Andrew Wiggins making himself at home in Minnesota
NBA rules kept incoming rookie Andrew Wiggins in trade limbo all summer. Once the one-and-done Kansas University standout signed his first NBA contract with Cleveland, the Cavs couldn't deal him for 30 days.
Well, the uncertainty and embargo that mired the 19-year-old's time since becoming the No. 1 overall pick kind of worked in his favor. Wiggins arrived in Minneapolis just in time for the Minnesota State Fair.
Put those weeks of annoyance on a stick and toss them in a deep fryer. Or better yet, hop on some rides and sign some autographs.
The Timberwolves utilized the fair crowd to introduce Wiggins and fellow new Minnesotans Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine — all acquired this summer (all but LaVine were added in the trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland).
Now that Minnesota has shipped away its former franchise player so he can join forces with LeBron James, the T'wolves are selling their new roster as one that will bring youth, excitement, defense and up-tempo basketball to the Target Center in the 2014-15 season.
Wiggins told media and fans at Tuesday's fair press conference the plan is to take the franchise in the right direction. During the session, the team's new players brought up Minnesota's now 10-year playoff drought multiple times.
"We're young, athletic," Wiggins said. "We have a lot of freaks on this team. And we all play hard, are competitive. So I think that'll help bring us to a whole different level."
Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders hopes Wiggins will prove capable of leading a turn-around. Saunders said after the trade became official that Love was such a unique player, they wanted to be sure to get a solid asset in return when they dealt him away.
"A lot of times, in the history of it, people have gotten good players back, but maybe not what you consider a guy who has an opportunity to be a superstar-type player," the coach said.
"You're talking in Wiggins a player that, since he was in high school, people thought he was the best player to come out of high school since LeBron James. He's been compared to those (type of players) and he's got phenomenal ability. He's got a lot of work to do, but I know that he's a willing learner."
Saunders can already tell Wiggins is a hard worker and said the rookie could potentially develop into an all-defensive team player. The coach/president thinks the team has an identity now, with multiple two-way players.
As for what never was in Cleveland for the KU product, Wiggins just felt relieved to put on a jersey and know that will be the one he will wear for seasons to come.
Wiggins said he didn't take the trade personally or feel rejected.
"I know it's a business," he said. "Organizations are like a family, really. If they feel like something's better for their family, they're gonna go through with that decision. That's what they did."
When LeBron joined the Cavs, Wiggins said it was a joyful moment.
Jeff Caplan wrote about the potentially odd relationship between Wiggins and James for NBA.com's Hang Time blog.
Rob Fulford, Wiggins’ high school coach at Huntington Prep, said his former player was too classy, humble and respectful to worry about that.
“I think this whole process with the trade rumors, he could care less. That kid just wants to play basketball. The fact that LeBron never reached out to him, Andrew could care less what LeBron James thinks of him.”
Bennett, who grew up in the basketball circuit around Wiggins, was taken No. 1 in the 2013 NBA Draft. The forward was asked if he had any advice for his fellow young Canadian.
"Work hard through the ups and downs," Bennett said. "I've been through it and it's only going into my second year. I just told him to stay focused, don't listen to all the talk people say. Just keep on the grind."
Embiid tweets signing selfie (of course he does)
Elsewhere, Tuesday held significance for Wiggins' KU teammate Joel Embiid, too.
Signing an NBA contract figures to be a life-changing moment, especially considering he might have to alter his Twitter game.
No one should be surprised that the big man was back to tweeting away shortly thereafter. But he did manage to avoid anything fine-worthy. Basically, Embiid is looking forward to rigging the NBA 2K15 video game in his favor.
Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie said Tuesday it remains unclear when Embiid will debut for the 76ers, following his late-June surgery to repair his right foot.