The redemption of Wiggins: rejected by LeBron, now gives the match point to the Warriors

First choice 2014, but James rejected it. After dull years, he stopped Morant, Doncic and Tatum in the playoffs. The 26 points of race-5 the icing on the cake

The secret ingredient of the Golden State title is Andrew Wiggins’ shy smile, the surprise of those who, having tasted the biggest stage the NBA has to offer for the first time, have discovered that it feels so good it can make the difference. “His story is a reminder of how much your surroundings matter in the NBA, of how important it is to be in the right situation with the right teammates,” said Steve Kerr of the 27-year-old Canadian. Wiggins at Golden State is so well placed that, after being branded in Minnesota as a wasted first pick, he’s helping to make a difference in the Finals. Seeing Game-5 is believing: he was the best in the field, signing the Warriors 104-94 with 26 points, 13 rebounds and an extraordinary defense. Wiggins dragged the team that regenerated him to a 3-2 win against the Celtics, with the Larry O’Brien Trophy to be won tomorrow night in Game-6 in Boston.

The Chase Center show is the icing on the cake of extraordinary playoffs for Wiggins. From the first series with Denver to these Finals, the shy and reserved Canadian has been a continuous crescendo, in a red thread that has led him to defend over Ja Morant and Luka Doncic, now to help guard Jayson Tatum, the number 1 public peril for Boston. Son of art, raised in the Toronto that at the beginning of the 2000s went crazy for Vince Carter and fell in love with basketball, Wiggins landed in the NBA in 2014 from Kansas with the pressure of the absolute first choice. He had called him Cleveland, to work with David Blatt and Kyrie Irving on a young and prospective team. Then LeBron James decided to return to his Ohio and Wiggins, even before putting on the Cavs shirt, was packed and shipped to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love: King James wanted someone ready to win immediately and the then 19 year old Wiggins, An absolute rookie, he was certainly not the right man to give him a hand immediately.

In Minneapolis, Wiggins has discovered his limits: he is not a leader, one to put the pressure of an entire franchise on. He left without too many regrets in February 2020, just over a month before the NBA closed for Covid: Golden State, in the middle of its first transitional season after the 5 consecutive Finals, had seen something in him. “I still remember what they said about him when he arrived, that for us he would have been another pawn to use on the market – says Draymond Green -. I, on the other hand, had spoken to Tom Thibodeau, who had trained him in Minnesota: he had told me that would have been perfect for us. ” Thibodeau had seen it right: deprived of the pressure of being the franchise man, constantly in the limelight where a shy and reserved one like him struggles to stay, Wiggins has shown that that first choice spent for him in 2014 was not thrown away. And that Golden State is the right place for him, so much so that this year he was titular at the All Star Game, which in these Finals is proving to be the secret ingredient of Golden State’s success, so much so that in the corridors of Chase Center is starting to rumor that there is not only Steph Curry in contention for the MVP award of the Finals. “We had no idea that he would have given this kind of contribution, that it would have been so decisive. But it is clear that it was what we needed” if coach Kerr pampers him.

Secret ingredient

Wiggins is a winger who at Golden State has learned to be an elite defender without forgetting how to score. He’s helping to limit Tatum, the Celtics’ number 1 public peril, yet he’s averaging 18.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. “When I arrived here I was only concerned with playing basketball, working – says Wiggins, trying to overcome shyness and take the limelight -. Here at the Warriors I found many excellent people, an intelligent group that constantly spurs you on to improve. They want you to succeed, they put you in a position to get it. They bring out the best in you. ” Wiggins in Golden State has found the right environment to blossom. He leaves the spotlight on Curry, Green and Thompson and he works behind the scenes, focusing only on basketball – all of this work is making a difference just when he matters most. “He is showing his confidence and enjoying the playoffs, – says coach Kerr -. He loves challenge and competition, he has found his role in our team and, understanding how crucial he is for us, how much we need him, he is playing in a fantastic way. Also because he found the right veterans to lead him. ” Like Green, the defense leader who constantly urges him to be better.

“Before every match he reminds me that the team needs me, tells me what I need to do – says Wiggins -. It helps me a lot because I love the challenge, I love the competition, I love defending against the best opponent player. : I know it helps us win and that’s what I want to keep doing “. Wiggins had never tasted the Finals but he says he remembers well those of 2019, the ones in which he cheered Raptors against the Warriors. The team that is now helping to win the title: “I would say that the fact that I am here, on the other side, closes the circle”. Even the personal one of Wiggins: he is no longer the first wasted choice, the little boy that LeBron James rejected, the one who in Minnesota was crushed by the pressure. He is Golden State’s secret ingredient in the title race. To close it, a victory is missing: Wiggins is ready again to do whatever it takes to get it.

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