Andrew Wiggins injury: Kevon Looney explains playing with similar fracture
Looney's experience playing through injury similar to Wiggins originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Wiggins was not on the Crypto.com Arena court Friday morning at Warriors shootaround ahead of Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers when the curtains opened and media members were able to watch players put up shots and get their work in.
However, per the Warriors, Wiggins was part of the team's strategy portion of shootaround before going to the back and receiving treatment for his rib cartilage fracture.
The All-Star small forward popped up on the Warriors' injury report Thursday night as questionable with a left costal cartilage fracture. He appeared to have first hurt the area of his ribcage in the fourth quarter of the Warriors' Game 5 win while boxing out LeBron James. Later in the quarter, Wiggins hit a hook shot but was hit by James and mid-air and looked to be in pain on the floor.
Andrew. Wiggins. ð pic.twitter.com/UlEpPw0w9Y
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 11, 2023
Gary Payton II expressed his hope for Wiggins' availability in Game 6, and also shared Wiggins is doing everything in his power to play. Wiggins is very much a part of the Warriors' game plan still, from Payton's perspective.
"We didn't go over that, so hopefully that means Wiggs is ready to go," Payton said when asked what the Warriors would have to do without Wiggins. "Hopefully we don't have to worry about that."
If there's anybody on the Warriors who might know what Wiggins is going through right now, it's center Kevon Looney, who sustained a similar injury in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Looney while trying to guard an attacking Kawhi Leonard in Game 2 of the Finals took a tough fall on the hardwood and was in obvious pain. The tumble kept him out for the rest of the game with what first was called a left chest contusion. Looney was then expected to miss the rest of the series with a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture.
But he only missed Game 3 before returning for the final three of the series. Looney described the pain level as a seven or eight on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst.
"It's a lot of pain, but once you get in your head that it can't get worse, it's kind of like, 'All right, I can deal with it,'" Looney explained. "Once I got that confirmation from the doctor that I couldn't get worse, that I couldn't die on the court, I knew I might be able to play through it.
"I missed a game with it, so had to wait a little for the pain to go down a little bit. I don't know what Wiggs is thinking, but I know it's a lot better."
Looney reveals the chat he had with Wiggins about playing through a similar rib fracture pic.twitter.com/9ImoTzSBYp
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 12, 2023
Rarely does Wiggins show a ton of emotion on the court, outside of a poster dunk. Looney admitted he didn't even know Wiggins was dealing with pain or an injury until Wiggins told him much later. The area of their injuries also were slightly different.
What Wiggins is dealing with is a lower area of his upper body. What Looney dealt with was higher, so he wore a pad near his collarbone to protect himself. Wiggins likely will have to wear some kind of protective gear on his left side if he is able to play Friday night, and perhaps as the playoffs continue if the Warriors again are able to stave off elimination.
The two also play a much different style and have much different responsibilities. Looney does remember getting tired faster than he normally does.
Looney in Wednesday night's Game 5 win attempted two shots. Wiggins is a prominent part of the Warriors' scoring and took 18. The playmaking center can't exactly relate to how Wiggins' pain will affect his shot.
"I didn't have to shoot the ball," Looney said with a laugh as he looked back at his injury four years ago.
For as much as the Warriors need Wiggins' offense, his defense is as vital or even more important in keeping their season alive. Wiggins has defended James throughout the series and was physical and aggressive with the powerful future Hall of Famer two nights ago.
There's no doubt the Lakers will use Wiggins' status to their advantage in the event he's able to play. Him being hampered at all should be a boost to the Lakers and a detriment to the Warriors. His battle can be equally challenging mentally and physically.
"It's tough," Looney said. "You want to play freely on the court. You want to use your instincts, but when you got an injury you kind of guard the area and it can make you overthink a little bit, especially with a guy like Wiggs who's getting in a lot of action and guarding their best player on the court.
"He's gonna get hit a lot. People are gonna be trying to screen him and different things like that. It's definitely tough, but like I said, once you get over that hump of 'All right, I'm doing this and it can't get worse,' you go out there and try to play through it."
RELATED: Wiggins-Draymond sequence highlights locked-in Warriors
The two-way version of Wiggins that helped propel the Warriors to another championship last season showed up in Game 5. Wiggins made 10 of his 18 shots for 25 points, his highest total in this postseason run, as well as adding seven rebounds, five assists and one steal. Steve Kerr called Wiggins' performance his best since returning from a two-month family matter the best he has played for a handful of reasons.
That version might not be able to replicate itself Friday night for reasons Wiggins can't control. Through pain only he can know, a version close to that still might be needed for the Warriors to take down the Lakers in LA and force a Game 7 at Chase Center.
Monitoring Wiggins' injury is yet the latest obstacle the defending champions must overcome after a long list of challenges this season.
Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast