SAN FRANCISCO -- From defensively challenging LeBron James to drilling open jumpers to turning the corner at the elbow and driving for a dunk out of a half-court set, Andrew Wiggins did a variety of things Saturday sure to endear him to the crowds at Chase Center.
Moreover, the latest Warriors’ impact acquisition gave a degree of effort -- an element of his game that has been questioned -- his teammates and coaches are bound to appreciate.
Such as moving his feet and keeping his hands up on defense, and then, on the other end, cutting and darting off the ball with a determination just short of the Klay Thompson/Stephen Curry ideal.
Though the Warriors took a 125-120 loss to the Lakers, it is much more germane that Wiggins played hard enough and performed well enough to encourage all pertinent parties.
“He’s long, athletic and he’s been in the league,” coach Steve Kerr said. “So, he understands the NBA game and made some really good plays that we try to teach in terms of how to guard pick-and-roll and getting back into the passing lane and fighting back to the basket when somebody breaks free and is blocking shots from behind.
“The extra effort really was helpful. And because of that athleticism, it allows him to make some plays that other guys just can’t.”
Inserted into the starting lineup 20 hours after arriving in the Bay Area from Minnesota, Wiggins finished with 24 points, on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from distance and 5-of-9 from the line. The 6-foot-8 small forward also had five steals, four turnovers, three assists, two rebounds and one block. He played 31 minutes and finished minus-2.
After nearly six seasons with a Timberwolves franchise that has won just two playoff series in its 30-year history and last reached the postseason in 2018, Wiggins appeared revived and eager to embrace a new start, with surroundings.
“We lost a lot, you know, in Minnesota,” Wiggins said. “So, coming here and being part of a winning team and a winning culture, is different. Losing is never fun. Just being here, you can tell by everyone’s attitude, everyone is a coach, everything here, everywhere, they’re winners.
“That’s something I’ve wanted to be my whole career. I’m here. So, I’m happy.”
It showed. Wiggins got the primary assignment on LeBron and made him work for everything. James totaled 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting, adding 11 assists and eight rebounds.
“It was great to have a player that we could put on LeBron and at least matchup physically,” Kerr said.
It’s significant to note that Wiggins’ offensive numbers came without the benefit of playing alongside Draymond Green, who was a late scratch (low back discomfort) and joined Curry and Thompson on the unavailable list. With his passing and dissecting of a defense, Draymond excels at finding scorers and should smooth things out for Wiggins.
Then, too, Wiggins’ offense should become more efficient simply by sharing the court with Curry, Green and Thompson. It’s a matter of maintaining consistent off-the-ball movement and being able make open 3-balls, particularly from the corners.
Insofar as he profiles as having potential to be a good defender -- terrific athleticism and a 6-10 wingspan -- it’s up to the Warriors and their culture, which demands trust, to help him plumb it.
Mostly, Wiggins has to play as if winning matters. As if losing is misery. As if chasing rings are the first, second and third priorities. He has been criticized for lacking desire and, in some quarters, being without passion for the game of basketball.
“I feel like everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Wiggins said. “It is what it is. I feel like when you’re losing, there’s going to be a dark shadow over you.
“But I’m here now. This is a winning culture. A winning team. So, hopefully, people can take a different view and just watch us ball.”
[RELATED: Why Draymond likes Wiggins trade]
With the Warriors at 12-41, the real balling will have to wait. Curry should be back next month. It’s looking as if Thompson won’t return until next season. That’s when the Warriors should look a bit more as they did in recent seasons rather than the current one.
It was only one night, but Wiggins passed any reasonable test. Playing with strangers, nearly half of them summoned from the G League, he earned nothing less an A-minus and was a couple rebounds from a solid A.