At the Timberwolves shoot-around Monday, Andrew Wiggins had a “pep in his step,” according to teammate Tyus Jones.
Karl-Anthony Towns added, “He felt very energized and very confident. I don’t know what he had for breakfast, if it was Wheaties or Cheerios, but he needs to keep eating that.”
The Timberwolves took notice of a change in Wiggins before Monday’s 103-91 victory over the Rockets at Target Center, a change Wiggins himself said was happening before the game. He was talkative, mostly about how good of a game he was going to play that night.
“I feel like I’m back now,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins had his best showing in a while, posting 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting — the first time he shot over 50 percent in a game since Nov. 7. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for the Wolves from that performance was how everybody noticed the difference in Wiggins, how much more active he was and what that can mean for the team going forward if Wiggins is able to stay at that level.
Fans and media members are quick to point out Wiggins’ lack of intensity when things aren’t going well on the court — and former teammate Jimmy Butler was never shy about expressing his thoughts on that subject as well to Wiggins, who is in the first year of a five-year maximum salary contract.
On Monday, the Wolves noticed the kind of player Wiggins can be when he’s at or near his best and how that can fuel the rest of the Wolves as it did in their come-from-behind victory.
“When he’s talking like that — it’s not even about doing it — it’s just talking like that, you can sense the confidence coming off him,” Towns said. “Throughout shoot-around, you felt like he was on a mission. We were just riding the wave with him. I think we all know in here when Andrew is playing at a high level like that, we’re very, very hard to beat.”
Wiggins saved the Wolves from sinking in the first half, when he had 11 points, including a 35-foot three-pointer that banked in at the buzzer of the second quarter to pull the Wolves within 14. Then the rest of the team caught up to Wiggins’ energy in the second half and ran away with the game.
“It makes us that much more lethal,” Robert Covington said of Wiggins’ performance. “He was engaged heavily on defense, and that’s what allowed us to really have that extra edge. He was truly engaged.”
Added Wiggins: “I’ve been in the gym, going hard in practice, and I knew I was going through a slump. I knew it wasn’t going to last too long.”
The question will be if Wiggins can keep that same energy on a consistent basis.
From a more schematic standpoint, coach Tom Thibodeau said the team has been trying to emphasize Wiggins’ athleticism to get to the basket on the offensive end instead of him settling for midrange or long two-pointers, shots Wiggins has tended to favor. This season, 34 percent of his Wiggins’ attempts are three-pointers, up from 26 percent a season ago. But getting to the rim is the priority.
“When he puts it on the floor and he attacks the basket, his athleticism is special. And when he does that, there’s going to be and-1s and easy buckets for him,” Thibodeau said. “It just makes us a different team.”
That’s why you’ll see the Wolves call some sets for Wiggins near the beginning of every game. They see what the fans see — that when Wiggins is locked in it transforms who they are on the floor.
“We got to keep him aggressive,” Thibodeau said. “We got to get him going.”