Andrew Wiggins rewriting narrative, recasting image in Warriors' playoff run

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Wiggs rewriting narrative, recasting image in Dubs' playoff run originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Maybe now we and they and the whole NBA can enjoy Andrew Wiggins for what he is, a serene Canadian who likes to play basketball, adores his family and shines brightest when his heart beats fastest.

Game after NBA postseason game, series by series, Wiggins is feverishly rewriting the book that defined him for seven of his eight NBA seasons. He’s soft. He shrinks when needed most. His production is unreliable. He pleases only enough to disappoint. He’s not a winner. And, most disparaging, he doesn’t care.

Well, Wiggins made his first NBA All-Star team in February. And now, standing beneath the hottest spotlights he has ever known, he is reducing those unwanted labels to cruel smears.

“You don’t know how a guy is going to respond when they’re asked to do what we’re asking him to do at this stage of the season, in the playoffs,” Stephen Curry said of Wiggins. “You have the highest hopes. But he’s stepping up.”

Wiggins was at his spectacular best Sunday night, defending Mavericks star Luka Doncić, scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Warriors took a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals with a 109-100 victory at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“You don’t win in the playoffs without guys like Wiggs,” coach Steve Kerr said.

This is perhaps Wiggins’ most impressive performance in what is becoming a stellar playoffs compilation. He has excelled at the dirty work, rebounding and embracing tough defensive assignments, following the game plan and, along the way, creating indelible moments, the most memorable of which came in the middle of the fourth quarter.

With the Warriors up eight (91-83), Wiggins took a pass from Curry on the right wing and burst toward the rim, where Luka was waiting. Wiggins took flight, up and over Luka, flushing the ball through the rim with enough force to scare a hit man. With the building vibrating, crew chief Marc Davis whistled an offensive foul that temporarily killed the buzz.

Kerr challenged the call. It was overturned. The poster was authenticated.

Klay Thompson compared the dunk to those often delivered by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins in the 1980s and ‘90s. Curry said it moved to the top of Wiggins’ growing list of marvelous dunks. Draymond Green, considering the circumstances, put it in a special category.

“He’s been attacking like that,” Green said. “That’s always been our battle cry to him. ‘Forget going to lay the ball up. Go dunk.’ And he’s been attacking like that al playoffs. He got a couple posters. That one was Luka, so it just means more. When you get a poster dunk on superstar like that, it just means a little bit more.”

This was Wiggins doing the kind of jaw-dropping things imagined back in 2014, when he was a springy No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Highlight-caliber activity.

Moreover, it’s the kind of stuff the Warriors hoped for when they acquired Wiggins from the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 2020 in exchange for D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors believed they could get the most from someone the vast majority of the NBA considered, with some justification, an underachiever.

Their plea to Wiggins was simple: Find your game and be ready for big moments.

“That’s a guy who has been criticized for being lackadaisical and . . .  the beat goes on,” Green said. “We’ve heard it all. Yet on the biggest stage, he’s come through.

“It’s absolutely amazing to see him pick up his level of play. He was like this at the beginning of the season, which is why he became an All-Star. And then, he hit a little lull after the All-Star (selection), which is normal, especially after your first All-Star Game. He’s picked it back up, and it’s been amazing for us as a team and for him as a player.”

In the first-round series against Denver, Wiggins was asked to rebound. He did. In the second-round series against Memphis, he was asked to keep rebounding but also defend Ja Morant. When Morant went down injured, the Grizzlies inserted Tyus Jones.

Wiggins requested the defensive assignment in Game 6 and made Jones disappear.

Wiggins’ assignment in the conference finals? Luka. Through three games, Wiggins is team-best plus-66. Luka is team-worst minus-61.

“From the time the trade happened, that was the idea of what he could do to impact games for us defensively, with his athleticism,” Curry said. “He was a 20-point scorer, so he knew how to put the ball in the basket, but he’d be asked to do it in a different way, in balance with the rest of the guys. We’ve been preaching that since he joined the team a little over two years ago.

“It’s amazing to see it happen under the bright lights. You don’t know how a guy is going to respond when they’re asked to do what we’re asking him to do at this stage of the season, in the playoffs. You have the highest hopes. But he’s stepping up.”

RELATED: Nick Wright admits ripping Wiggins was his "most regrettable" take

That is the opposite of soft, of shrinking when needed. Of disappointing. Wiggins is on a mission to recast his image, and he’s succeeding beyond reasonable expectation.

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