Andrew Wiggins is hoping to get his season back on track after dealing with yet another impediment last week.
Wiggins had been working his way back to peak form earlier this month after missing substantial time with injuries and sickness. His most recent setback — a brutal head cold that was still giving him troubles Sunday — didn’t help his cause.
“Being out for this is kind of annoying,” he told reporters after practicing, sniffling between his answers.
Wiggins is expected to be back in the starting lineup Monday night against the Thunder after missing the last two games with a non-COVID illness. He was a full participant in practice Sunday at Chase Center before the team boarded a plane to Oklahoma City, and even “looked great” in a scrimmage, coach Steve Kerr said.
Kerr said Wiggins was probable for Monday’s game, but the Warriors wing wasn’t on the team’s injury report, meaning he should be good to go. Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala remains out with a right hip strain. It’s anyone’s guess when he’ll be back. Kerr referred all lines of questioning to the 39-year-old, who’s played in only three games this season.
It’s been a tough two-month stretch for Wiggins, a player known for his durability. He was playing one of his best stretches of basketball before an injury and subsequent illnesses derailed his second career All-Star campaign.
A strained thigh muscle in early December sidelined him for 11 games. He returned to practice and was progressing to make his way back into the lineup, but that’s when trouble stuck again.
He got sick — not once, but twice.
When Wiggins was finally cleared, he was out for a total of 15 consecutive games, by far the most he’s missed in his career, and he hasn’t looked the same.
Before his monthlong absence, Wiggins was shooting 51.1% from the floor and 45% from deep, while averaging three 3-pointers and 19.1 points per game. After sinking a career-tying eight 3s en route to scoring 36 points in early December, Wiggins said he felt like he was floating and shared his goal of trying to maintain an above 40% 3-point shooting clip.
But it’s been a bumpy transition back. Wiggins previously admitted he felt like he was a step slow in his return and that his 3-point shot hasn’t felt as fluid as it did before. Wiggins also hasn’t attacked the rim as aggressively as the Warriors need him to, and his defense has waned, at times, as he tries to get his conditioning back to game speed against opponents who are already in midseason form.
“It’s been a little tough,” Wiggins previously said. “Just finding my groove, finding my rhythm, just trying to get back in stride.”
In his last seven games, Wiggins averaged 12.4 points while shooting 34% from the field and 22.7% from outside.
But with Golden State trying to make up ground in the Western Conference standings, the team needs Wiggins to step up.
Kerr has been trying to stagger Kevon Looney and Draymond Green’s minutes as much as possible since the team’s frontcourt depth has not been as reliant as the Warriors had hoped. That means deploying their small-ball lineup.
While that group plays an up-tempo pace and has ample offensive firepower, it’s also prone to having some defensive lapses. When Wiggins is playing at his best, he can make it a more effective lineup on both ends of the floor.
After Monday, the Warriors will head to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves on Wednesday before traveling to Denver to play the Nuggets, who are No. 1 in the West, on Thursday. This three-game road trip will present Wiggins with an opportunity to find his flow and do all of the above.
“It’s been a little tough but I’ve been working hard in practice,” he said. “Hopefully one of these games coming up I’ll be back.”