DALLAS – As the third quarter ended Wednesday, Andrew Wiggins still was pleading his case to officials.
The quiet Wiggins lets a lot of stuff go, and has even received criticism from fans who take his placidity for disinterest.
But in Wednesday’s loss to the Mavericks, he made sure to plead his case after officials didn’t call a foul on his final drive of the quarter. It got to the point that some on the bench physically went to bring him back to the huddle. Afterward, Wiggins made nice.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Wiggins said. “I mess up. Even the refs are human, too. If they mess up, they mess up. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the game. They’re watching different people. So I don’t blame nobody.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I do, and eventually it’ll go my way.”
Wiggins, who is questionable for Friday night’s game at Oklahoma City because of a sprained right thumb, did have a little more exasperation in his voice when talking about his shooting against Dallas.
“I just couldn’t hit nothing,” he said. “I’m missing stuff around the rim. Everything. So I just stayed aggressive.”
Those two quotes are a snapshot of where Wiggins is at this year compared to years past.
He’s driving to the basket more, and even when his shot isn’t falling, he’s still attempting to get to the rim.
It also means he should be drawing more fouls, and at times this season he hasn’t been shy about sharing his thoughts with officials.
However, it’s understandable that Wiggins would be fed up with missing a lot of shots around the rim. He was 7-for-24 against the Mavericks — including just 3-for-13 on shots from 10 feet or closer — continuing a trend that began when Wiggins returned from a three-game absence because of a death in the family and an illness.
In 11 games before that absence, Wiggins was shooting 48% overall and 36% from three-point range. In six games since, he is shooting 40% and 32%. But as Wiggins would say, he has “stayed aggressive” despite his shooting woes. He’s averaging seven free-throw attempts since his absence, up from 4.8 before it.
The type of shots he has been taking hasn’t changed much. He’s taking 6.3 shots per game from the restricted area, down slightly from seven before his three games off, and he’s actually taking fewer midrange shots (2.2 compared to 3.5). He has had an increase in shots from the paint that are not from the restricted area — 4.8, which has risen from 3.9. The difference there is over the first 11 games he was hitting those shots at a 40% clip. That has decreased to 28% in the past six.
“I feel like that’s how it goes,” Wiggins said. “I just haven’t been hitting. It’s not just shots. It’s layups. It’s stuff around the rim. I’m right there to drop it in, and they’re just going in and out. I’m just going to keep doing the same thing and I know it’s going to drop.”
The good news for the Wolves and Wiggins is the next opponent is Oklahoma City. Even when Wiggins was struggling last season, he still played his customary good games against the Thunder, averaging 28 points on 51% shooting in four matchups.
“He continues to grow,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “He’s provided a lot of nice performances for us in these first 20 games. Do we wish we had a few more wins? Yeah, we do. But we like a lot of the progress we’ve made both with individuals as well as within our system and where we want to go in moving forward.”
And moving forward, Saunders said he doesn’t mind if Wiggins wears his emotions on his jersey more, even if it means bickering with officials.
“I like that,” Saunders said. “I don’t want to call us an emotional team, but I think we’re a team with purpose, where these guys all rally around each other. … We’ve got to understand, too, that we make sure we control that. All of us. But Andrew, he was under control.”
Now if only the shots would start dropping again.