Andrew Wiggins wraps up Summer League after 'crazy' week of rumors
LAS VEGAS -- The No. 1 overall pick made it through Summer League without getting traded.
That wouldn't usually be news, but this has been an unusual July in the NBA, especially for the Cavaliers and rookie forward Andrew Wiggins.
The arrival of LeBron James sparked celebrations in Cleveland and a rumor storm in Las Vegas, where the Cavaliers debuted just hours after the four-time MVP announced his decision to return to the team that drafted him in 2003. The notable omission of Wiggins' name from James' essay with Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins left the Kansas product in the uncomfortable position of attempting to make a good first impression while also facing an endless series of questions about his future.
"It's been crazy," Wiggins said of his first week on the job, after Cleveland's final Summer League game on Friday. "It's all positive stuff. With LeBron coming back, there's nothing negative about that at all. The best player in the world coming to your team, it's just a great feeling. The organization is on the rise right now."
Of course the situation isn't quite that simple. Trade rumors linking Wiggins and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett in a proposed deal with the Timberwolves that would return All-Star forward Kevin Love picked up major steam this week, setting off "Wiggins or Love?" debates across the country. Reports suggested that James wants Love so that Cleveland would be in position to compete for a title immediately, while other reports indicated that Love was amenable to joining the Cavaliers, while still others linked the Warriors to interest in Love. Denials of the Cavaliers/Timberwolves trade talks have been issued, but they've done little to quiet the noise.
"Rumors are rumors, that's why they call them rumors," Cavaliers first-year coach David Blatt said Thursday. "Sooner or later, in one's career, you're going to have to deal with it. If [Wiggins] has to deal with it now, then so be it. It's Summer League, he's learning as he goes along. ... [The rumors don't] mean anything. At least right now. That's the beauty of this game, there's always something to talk about."
Basketball-wise, the Cavaliers' week ended early, as they failed to advance in the Summer League's tournament format. Blatt opted to shut down Wiggins for his team's final game on Friday, a meaningless consolation bracket contest against the Heat. That was likely an easy call, as Wiggins showed the Cavaliers plenty, even if he didn't totally dominate the competition.
Wiggins, 19, averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in his four appearances. He mixed in some A-list highlight reel fare -- topped by a spin move dunk that went viral and a well-timed chasedown block -- with some smooth stepback jumpers, and a bunch of bricks from outside. Wiggins shot just 41 percent overall and a paltry 15 percent from deep, connecting on just two of his 13 three-point attempts. On a brighter note, he was able to get to the free-throw line 20 times in a loss to the Rockets on Thursday, finishing with his tournament-high of 21 points. The Cavaliers also scored a win against the Bucks, giving Wiggins a victory over No. 2 pick Jabari Parker.
"Andrew is going to be a heck of a player," Blatt said. "He has a nice calm about him and a good demeanor."
Fans chanted for Blatt to put Wiggins into Friday's game, even though he was given the night off, hoping for more flashes from the hyper-athletic Canadian, whose father is former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins.
Really, the off-court excitement surrounding Wiggins wound up being nearly as intriguing as his play. A game of cat-and-mouse with the assembled media ensued this week, as Cavaliers public relations officials first shielded him from questions about the rumors and then abruptly excused him from a postgame media availability on Thursday so that he could sign autographs for fans. Wiggins finally addressed the rumors on Friday night, shyly smiling as he tiptoed through the minefields.
"I let my agent and my support system really handle that," he said. "I love playing the game of basketball, I know the NBA is a business. ... If it's someone important [asking me about the rumors], like your family or friends, you tell them what you know. If it's not, it goes through one ear and out the other. ... I just know what you know. I just see what you see on TV. That's about it."
Maintaining that he hasn't heard from Cavaliers management about his future, Wiggins did express a desire to remain in Cleveland, issuing what could be read as a public appeal to James.
"It would be great to really learn and pick his brain, to see what it takes to get to his level," he said.
James found time this week to ask fans on social media whether he should wear jersey No. 6 or No. 23, but he has yet to publicly comment on Wiggins since signing a two-year, $42.1 million contract with Cleveland on Saturday.