Golden State Warriors' forward Andrew Wiggins says he was left surprised by his recent exit from the starting lineup, but is equally determined to make his way out from "this little doghouse".
The 28-year-old's poor form ultimately proved too much for head coach Steve Kerr last week, with Wiggins removed from the starting five for the first time in his regular season career. After two solid but unnoteworthy performances in his first two games off the bench, Wiggins bounced back with a major statement against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
Andrew Wiggins' 25 points and seven rebounds proved crucial in the Golden State Warriors' 118-114 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center
Wiggins was aggressive from the moment he hit the floor on Sunday, hitting an early three before finishing the first-half with 10 points and three rebounds on 4-4 shooting. Yet for everything he did in the first 24 minutes, it's what the Canadian did in the final period that was most important.
After leading by 22 early in the third-quarter, the Warriors inevitably crumbled as the Trail Blazers came storming back into the contest to tie the game. With superstar Stephen Curry in the midst of one of the worst games of his career, Golden State needed someone to supplement the scoring of Klay Thompson who'd tallied 24 points in the first three-quarters.
Enter Wiggins who, like Thompson, put his struggles behind him to answer the call. The former number one overall pick had a team-high 10 points in the final period on 4-6 shooting, including a pair of big three-pointers to help the Warriors stave off the home team's comeback.
It was just what Golden State fans wanted to see, an assertive Wiggins who took the frustration of his benching out on the opposition. His 25 points came on an incredibly efficient 9-12 shooting and 4-6 from three-point range, while he also added seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block.
Speaking postgame, Wiggins revealed he was surprised by the benching but had a broader perspective on the chance that's still in front of him.
""It was definitely surprising but anything can happen in this league. I'm blessed to be here, not a lot of people get the opportunity to play in this league," Wiggins said. "If I want to get out of this little doghouse, I got to just keep fighting my way out""
Despite coming off the bench, Wiggins was preferred to starting power-forward Jonathan Kuminga in the second-half. Whether that's enough to warrant a return to the starting lineup remains to be seen, but it's a positive first step in the 2022 All-Star finding his best.
Regardless of whether it's as a starter or not, you can bet your bottom dollar Wiggins will have an integral role against All-Star forwards Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.