Andrew Wiggins Returns to the Golden State Warriors for Title Defense

Forward Andrew Wiggins will not suit up for the Golden State Warriors in their final two games of the regular season, but he will return to the lineup when the playoffs begin to help them defend their NBA championship.

Andrew Wiggins returns Golden State Warriors playoffs
Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins celebrates a victory earlier in the season at the Chase Center in San Francisco. (Image: Getty)

Wiggins last played shortly before the NBA All-Star break on February 13 against the Washington Wizards. He missed the last quarter of the season due to a personal family matter. He also missed time in the first half of the season with a sore left foot, strained adductor, and COVID-19.

In 37 games this season, Wiggins averaged 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. He shot 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 again until the postseason, but he’s finally back with the Warriors. In their last home game, he sat on the bench in street clothes but earned a standing ovation from fans at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Betting the Warriors in the Wild West

The Warriors are 42-38 and currently occupy sixth place in the Western Conference standings. The Warriors want to finish no lower than sixth place to avoid the Play-In Tournament.

With two games remaining, four teams between fifth place and eighth place are separated by just one game in the loss column. The Los Angeles Clippers (42-38) are in fifth place and ahead of the Warriors due to a tiebreaker. The L.A. Lakers (41-39) are lurking in seventh place, and New Orleans Pelicans (41-39) are in eighth place.

The Warriors were a popular pick to win back-to-back NBA championships in the preseason. They were initially a co-favorite with the Lakers and Boston Celtics to win the title at +600 odds.

The Warriors are currently +1300 odds to win the championship once again, and they’re the sixth highest team on DraftKings’ futures board. The Warriors are +550 odds to win the Western Conference in consecutive seasons.

Betting wise, the Warriors are 37-42-1 against the point spread. If you’re a points total bettor, the Warriors are the fifth-best team betting the over with a 43-34-3 clip.

If the Warriors can hold on to the #6 seed, they’ll square off against the high-scoring #3 Sacramento Kings in the first round. The Kings qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2006, which ended the longest postseason drought in the four major North American sports leagues.

Mike Brown, the head coach of the Kings, spent six seasons as an assistant coach of the Warriors under head coach Steve Kerr. Brown won three NBA championships with the Warriors, including last season. The young Kings lack playoff experience, but Brown has an intimate knowledge of the Warriors, so it should be a fun series.

Wiggins Dealing with a Family Matter

Sham Charania from The Athletic reported that Wiggins took time off to spend time with his ailing father. Mitchell Wiggins is a former NBA player who was most known for his stint with the Houston Rockets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The elder Wiggins recently encountered some serious health issues, which is why his son took a leave of absence from the Warriors.

The Warriors wanted to respect Wiggins’ privacy, so they were purposely vague about the real reason why he stepped away from the team. Fans and trolls were left to their own devices to speculate on what was going on behind the scenes.

Multiple rumors surfaced on social media that Wiggins was addressing a mental health issue if he was not on the IL due to an injury. Reddit users went a little darker with their theories, and they suggested it was some sort of addiction issue. Other internet sleuths were convinced Wiggins was dealing with relationship problems with his wife, Mychal Johnson.

“There’s been a lot of unnecessary conversation around him, the whole situation,” added Curry.

All of those rumors were not true, when Charania reported the real reason for his absence this week. While spending time with his family, Wiggins tried to stay active by working out as much as possible.

In a perfect world, Wiggins would’ve returned to the Warriors for the final two weeks of the season so he could get back into game shape and work on his shooting stroke and conditioning. That was not the case, and he’ll have to shake off the rust in practice before the postseason begins.

Warriors Leaned on Wiggins During 2022 Title Run

Curry won the 2022 NBA Finals MVP, but even Curry will tell you that Wiggins was the real MVP of the Warriors during the entire 2022 postseason. The Warriors never would’ve won a title without Wiggins’ sensational play on both ends of the court. He averaged 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 33% from 3-point range.

Wiggins was a rebounding machine, and emerged as the Warriors top lockdown defender in the 2022 playoffs. In every series, the versatile Wiggins often defended the opposing team’s best wing player. During their march to the championship. Wiggins did not back down from defending Luka Dončić from the Dallas Mavs in the Western Conference Finals, or Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Andrew Wiggins is a guy that I can tell you made sacrifices personally for this organization,” said team president Bob Myers. “Some you may know, some you may not. But I do. And, it’s also the person. The uniform isn’t the most important thing to us that know him.”

The Warriors are thrilled to have Wiggins back for a playoff push and title defense, but never actually pressured him to return to the team. They let him deal with real life hardships before rejoining his squad.

“This organization, it’s a player-first organization,” said teammate Gary Payton II. “They want to make sure we’re mentally and physically ready to come to work. Wigs was gone for a period of time for Wigs’ reasons, and they didn’t press him or push him to come back and get ready to play.”

The Life and Hard Times of a Defending Champion

A slow start plagued the Warriors at the beginning of the season while they struggled with the proverbial championship hangover. They were 15-18 heading into the holiday season in late December, but hoped to find their groove at the start of the new year.

For most of January, the Warriors struggled to stay above .500 before Curry went down with a leg injury in February. After the All-Star break, the team had to play without Wiggins while they waited for Curry to recover. They finally found their groove in the last couple of weeks with a 6-2 stretch.

As the season progressed, there was an obvious emerging trend. The Warriors have the largest home/away split in the NBA this season. They were tough to beat on their home court, but could not win a game on the road. With a 33-8 record at the Chase Center, the Warriors were the third-best home record in the NBA. Yet, they were only 9-20 on the road, and had the fourth-worst away record in the league.

Even though 42 victories does not seem overly impressive for a defending champion, the Warriors managed to stay above .500 even though they missed multiple starters for long stretches of the season.

The postseason is a different beast, and the Warriors were less concerned about overall seeding, but more concerned with making sure their team is healthy and mentally prepared to compete at the highest possible level.

When the 2023 NBA Playoffs begin, the Warriors will have their entire team intact for the first time in over two months. They’re on a specific mission to win back-to-back championships, and secure a fifth NBA title since 2015.

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