How Warriors handled Andrew Wiggins shows life is bigger than basketball

How Dubs handled Wiggins shows life is bigger than basketball originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – After 22 games missed over seven weeks, Andrew Wiggins is back with the Warriors. He was a spectator Tuesday at Chase Center, but possibly could return this weekend.

Though it might be too late for Wiggins to help the Warriors secure a coveted top-six finish in the Western Conference, that is not the primary concern of the Warriors.

Nor should it be.

“What sometimes gets lost in professional sports . . . they’re people,” general manager Bob Myers said Tuesday. “They have lives and family. I know that sounds obvious, but it sometimes gets lost. But when you work here, at least how we do it, you get to know Andrew as a person, not just as a 20-point scorer.

“When someone that you know or work with goes through something, your first thought is, ‘How can I help?’ ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Is there anything you need?’ And in this case, Andrew needed to be away.”

The Warriors did not want Wiggins to be in another part of the continent. They did not ask for it. They granted their fellow employee time and space to attend to his personal business.

They did it in defiance of the new world order.

These are the times of hot takes, tacky opinions and online screeds. We live in an era in which a segment of society uses social media to decry, defame, hate and lie. And if the Warriors fall into the dreaded play-in tournament, there is no doubt many keyboard gremlins will fire up their fingers and blame Wiggins.

Not the Warriors. Not their players or coaches or training staff and, hopefully, not their fans.

For that, Wiggins was appreciative. Making his first public appearance since Feb. 13, when he produced 29 points and seven rebounds in a victory over the Wizards, he was glad to be back but has no regrets about his time away.

“When you’re in a certain situation and your family needs you and it requires your attention and your love, that’s my first priority,” Wiggins said. “My career, everything. Family is always first for me. It will always be that way.”

The scurrilous rumors were rampant – the way of the world – but Wiggins felt no need to clarify. It is known to be a family matter, but he offered no details.

The Warriors were aware of the specifics, and that was enough for them to safeguard the privacy of their employee.

“He let us know from the beginning what was going on,” coach Steve Kerr said. “So, it wasn’t mysterious. It was a case of Andrew being really open about what was happening and us telling him to go take care of his family. We didn’t really call him and text him all the time. We’d check in occasionally, but we were trying to give him the space.”

No giving Wiggins an earful about the team struggling and needing his presence. No reminding him that he still was collecting a hefty paycheck. No guilt trip, no pressure to return.

Every athlete in a team sport has two families, one generally through genetic and the other through franchise transactions. Wiggins kept his first family first, and his second family understood.

“It was all just love and support,” Wiggins said of reuniting with his teammates. “I had a lot of teammates hitting me up, sending their love and their prayers. I just appreciated it all. It goes a long way. There’s more than basketball.”

RELATED: Stephen A. Smith believes Wiggins can vault Warriors to Finals

Everyone has the right to choose their priorities, and they should be respected. Some players can perform well despite personal drama; the game becomes their temporary sanctuary. Others need to devote themselves fully.

That’s what Wiggins did. And the Warriors did right not to interfere.

“This was a really easy one, honestly,” Kerr said. “It’s just being human.”

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast