Andrew Wiggins is a man of many moves but few words.
But sometimes it doesn’t take many words to make a point. So it was after Sunday’s practice, just before the Wolves boarded their charter to Cleveland, when Wiggins was asked about how well he has played against the Cavaliers.
“It’s just an excitement,” Wiggins said. “A motivation, when you’re facing a LeBron [James] or Kyrie [Irving].”
Of course, there’s more. It’s not just bright lights and big stars that have prompted Wiggins to shoot nearly 60 percent and average nearly 30 points in three games against the Cavs. Cleveland was the team that took Wiggins with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, only to deal him to the Wolves in the Kevin Love deal.
Of course Wiggins would like to make the Cavs think a bit when given the chance. So, it’s a pride thing, right?
“Ahh, you could say that,” Wiggins replied.
For Wiggins, this is practically bulletin board material. But then, he has let his play do most of his talking. He has hit 35 of 60 shots vs. Cleveland, made nine of 14 three-pointers. He has scored more than 30 in two of three games and had a career-high 35 vs. the Cavs on Jan. 8 at Target Center.
And he is returning to Cleveland playing perhaps his best basketball of the season. Wiggins began his second season playing even more aggressively than he had while winning Rookie of the Year honors. Predictably, opponents adjusted, double- and triple-teaming him at times. Of late, Wiggins’ willingness to keep the ball moving has helped both the Wolves offense in general and Wiggins in particular.
“We’re not a great-shooting team right now, so Andrew can say, ‘OK, I’m gonna shoot every time that I come off a screen-and-roll,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. “But he’s passing the ball.”
The Wolves have displayed good ball movement at times in each of their past four games. In Saturday’s victory over Memphis, Minnesota’s spacing and ball movement were on display during their 37-point second quarter.
That ball movement has helped Shabazz Muhammad, who had 25 points Saturday. But it also has helped Wiggins. More spread-out scoring has forced teams to avoid double-teaming him. And Wiggins has found that he often gets the ball back in a better position for a shot.
Wiggins had 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting Saturday. He has been the Wolves’ leading scorer in seven of the past nine games, shooting 51.3 percent and averaging 23.6 points. Mitchell said Wiggins also has done a better job fighting to get into position to get the ball where he wants to take the shot.
Cleveland will present a unique challenge. It will be the Cavs’ second game since firing coach David Blatt and promoting Tyronn Lue to the position. Cleveland lost its first game under Lue on Saturday to Chicago.
But Wiggins will present a challenge to the Cavs. Mitchell said he can see the fire in Wiggins’ eyes when he’s playing Cleveland.
“Maybe we should put a Cleveland uniform on everybody we play,” Mitchell said.
Until then, two times a season will have to do. Wiggins might not bear any bad feelings when it comes to the Cavaliers. But he certainly wants to do well against them. After all, he did spend some time there.
“Yeah,” Wiggins said. “A couple of days.’’