About 25 minutes after his team was walloped by the Nets in the season opener Tuesday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr cited as reasons poor execution, sloppy defense, lack of cohesion and a weak competitive spirit.
Teamwide issues. All valid, all true.
No individual symbolized this more than Andrew Wiggins, who needs to be a standout performer for the Warriors to have a realistic chance at success.
“We missed some shots early,” Kerr said after the 125-99 lashing in Barclays Center. “I thought we had some good looks and they just didn't go down. And from there, it just kind of snowballed. It was tough, tough night for Andrew.”
“It was a tough night for everybody. Steph [Curry] struggled with his shot. Kelly [Oubre Jr.] as well. We looked like a team that's only practiced for two weeks and has a long way to go.”
Kerr speaking in the general, rather than the specific, might be a deliberate effort to release any pressure Wiggins might be feeling. It will help only so much. The need for the six-year veteran to play well is not going to go away unless he plays well enough to crush the chatter.
Wiggins was, for most of the night, a mess. Couldn’t find his shooting touch. Couldn’t grab a rebound. Committing turnovers. Defending with little detectable purpose, much less the zeal required to bother the likes of Kevin Durant.
It was Wiggins at his worst, the kind of showing that seems to follow his every glimpse of goodness.
There was one Brooklyn second-half possession on which Wiggins guarded everybody and nobody at all. He ran in circles. Made sharp turns. Spun. It was as if he couldn’t quite figure out who he was supposed to defend.
“I'll watch the tape and I'll try to help him with those things,” Kerr said, conceding that Wiggins never seemed locked in before returning to collective analysis.
“But a lot of it is just we're not functioning as a group yet,” he added. “Teams have to really gel and find identities offensively, find spots were people are comfortable. And because we're two weeks into this thing, we're nowhere near close to that. So, practice time and the film will be great for us and it’ll be great for Andrew. I'm very confident he's going to have a good year for us. It was just a tough night for him -- but a tough night for all of us really.”
Wiggins totaled 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, including 2-of-6 beyond the arc. He added two rebounds, one assist and one block. He was charged with four turnovers, posting a minus-28 in 31 minutes.
Though his offense was bad and his defense worse, Kerr and the Warriors are being careful in an attempt to massage Wiggins toward what they all think he can be.
Curry, realizing his game will come easier if Wiggins is a factor, offered some advice to the player he was sharing the floor with for only the second time.
“Stay aggressive,” Curry said. “You can look at the stat line, and it's not great. But in terms of his confidence and aggressiveness when he has the ball in his hands, he's got to create shots for himself and shots for others. I really don't care what it looks like, because he'll continue to get more comfortable in that position.”
As Kerr did earlier, Curry then transitioned away from the specific.
“Kelly, the same way,” he said. “That's what we were talking about on the bench tonight. ‘Stay aggressive. Don't worry about your shooting percentage. Don't worry about stats. Just keep playing and keep seeing the game. Keep being aggressive.’ That's how we build confidence and get better from game to game.”
In the first of 72 scheduled games, Wiggins was a blight. He has 71 games remaining to prove to the Warriors that he can deliver the goods -- and prove to himself that he can bust out of the “underperformer” jacket he has worn most of his career.