— KNBR (@KNBR) February 9, 2020
The Warriors lost, but unlike so many of the predictable losses this season, Saturday’s 125-120 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers felt different.
Thoroughly drubbed in the form of a 13-0 run at the start of the third quarter, the Warriors, led by a group of players whose names you’d be forgiven for not knowing at the start of this season (and some of them, you’d still be forgiven for not knowing), had an interesting game with the first-place Lakers, who didn’t get to rest LeBron James or Anthony Davis until there was less than a minute on the clock.
It was immediately apparent why: the Warriors were playing the fast-paced brand of basketball they were beholden not to play with D’Angelo Russell at the helm of the offense. The Warriors and Russell were mutual captors of one another, and Andrew Wiggins, for the very legitimate flaws he has and gripes people have with his game, allowed the Warriors to get back to what they do.
Wiggins was tremendous aside from his free throw shooting, with 24 points (8-of-12, 3-of-4 from 3-pt, 5-of-9 from FT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, a block, and get this, 5 steals.
The main question for the Warriors-Wiggins symbiosis is whether the team, and specifically head coach Steve Kerr, can get the most out of him. On Saturday, with one simple directive, that was the case.
“I just said, ‘Sprint the floor both ways.’ That’s the only thing we ask, especially here in the first week without him having much knowledge of the playbook,” Kerr said. “We just got through a couple of basic actions and I just told him, ‘No matter what happens, we need you to sprint the floor.'”
— KNBR (@KNBR) February 9, 2020
That effort from Wiggins on both sides provided consistency for a late comeback push spurred on by Marqueese Chriss (26 points on 12-of-15 shooting, 9 rebounds, 1 steal), Ky Bowman (7 points on 1-of-6 shooting, career-high 11 assists, 4 turnovers) and Jordan Poole (19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 3-of-7 from 3-pt), who Kerr had the confidence in to roll with down the stretch.
Kerr said he was able to speak to Tom Thibodeau, who coached Wiggins for most of his career before being fired on January 6, 2019. It gave him an idea of the “low-maintenance” player he was bringing in.
“He’s just a very humble person. He’s excited to be here,” Kerr said. “Sometimes a change of scenery is right for a player in his career and I think the timing is right for him. He’s easy to coach, seems very, very low-maintenance. Had a chance to visit with Tom Thibodeau, he’s here right now. He had already planned a trip in to watch us practice the next few days. Talked to Thibs pre-game and he said he loved Andrew, loved coaching Andrew. And I can see why. Really low-maintenance and really good guy, good teammate and everybody enjoyed playing with him.”
Wiggins described the experience of the trade as surreal.
“This whole thing didn’t really feel real until they announced my name,” Wiggins said. “It was just like, ‘Woah. I’m here.’ Just seeing the crowd and seeing everyone excited for me and embracing me as one of their own, it’s a great feeling.”