Thompson: Andrew Wiggins is stuck in a slump. How long until he gets out?

Andrew Wiggins Slump: You’re Wondering. So Is Wiggins

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s just a slump. It’s just been 10 games. Andrew Wiggins will be fine. That’s what his coach keeps saying. That’s what his teammates declare. That’s what Wiggins believes. But, goodness, when will fine arrive? You’re wondering. So is Wiggins. He’s been through slumps before. “Not like this,” he interjected. So he’s with you in the what-in-the-world-is-happening thoughts. Fortunately for Wiggins and the Warriors, few players are as good at unplugging. Getting out of their own head. This home stretch figures to be exactly what Wiggins needs. Family time. Chill time. A real-time reset. The escape he needs to keep the worst slump of his career from getting to him. His body of work suggests the Wiggins you remember, he remembers, will return. He hasn’t averaged fewer than 17 points since his rookie season (2014-15). And he finished that year at 16.9. He won’t stay at his current clip of 11 points per game. He can’t. The Warriors need him too much. Wiggins has picked up his offensive rebounding, totaling at least three in each of the last five games after he had just three total over the first five. He’s also locking in better defensively of late. But the Warriors need him to do what he does best: get buckets. Nobody wants that more than Wiggins. “Defensively, my rhythm’s coming back,” Wiggins said after the game. “Offensively, it’s a little slow. But it’s coming. I’m always going to be harder on myself than anyone else. So this is rough. But everybody has slumps. Mine just happens to be at the beginning of the season.” Only one time this season has a Warrior not named Stephen Curry scored 20 points or more in a game. It was Dario Šarić, who scored 20 at Oklahoma City on Nov. 3. That was the Warriors’ best offensive game of the season. Curry had 30 points on 15 shots and tons of support. Jonathan Kuminga had 19, Klay Thompson 18, Wiggins 17, Draymond Green 15. They looked like the Warriors, offensively. Saturday’s 118-110 loss to Cleveland was already the fifth time this season someone other than Curry failed to top 15 points. It’s been especially bad at Chase Center. When Steve Kerr waived the white flag, sealing Golden State’s second loss to the Cavaliers in six days, the Warriors had managed just 104 points. Garbage time added six more, bringing their three-game home average to 105.3 points on 41.2 percent shooting. So far, only the Blazers have a less-potent offense on their own floor. Conversely, the Warriors average 118.3 points in their seven road games, on 47.2 percent shooting. A career 19-points-per-game scorer, Wiggins is averaging just 11 this year, with all of his shooting numbers well below his typical averages. (Neville E. Guard / USA Today) Home is where the supporting cast is supposed to flourish. Home is where role players shine. The Warriors haven’t been home enough to find their groove. The losses to Cleveland underscore the value of Wiggins. The Cavaliers are young, athletic and long. They have rim protection. They have guards who are free to apply ball pressure because of that rim protection. They have a couple of long wings who can hold their own defensively. It isn’t a recipe that makes the Cavaliers a dominant team. They’re working their way back to .500. But it is a matchup nightmare for the Warriors. Golden State’s system is anchored on its core of multi-ringed veterans. None of them — Curry, Thompson, Green, Kevon Looney — have ever been explosive athletes. They thrive on skill, experience, wit, chemistry and long-range shooting. The league has a blueprint it follows: attack their expertise with youthful vigor. It seems more teams than ever are equipped for the ideal approach to cause the Warriors problems. The Lakers and Kings, as we saw in last year’s playoffs. The Thunder, Nuggets and Cavaliers, which we’ve already seen this year. Teams like the Pacers and Magic, which swept the Warriors last season. Wiggins is the Warriors’ rebuttal, as Andre Iguodala was for years. He is their counter to the opposition of youth, athleticism and length populating the league. Wiggins is their bouncy one. Their bloodhound defender they can stick on opposing guards. Their mismatch exploiter. The tough-twos getter. Kuminga is getting there. Gary Payton II is invaluable because he brings that element. But Wiggins is the best among them, the proven one. He etched himself into Warriors lore during the 2022 playoffs. The Warriors won a championship because he was excellent in that role. The memory of those glory days is what the Warriors are clinging to while Wiggins struggles. “Because he’s a champion now,” Curry said. “Because he has the stamp of how he played in ’22. The standard is different. You’ve got to be able to respond to that. Appreciate it. Don’t run away from it — which I don’t think he is.” Perhaps Wiggins could use a trip down memory lane. In the same way Thompson will throw on his Game 6 performance in Oklahoma City in 2016 when he needs to pull himself from the mire. “Maybe I should go look at that film,” Wiggins said. The greater worry for Wiggins at this point is letting the struggle fester into a spiral. This is all so new for him. He can start wanting to feel like his old self so badly again that he presses more, exacerbating the problem. Typically stoic, Wiggins has had a few moments where the frustration has bubbled to the surface. They are slight moments, brief departures from his baseline of expressionless. But if you’ve watched enough Wiggins, they pop. Saturday against Cleveland, he missed a wide-open 3 from the left wing. He took his time, too, sized it up and still missed. The Warriors corraled the long rebound and it led to an open look for Thompson. When that missed, Wiggins soared in for the two-hand follow-dunk. Chase Center roared. The Cavaliers called a timeout. Wiggins casually dropped from the rim. His head pointed to the floor. A somber highlight. He was still mad about the missed 3. In Detroit, when a baseline cut put him in perfect position to score, he received the pass from Green and, with Cade Cunningham on his back, threw a pump fake before going up strong. But for no visible reason, he just lost the ball out of bounds. Wiggins doubled over in disappointment. He reached down to grab his toes, taking a moment to quietly yell at himself, before bouncing up to run back on defense. A smile broke out on Wiggins’ face as he recalled the turnover. “Oh man,” Wiggins said, holding out his hands and staring at them. “I was like, ‘Is this what I’ve become? No way.’ … When I’m watching film, I’m just like, ‘Why didn’t I do that instead? Why did I rush? Why didn’t I just take my time, use an extra dribble?’ I’m going to figure it out though.” That he can laugh is a sign of his certainty that this version of him will pass. The problem for the Warriors is they need him to kind of hurry up. This six-game homestand is pivotal. Starting 5-2 on the road, fixing their woes from last year, would be negated by home mediocrity. They could use Two-Way Wiggins pretty badly right now. Wiggins just has to win this mental battle he’s waging within. Curry, who knows a thing or two about slumps, can see the potential for lingering effects. In the loss to Cleveland, Wiggins took a quick shot and airballed. He was desperate to get rolling again and rushed his shot. Missing was compounded by the feeling that he is hurting the team. He grimaced and acknowledged out loud, “Bad shot. My bad. Bad shot.” Curry instead highlighted the positive. He told Wiggins to stay aggressive. Hearing it from No. 30 instantly snapped Wiggins out of his own head. “It’s the compounding effect of the noise, your expectations of what level you feel you should play at,” Curry said. “Once you start to let that creep in, in-game, that’s when you start to add unnecessary pressure and overthinking it. That’s what I was responding to.”


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