MINNEAPOLIS – Through five professional seasons, Andrew Wiggins still has the capacity to surprise and his views Tuesday on his relationship with former Canadian men’s national team head coach are just the latest example.
For most of his NBA career, the surprises haven’t always been positive.
The 24-year-old former No. 1 overall pick has the perfect basketball genetics but seems to lack the passion to go along with it and has been a surprisingly poor performer by nearly every statistical measure.
There’s been an uptick over the past 10 games where Wiggins has averaged 21/5.2r/3.6a with a True Shooting percentage of 56 per cent, which is exactly the league average.
The last surge won’t be enough to save Wiggins from a season that is well off his career highs in every meaningful category, particularly since he’s widely considered one of the NBA’s most indifferent defenders.
His overall production – 18p/4.8r/2.5 assists on 41 per cent shooting – in the first-year of a five-year, $147-million contract makes him, arguably, the most overpaid player in the NBA.
But every once in a blue moon he’ll prove capable of dominating the best players in the world. He’s got 33 games of 30 points or more in his career and topped 40 seven times, with a career-high of 47.
Through 10 career starts against the Cleveland Cavaliers – the team who drafted him in 2014 and traded him that same summer – he averages 25.6 points a game. In eight games against the Raptors, he averages 24 points an outing.
Against the rest of the league? Just 19.1.
Surely there must be something to that, he was asked – his ability to elevate his game against certain opponents.
Not too surprisingly, Wiggins doesn’t have a ready answer.
“It’s just having a big game, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t wake up and think ‘I’m going to have a big game against this team.’ It’s just getting into a good rhythm early, maybe it’s a coincidence.”
But Wiggins was taken aback when I asked him about the senior men’s national team coaching situation which remains in flux with less than six months until the FIBA Basketball World Cup starts.
Ever since the 2015 Tournament of the Americas in Mexico City, it has somehow become accepted wisdom that Wiggins’ decision not to play for Canada – either at the last-chance Olympic qualifying event in Philippines in 2016 or last summer in either of the qualifying windows for the World Cup that NBA players were eligible for – was because he had a problem with former head coach Jay Triano, who pulled his name from the coaching search last month.
To my knowledge, nothing had ever been reported about Wiggins and Triano falling out. The presumption was it was because Triano had sat Wiggins for long stretches during Canada’s heartbreaking loss to Venezuela where a win would have secured a spot in the London Olympics.
But Wiggins played 26 minutes against Venezuela — second-most on the team – despite shooting 4/11 with four turnovers and not taking a free throw. A close look at the final moments on video shows it was Wiggins’ man who didn’t get boxed out and who drew the foul as the clock expired by flying in for an offensive rebound before winning the game at the line.
Anyway, never mind.
Wiggins says he and Triano were cool all along.
“I talked to Jay when we were in Charlotte [March 21], we gave each other our thoughts and stuff like that,” Wiggins said before suiting up against his hometown Toronto Raptors Tuesday night. “It was cool catching up with him. I’m kind of disappointed that he’s not going to be the coach, but you know, stuff happens.”
And of all the speculation about a rift?
“Everyone has their own opinions,” Wiggins said. “When you lose everyone starts pointing fingers and stuff like that, but me and him, we never had a problem at all.”
With that settled, the question remains: Will Wiggins play for Canada this summer?
He’s open to it, and that’s was as far as he would go. The World Cup this summer and the Olympics in 2020 represent a special opportunity given the quality of the men’s roster.
“It’s a very good group, a lot of young, talented guys,” he said. “We could probably go far.”
For the record, the Timberwolves have no objection to their players competing internationally.
“Those are conversations we have internally with guys,” said Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders, who also has American Karl-Anthony Towns and Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng on his roster as potential World Cup participants.
“I’m all for competition in the summer time, especially high-level competition. Going through an actual training camp does something for a players’ wind, so does competing against some of the best players. Whatever decisions are made are made, but ultimately we support our players.”
So back to Wiggins. Will he be a part of it, regardless of who is coaching for Canada?
“I’ve been thinking about it,” he said. “I’ll be thinking about it more when the time comes.
“[But] It’s all on me. No one can really affect my decision.
“It’s just me.”
No surprise there.