Forward Andrew Wiggins will not take part in the Golden State Warriors’ remaining regular season games, but will rejoin the team for the playoffs in order to help them defend their NBA championship.
Wiggins had last played before the All-Star break on February 13 against the Washington Wizards, and had missed the last quarter of the season for personal family reasons. His season had also been hampered at the start of the year by a sore left foot, a strained adductor, and COVID-19.
In 37 games, the forward had averaged 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 39.6% from 3-point range.
“It’s just a matter of embracing him and giving him the space to come back and enjoy basketball again,” said teammate Steph Curry.
Wiggins will not play before the postseason, but was welcomed back with a standing ovation from fans at Chase Center in San Francisco.
The Warriors Have Their Work Cut Out
The Warriors are currently 6th in the Western Conference standings, with a record of 42-38. They are hoping to finish in 5th place in order to avoid the Play-In Tournament.
At present, four teams in the West are separated by just one game in the loss column, from 5th to 8th place. The Los Angeles Clippers (42-38) are 5th, the Warriors 6th, the LA Lakers (41-39) 7th, and the New Orleans Pelicans (41-39) 8th.
In the preseason, the Warriors were co-favorites with the Lakers and Boston Celtics to win the title at +600 odds. However, they are now +1300 to win the championship, and +550 to win the West.
The Warriors have underperformed when it comes to point spread betting, with a record of 37-42-1, but have been a good bet for the overs, at 43-34-3.
If they secure 6th place, they will play the high-scoring 3rd seed Sacramento Kings in the first round. The Kings, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2006, will have the advantage of having a head coach – Mike Brown – in their ranks who has intimate knowledge of the Warriors, having spent six seasons as an assistant coach under Steve Kerr.
The Real Reason for Wiggins’ Absence
Sham Charania from The Athletic reported recently that Wiggins had left the team to spend time with his ailing father, Mitchell Wiggins, a former NBA player who had recently encountered some serious health issues.
The Warriors had chosen to be vague about the exact reasons for Wiggins’ absence, leading to fans and trolls to speculate on what was going on behind the scenes.
Multiple rumours surfaced on social media, including mental health issues and addiction, while others suggested it was relationship issues with his wife, Mychal Johnson.
Charania’s report put an end to the speculation, and during his absence Wiggins had kept active by working out.
The Warriors had not pressed Wiggins to return to the team, but they were thrilled to have him back in time for their playoff push and title defense.
The Warriors’ Season So Far
The Warriors had experienced the proverbial championship hangover at the start of the season, and were 15-18 heading into December.
They had failed to stay above .500 for most of January, but had found their groove in late February after Steph Curry had been sidelined with an injury.
The Warriors have a large home/away split this season. They have been tough to beat on their home court, where they have a 33-8 record – the third-best home record in the NBA – but have had the fourth-worst away record in the league, at 9-20.
With two games remaining, the Warriors are hoping to finish in the top six in order to avoid the Play-In Tournament, and are confident that having their entire team intact for the first time in over two months will give them the best chance of winning back-to-back championships and a fifth NBA title since 2015.