SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Andrew Wiggins took an extended leave of absence from the Warriors when his family needed him, and now the Golden State forward feels like he can get back to playing basketball for the defending NBA champions.
Wiggins has rejoined the team and is working his way back to being able to play again. That won’t be in the next few days, coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday.
Wiggins showed his signature smile with a shorter hair cut he said needed cleaning up a bit.
“When you’re in a certain situation and your family needs you, it requires your attention and your love, that’s my first priority,” Wiggins said. “My career, everything, family’s always first for me. It will always be that way. I felt like I was in a safe space to come back. We’ve got everything settled, not fully settled, but in a safe place where I can come back.”
Wiggins said he appreciated the Warriors’ support in allowing him to be there for his family during a crucial time. Wiggins expressed gratitude to everyone that respected his privacy and said he is comfortable resuming basketball.
“I’d rather keep that private,” Wiggins said when it comes to specifics surrounding his family’s ordeal.
He was able to get regular workouts done, shooting and lifting weights but said he will need to regain some conditioning. The medical staff will be involved in deciding when Wiggins has built up the stamina and endurance to get back into game action.
Wiggins was set to miss his 23rd straight game Tuesday night against Oklahoma City and hasn’t played since Feb. 13 versus Washington, but said he expects to play again soon. There have been no details provided on what Wiggins was dealing with, nor had there been a timetable for his return other than Kerr saying last week he remained hopeful of Wiggins being back before the end of the season.
“It’s good to see my bro!” Klay Thompson said.
Offered Gary Payton II: “Big Wiggs is back, yeah!”
Warriors general manager Bob Myers and Kerr — and Wiggins offered his thanks, too — credited everyone involved who allowed Wiggins to handle his business without being bothered or feeling pressured about the basketball part. Wiggins watched games whenever he could.
“What sometimes gets lost in professional sports, they’re people, they have lives and family, and I know that sounds obvious but it sometimes gets lost,” Myers said. “But when you work here, at least how we do it, you get to know Andrew as a person, not just as a 20-point scorer, so when someone that you know or work with goes through something your first thought is: ‘How can I help? Are you OK? Is there anything you need?’ In this case, Andrew needed to be away. Whatever he needed we wanted to support.”
The Warriors will be thrilled to have him as they fight for their playoff positioning in the Western Conference and hope to avoid the play-in round.
“It was great to see Andrew today. We missed him the last couple months,” Kerr said. ”… Everyone loves Andrew, just having him back is fantastic.”
Kerr said he expects to have a better idea in the next couple of days when Wiggins might be able to play and if so how many minutes that could be.
“There’s no way he’s playing in the next few days I can tell you that,” Kerr said, unsure what Wiggins’ role would be yet.
Wiggins has missed 43 games in all — three more with left foot soreness, 10 because of a strained adductor in his right thigh, and seven games with a non-COVID illness.
The 28-year-old Wiggins, a first-time All-Star last season who signed a four-year contract extension in October, is averaging 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 37 games this season.
The Warriors never questioned giving Wiggins the time away he needed.
“This was a really easy one, honestly,” Kerr said, “it’s just being human.”
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