The NBA’s reigning rookie of the year spent all of 2:15 with reporters on Monday morning, eying the exit with every question put to him. The sound of “last question” from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ PR rep must have felt like the horn squawking for Fred Flintstone at quitting time.
After briefly chatting about his interim head coach Sam Mitchell, the comfort he feels with the T-Wolves as he starts Year 2 with them and his excitement to play alongside this year’s No. 1 draft pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, yabba dabba doo, the Vaughan native slipped behind the black curtain and on to practice at the Air Canada Centre.
He had 21 points on 10 shots in 18:50 on Monday night and sat out the second half of Minnesota’s 112-105 preseason loss to the Raptors. He was out-dueled by Kyle Lowry, who scored a pre-season franchise record (such things exist) 40 points on a 13-of-18 shooting night.
Wiggins is in the midst of a balancing act this week, carrying a habitually down-and-out franchise on his back while shouldering the load of being Canada’s most hyped basketball talent on a three-city mini-tour of the country. The T-Wolves their final game in Ottawa on Wednesday against the Raptors.
Beyond the walls propped up around Wiggins sits a glimpse of the plan in place to allow him to continue his climb as a pro. He averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists last year. With an understanding of what lays ahead, the hopes/expectations are growing.
What makes for a good second season for Wiggins? The 20-year-old’s plan is a simple one.
“Be better than the first year,” he said. “(Better at) everything. I worked hard this summer. Everything I was good at last year, everything I was bad at, I think I’m better at this year.”
Wiggins hit his first shot, a three-pointer 20 seconds into play and it put him at ease. The 16 courtside tickets he bought for friends and family likely helped with that, too. He’s only three games into the pre-season, but Wiggins said there’s a comfort that comes with having a year under your belt.
Mitchell wants to see Wiggins work within the offence and not rely on isolations to score this year.
The T-Wolves practice here on Sunday provided a look at Wiggins’ infrastructure. As the session wound down, a sweat-soaked Kevin Garnett (who didn’t play Monday) shifted his intense tutelage of Towns to Wiggins. They’re an interesting pairing: the high-strung, endless energy of the 39-year-old Garnett and the low-key, speak-at-a-whisper Wiggins.
“He shows me and tells me stuff that can help me the rest of my career,” Wiggins said.
“Great mentorship for him, great examples,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Wiggins’ situation.