavaliers in 2014, Wiggins was traded to the Timberwolves in exchange for All-Star Kevin Love. Love joined fellow All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving for an Eastern Conference juggernaut that made four straight NBA Finals, winning one title in 2016.

Wiggins, meanwhile, had an up-and-down career in Minnesota. Touted as having the tools to be a high-level two-way wing, Wiggins instead was an inefficient scorer who never became the defensive wiz he was supposed to be. With a healthy Warriors squad next season, Wiggins will no longer need to be a prime offensive fulcrum.

Still just 24, Wiggins put up respectable numbers for a dismal 15-34 Timberwolves team: he boasts a slash line of 22.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG. The Warriors are no doubt hopeful that being moved to a stabler organization will help turn Wiggins into a reliable, Harrison Barnes-esque cog on what should be a loaded Golden State team in 2020/21, after All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson return to action.

Kerr On D-Lo: “Fit Was Questionable When We Signed Him”

A day after Golden State completed one of the biggest trades of the 2019/20 season, sending D’Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves, head coach Steve Kerr expressed confidence that newly-acquired forward Andrew Wiggins is in a good position to succeed the Warriors.

“Minnesota needed him to be a star,” Kerr said of Wiggins, per Drew Shiller of Warriors Outsiders (Twitter link). “And we’re not asking him to be a star. We’re asking him to play a role on a team that already has some star players.”

As Kerr explained (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic), Wiggins also figures to be a better positional fit for the Warriors than Russell once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are healthy. According to Kerr, Golden State isn’t expecting a whole lot of talented wings to be available during this year’s draft or free agent period, so the club is happy to add one like Wiggins now.

In his discussion of the trade, Kerr also acknowledged a point that many critics of the Warriors’ initial acquisition of Russell brought up last summer — D-Lo and the Dubs probably weren’t an ideal long-term match.

“To be perfectly blunt, the fit was questionable when we signed him,” Kerr said (video link via Slater). “… When you already have Steph and Klay and you add a ball-dominant guard, you can rightfully question the fit. That was one of the reasons the trade rumors started before the season even began.”

According to Kerr, even with Curry and Thompson sidelined this season, the Warriors got a “good enough look” over the first 50 games of the season to picture how Russell would fit on a fully healthy roster.

“I think you have an idea – I think we have an idea – that the other move, the other player (Wiggins) makes more sense,” Kerr said. “In this case, I would say (the fit is better) for both teams.”

Western Notes: Wiggins, Collison, Warriors

While Andrew Wiggins‘ contract, which has over $94MM left on it after this season, may seem like it is a negative mark on his trade value, that perception is no longer the reality around the league.

The Timberwolves knew they likely had to move Wiggins (for salary-matching purposes) and reached out to other teams about taking on the 24-year-old prior to agreeing to terms with the Warriors.

The former No. 1 pick has improved his value considerably since last season — part of that is him buying into the plan set forth by Minnesota’s player development staff. Wiggins is finding better looks and taking a more cerebral approach to the game this year after putting in substantial work during the offseason.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves had spoken to the Mavericks about a Wiggins deal prior to trading him to the Warriors, per a source. It’s unclear how far those talks went.
  • Former NBA wing Matt Barnes remains close with Darren Collison and says the point guard is “50/50” on returning to the league, as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols tweets. It was previously reported that if Collison returns, he’d prefer to go to the Lakers or Clippers.
  • The Warriors trading Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III caught the locker room by surprise. “So this was a blindside,” one member of the team told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Prior to the team’s matchup on Wednesday night, the front office pulled Burks and Robinson from pre-game shootaround, signaling that the duo was going to be traded.