SAN FRANCISCO — Steve Kerr’s instructions for Andrew Wiggins before his first game with Golden State were simple and basic: Sprint the floor.
No requirements or rules about shots. Just some good old hustle.
"I told him, `No matter what happens we need you to sprint the floor, both ways,"’ Kerr said after Wiggins scored 24 points in his impressive Warriors debut Saturday night, a 125-120 loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
James leaned on his supporting cast to carry the load until he heated up in the second half and finished with 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
Wiggins shot 8 for 12 with three 3-pointers and accounted for five the Warriors’ 15 steals. Golden State acquired him from the Minnesota Timberwolves before Thursday’s deadline in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans III and Omari Spellman.
Kerr also appreciated having Wiggins to defend James "and at least match up physically."
"It’s the hardest position to guard these days in the NBA," Kerr said.
Wiggins knew his job on night No. 1 was to "compete" and focus on playing fundamental basketball. Now, he is ready to embrace a new start out West with some sunny California weather and Stephen Curry as a cheerleader on the sideline as the two-time MVP works back from a broken left hand.
"I was like if it happens it happens, it’s going to be a blessing either way," Wiggins said. .".. This whole thing didn’t really feel real until they announced my name."
Avery Bradley added 21 points with five 3-pointers and Anthony Davis had 27 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles on a night the Warriors honoured Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other seven helicopter crash victims during Golden State’s first home game since the deadly accident Jan. 26 in Southern California.
The Lakers, who had lost three of their previous five including a 121-111 defeat at home to Houston on Thursday, tried to pull away in the third against the new-look Warriors but Golden State stayed just close enough to make it interesting down the stretch.
Marquese Chriss shot 12 for 15 on the way to 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Warriors, who got within 116-111 on Eric Paschall’s dunk with 3:13 to play. Ky Bowman contributed 10 assists and Jordan Poole scored 19 points off the bench.
Wiggins’ addition meant a lot to the young Golden State core that is still around on the league’s last-place team at 12-41.
"That is who he is," Chriss said. "He’s one of those people you could consider a professional scorer."
A 24-second moment of silence was held for the nine helicopter crash victims, who were honoured on the outdoor video board at Chase Center. All fans received a black Bryant T-shirt with his Nos. 8 and 24 and Gianna’s 2.
Nine beams of light were shone up from the court before the game in remembrance.
Kerr admires James for saying he will carry on Bryant’s legacy.
"You are talking about two of the greatest players in the history of the game. LeBron is already doing that. He was doing that most of his career," Kerr said. "Once he established himself as one of the very best, he was carrying on the legacies of previous greats. It’s how this league works. It will be very emotional tonight for all of us to honour Kobe."
"… It’s amazing the sense of loss even for those of us that didn’t know him very well. Everything just feels hollow. We grieve for Kobe and Gianna and the other families all involved. It’s something that’s not going to get any easier right away."
Just as he was finishing up his extensive pregame stretching routine in the locker room, James toppled backward and fell to the floor. All was OK. "Breaking news … LeBron out," King James said with a smile after hopping right back to his feet and heading to the court to shoot.
James committed seven turnovers.
The Warriors hung a trio of posters at the entrance to the Lakers locker room welcoming back former Golden State players JaVale McGee, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook. Kerr and McGee briefly caught up before the game near the Warriors locker room.
A photo of Cook and Cousins was also shown on the big screen late in the first quarter.
Lakers: The Lakers shot 59.1% in the first quarter, making 5 of 7 3s. They finished 14 for 29 from deep. … The bench scored 41 points, 12 by Dwight Howard and 11 from Rajon Rondo. … L.A. has won 14 straight on the road vs. the Western Conference and is 16-1 overall against the West away from Staples Center.
Warriors: With all the change, before the game Golden State’s fifth starter was still listed as TBD — not something seen often — though Kerr had said it would be Bowman. … Golden State signed guards Zach Norvell Jr. and Jeremy Pargo to 10-day contracts. The Warriors already had added Chriss and Bowman on Friday by converting their two-way contracts. … Injured Splash Brother Klay Thompson celebrated his 30th birthday and waved when shown on the board in the fourth quarter. … Golden State had won 12 of the last 13 home meetings with the Lakers and 10 of 13 overall.
Lakers: Host Phoenix on Monday.
Warriors: Host Heat on Monday, having won the last five vs. Miami at home but with two straight losses in the series overall.