When the Chicago Bulls come to Chase Center to face the Warriors on Friday, the backcourts figure to dictate the outcome. That’s the natural projection inasmuch as it’s Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole vs. Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball.
Much of the focus, however, is compelled to turn elsewhere, toward the body language and inclinations of Andrew Wiggins.
Though he surely didn’t realize it at the time, Wiggins in the wake of a terrific offensive performance Wednesday that demolished his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, opened two doors that won’t close anytime soon.
One: In scoring 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting, including two outrageous and cathartic dunks, Wiggins orchestrated a 32-minute session in showing how effective he can be when emotionally activated.
Two: The usually reticent small forward indicated such high-velocity showings will occur more frequently in the future.
“I’m going to keep rolling,” he said after the 123-110 victory. “I’m going to keep staying aggressive. It’s just the beginning of the season, but it’s a long season. A lot more good games to come.”
The Warriors have been urging aggression from Wiggins almost from the moment he arrived in February 2020. He delivers infrequently.
Pardon me if, after seeing Wiggins play 94 games with the Warriors, there is skepticism. Pardon the fan base if rivers of doubt run through the streets of Dub Nation. Pardon his teammates if their stance amounts to, “OK, playa, let’s see it.”
Wholly impressed by the heavy artillery Wiggins laid on his former team, Curry talked of texting Wiggs a photo of his rousing dunk over Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns before each of Golden State’s remaining regular-season games.
There were two such dunks, so Curry has choices. He knows he wants to see more of the intensity Wiggins displayed against the team that gave up on him. Wants to see it against teams with which there is no hint of a grudge. Just raw-dog hoops.
Yet the team leader knows there is only so much a teammate or coach can do.
“That’s up to him, and the player he wants to be every single night,” Curry said of Wiggins. “He’s in this league for a reason. He’s on this team for a reason. So, whatever he needs to find to get that motivation, we’re going to have his back. We’re going to encourage him every single (step) of the way, knowing how much of an influence and impact he can have.
“But whatever he wakes up in the morning and wants to lock in on and show that everything that happens on that floor matters, he can do that.”
The first time in 11 games this season that Wiggins topped 50 percent from the field was Wednesday night, which also was the second time he scored more than 17 points. There is no doubt he has more to offer.
The NBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2014 and No. 3 on Golden State’s salary structure, Wiggins acknowledged Wednesday night that he had played beneath his capabilities through the first 10 games of the season. Among the starters, he was the No. 3 scorer, averaging 15.6 points, and the No. 5 rebounder, averaging 4.3 per game. He was sixth in assists, sixth in steals and tied for sixth in blocks.
“I feel like I was in a rough little rhythm,” he said. “But today I played better and hopefully I can keep that going.
“It’s a long season, stuff happens. At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t making some shots, I missed a lot of easy shots, keeping myself assertive. Moving without the ball, cutting, doing everything that I can. I just need to keep doing more.”
Will Wiggins recede into the background, or will he bring a full platter of passion for consecutive games?
“It’s on us and on him to continue that kind of aggressiveness and pace that he played with,” coach Steve Kerr said.
He has invited upon himself a level of attention he usually prefers to avoid. At issue is whether he can shine under a spotlight hot enough to make one shrink, and bright enough to make one blink.