Minnesota Timberwolves’ wing and highest-paid player Andrew Wiggins continued his disappointing career on Friday night and followed it up by sticking his foot in his mouth after the game.
It’s the fifth year of Andrew Wiggins’ career, and we’re now more than a third of the way through the third consecutive year of regression from the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ highest paid player.
There was a school of thought that Wiggins’ play would improve after his overbearing wing teammate was traded to Philadelphia, and it wasn’t necessarily a crazy thought.
More room to operate and more shots to go around, the thinking went. More opportunities to have ball in his hands in isolation and in pick-and-roll game. Fair enough, right?
Wrong. Andrew Wiggins is having the worst season of his NBA career, and it isn’t particularly close.
While there is theoretically time to turn things around this year, there is quite literally nothing about Wiggins’ career that suggests there might be light on the horizon. He’s having the worst all-around shooting season of his career, and his rate-based statistics have, at best, stagnated.
(Full disclosure: I have a personal track record of calling out Wiggins’ ongoing issues with regularity. At risk of rehashing everything here, check out this out for a nice, short summary of just how poor his play has been this season.)
On Friday night, the Wolves hosted arguably the worst team in the NBA in the Atlanta Hawks and trailed by 22 points in the first half before coming back to take a late lead. Then, they kicked it away amid a flurry of ugly turnovers, missed dunks, and clanked free throws, ultimately losing in overtime.
It wasn’t just Wiggins, of course; the team shot 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) from the free throw line, leaving 17 points at the stripe. But seven of those misses were from Wiggins, who went 5-for-12.
After the game, Wiggins compounded matters by some flippant comments to the media.
Sure, some fans are awful. They just are, and if you don’t know that, then you’re probably one of said awful fans.
I was at the game on Friday, and while the boos were far from in unison from the home crowd, booing one of your players during the game for missing free throws is dumb. And don’t get me started on the fans who tweet players after the game and berate them for not performing to their liking.
And let’s be clear: Wiggins’ assessment is correct. But these comments weren’t made in a vacuum by a random person, they were made by the team’s highest-paid player after a horrible loss and a poor individual performance.
For Wiggins to play like he did on Friday and then call out the fans is … well, let’s just call it a tactical error.
Let’s recap Wiggins’ night. First, he forgot to put on his jersey. Then, he had a bad enough first quarter that Tom Thibodeau altered his first half rotation and left Tyus Jones on the floor in Wiggins’ place into the second frame.
The missed free throws were a problem throughout the game, but Wiggins missed four in the late stages of regulation and overtime and simply refused to box out in a couple of crucial moments down the stretch, allowing easy rebounds and buckets to the Hawks. Trust me, re-watching the game and only watching Wiggins is an exercise in sadness.
Sure, the missed free throws are a killer, but that stuff happens. Jimmy Butler missed clutch free throws that cost the Wolves a game more than once in his year-plus with the team, despite his reputation as a crunch-time star. The issue is that the missed free throws compounded an already tepid effort, which was compounded further by the careless comments to the media.
Timberwolves fans have been through plenty, and the under-performing 16-18 Wolves still managed to draw a sellout crowd on Friday. It was a crowd that was hoping that a stellar Prince-inspired set of Wolves uniforms would improve to a 3-0 record on the season, providing enough oomph to overcome the numerous warts on and around this squad.
Instead, fans were treated to an uninspired effort, horrendous free throw shooting, juvenile inbounding of the basketball at a crucial time of the game, and awful play-calling on the final possession of regulation.
But the transgressions of the likes of Robert Covington, who missed two wide-open dunk attempts at crucial times in the game, are much more easily forgiven by Wolves fans because he plays hard at all times. Effort, want-to, and fundamentally sound ball are never lost on Covington.
Wiggins, on the other hand, often can’t be bothered to even bend at the knees to play defense and wouldn’t be caught dead playing to the crowd or acknowledging that the fans are even there. And this isn’t the lazy Minnesota sports fan hot take modeled after Joe Mauer, the poster boy for a lack of emotion in the most emotionless of sports, either.
After all, Andrew Wiggins doesn’t have to show emotion when he plays, and it’s unfair when a player’s personality is directly connected to their play. But for a player who is vastly overpaid and rarely exerts maximum effort to call out fans is … misguided, at best.
Again, these comments were not made in a vacuum. Context matters, and it’s fair to examine them.
Fans have every right to boo whomever they so please, and they are more than justified to boo the sub-par play of Wiggins, poor taste or no. But Wiggins needs to drastically adjust his quality of play and hold up his end of the bargain in short order if he wants to avoid an exceedingly unpleasant next few years in Minneapolis.