Andrew Wiggins has no illusions about how some Timberwolves fans may view the five-plus seasons Wiggins spent in Minnesota — that some wanted more out of his time here than just one playoff appearance after the Wolves traded for the 2014 No. 1 overall pick in the summer he was drafted.
If ever fans wondered if Wiggins heard the jeers along with the cheers: he did.
"Shoot, they probably got a lot of mixed feelings," Wiggins said in a recent interview with the Star Tribune. "So it is what it is over there. Some might love me. Some might hate me."
Wiggins let out a laugh as he spoke, and though it was a phone interview you could picture Wiggins' trademark wide smile lighting up his face.
It has been nearly a year since the Wolves and Warriors engaged in a headline-grabbing trade at the deadline that saw Wiggins head west — along with a top-three protected 2021 first-round pick — for D'Angelo Russell, the point guard the Wolves envision playing a long time beside Karl-Anthony Towns.
As Wiggins gets ready to face his former team for the first time Monday, he harbors no ill will toward fans, the franchise or President Gersson Rosas for trading him. In fact, he sounded thankful for the fresh start — and recognized that maybe he wasn't the ideal fit to play with Towns that Russell could be.
"Looking back, I feel like [the trade] worked in the best favor for both teams," Wiggins said. "Golden State needed a wing that could defend and just play his game, and Minnesota — they needed someone that could play with KAT, create with KAT, playmake. They needed a PG, you know? I feel like it worked out in the best favor for both."
Wiggins was never one to take things personally and had the kind of laid-back personality that would let the criticism run off his lanky shoulders. It was also that personality that endeared him to teammates over the years, even if his play didn't live up to fans' lofty expectations.
"They might boo you and they might say some stuff during the game, but once I left the atmosphere and I left Target Center, I never felt no negativity," Wiggins said. "Whatever was left was left in the gym. Once I left that world, left Target Center, there was never no disrespect or nothing like that around the city. So it was cool."
Wiggins, who is in the third year of a five-year max contract he signed with the Wolves in 2017, played under the Rosas regime in Minnesota for less than a season. They memorably had a moment of bonding before the season over wine when the team took a trip to the Bahamas and talked about Wiggins' future in the organization — only for Wiggins to end up being traded months later as Rosas totally revamped the roster at the trade deadline.
Only Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie and Towns were still on the roster from opening night after the flurry of moves.
"That's pretty crazy," Wiggins said. "They started fresh. That's good for them, though."
It is a little jarring to hear Wiggins refer to the Wolves in the third person and not as "we."
Wiggins said he had no hard feelings toward the organization and Rosas, especially since the Wolves traded him to a place in Golden State with championship DNA. The Warriors are 8-8 this season and in the early mix to return to the postseason after going just 15-50 while crushed by injuries a year ago.
"It's part of the business. It's never personal …" Wiggins said. "It's all love with those guys. We had special moments. We had good times together, but this is all just part of the business. They sent me to a good situation. You know, if they would've sent me to a [bad] situation, then it would've been, 'All right.' But they sent me to a great situation, so I'm thankful for that."
The change also helped the perception of Wiggins. One recent headline of a national article stated, "The Warriors' Andrew Wiggins Experiment is Going Well So Far."
In Golden State, the organization isn't asking him to be the centerpiece, just to be complement a championship core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and, when he returns from injury next season, Klay Thompson.
Wiggins is averaging 17.4 points and is shooting a career-best 40.7% from three-point range, even as his advanced statistics and efficiency numbers haven't differed much from his time in Minnesota.
But the Warriors have lauded Wiggins' play this season, especially on the defensive end when he has drawn some prime assignments. Wiggins is averaging 1.6 blocks per game — more than double his career average. His effort, especially on that end of the floor, was a point of contention for some of those jeering fans in Minnesota.
"Just changed my mind-set defensively," Wiggins said. "I feel like I was a good defender in Minnesota, but here I'm just being more aggressive. Picking up full court. Pressuring. Trying to block everything."
It also helped, Wiggins said, to have a Defensive Player of the Year behind him in Green.
"Draymond makes such a huge impact on the court," Wiggins said. "I feel like sometimes people don't realize. He's a game changer. With him on the court, how he's so vocal. He's everywhere. He's picking up people's mistakes. He's a very impactful guy."
Reflecting on the past
Wiggins had a star defensive player during one full season with the Wolves — Jimmy Butler. When asked to revisit why the Wolves couldn't coexist with Butler beyond one playoff season, Wiggins laughed again and demurred.
"Shoot. I would love to say, but you know, I'm not really one to throw stuff out there," Wiggins said.
It isn't in Wiggins' personality to throw anyone under the bus. Wiggins has a lot of fond memories for the times and people he met in Minnesota and listed a long line of people he is thankful that came into his life, such as all of his head coaches, and several players he counts among friends such as Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Teague, Okogie and Tyus Jones.
"I had a great time in Minnesota," Wiggins said. "I was, what, 19, when I got there? So I was still growing. Growing up to be the man I am today and I feel like Minnesota helped mold me, helped mold the player I am today. It gave me a great opportunity. …
"I was around some great coaches. I was around some great players. So, I feel like my run there was OK."
Even if some may disagree.