In one of the most important games of his NBA career, Andrew Wiggins played while nursing a fracture around his rib cage. But after feeling limited in the Warriors’ decisive Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, Wiggins determined he couldn’t try to do the same thing with the Canadian national team for the FIBA World Cup.
“This year was tough because I ended the season with a broken rib,” Wiggins told Sportskeeda. “But the goal next year is to be with them in Paris.”
Wiggins spoke to Sportskeeda about various topics, including his interest in playing for Canada in the 2024 Olympics, the latest on his health and what it will take to become a second-time NBA All-Star and a first-time member of an All-NBA Defensive team.
Andrew Wiggins interview (Mark Medina)
Editor’s note: The following one-on-one conversation has been condensed and edited.
How are you feeling physically?
“I feel good. The training staff has done a good job with keeping us healthy and getting us prepared. I feel good coming into the season. The offseason was great. I was hurt at the end of the playoffs. That was tough. But I was able to get time and rest to get my body right. Of course, I worked on my game to get ready for the season.”
Did you need to get any procedures?
What issues were you dealing with when you tried to play through your rib injury in the Warriors’ close-out loss to the Lakers?
“It wasn’t easy. But it was just one game. It was the playoffs. Everyone is hurt. Everyone is banged up and has bruises. It’s that time of year. It was time to go. I just had to fight through it.”
What was challenging with playing in that game?
“Getting hit and having to guard some of the bigger guys. The playoffs are a physical game. So every time that you’re getting hit, you obviously feel that. It starts to add up.”
Despite the loss, Steve [Kerr[ and your teammates praised you for trying to gut it out. What did that mean to you?
“The team supports me and the coaches support me. It’s a great organization. They really take care of their players.”
Do you wonder if the outcome would’ve been different had you been healthy?
“Maybe. But injuries happen every year. It happens to different teams and different players. That’s part of the game.”
How are you able to think that way?
“I’m always cool. I’m playing the game I love. I got a great family and great friends. I have a great life. I’m blessed. I’m in no position to pout. I’m always with all my family and my friends. It’s always a great time to be around them. They have so much positivity.”
How did you weigh whether to play for Canada in the FIBA World Cup this summer or rest?
“This year was tough because I ended the season with a broken rib. But the goal next year is to be with them in Paris. It was tough. But they did a great job there. They qualified, and that was something we hadn’t done in a long time. All of the guys competed hard, led by Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], Dillon [Brooks] and RJ [Barrett]. It was great for those guys.”
So you’ll definitely play for Canada in the 2024 Olympics?
Wiggins: “Yeah, I would love to.”
And I’d imagine they said they feel the same way?
Wiggins: “Yeah” (laughs)
What’s your outlook on Canada winning gold?
Wiggins: “I think our chances are good. We have a great team.”
What are your own expectations for this upcoming season with the Warriors?
“Connecting with the team and having a solid and strong season. I would love to be an All-Star. I would love to be on the All-Defensive team. We have to win games and stay consistent. That’s what’s most important.”
You’ve had consistent seasons before and didn’t make an NBA All-Defensive team. What’s your take on that?
“I felt I had a good chance last year. But then I was out for a while [missed the final 25 regular-season games to attend a personal family matter]. Then, I got hurt. But I just have to stay consistent on both sides of the ball and affect the game anywhere that I can.”
Do you feel parts of your defense doesn’t get the recognition it should?
“Maybe. I’m not sure. I try to get going on defense. That’s what my focus is on because I feel that it helps me get going. It’s a big part of what I do.”
How would you compare your defensive approach between when you’re guarding wings and when you’re guarding bigger players?
“You just have to be able to make that switch. When you’re guarding a guard or a wing, you get more into the ball and you’re trying to get over screens. When you’re guarding a big, you’re basically playing to make a decision to help the person guarding the screen. You have to know how to switch over.”
The team has Draymond [Green], [Kevon] Looney and added [Dario] Saric. But because of potential small lineups, do you sense you’ll have to do more of that this season?
“Yeah. I might have to. I did it a lot these last couple of seasons. So it’s nothing really new. It’ll be cool.”
What will be the key to blend the team’s championship core, Chris Paul and young players together?
“We have a great squad. Adding CP was great. He’s another leader on the team that can help bring control and push the team to get better. We’re a high-level team that can do something special this year. Everything’s been cool. The team has been working hard. We’ve been having fun. We’re learning and connecting.”
What has CP’s presence been like so far?
“It’s been known, for sure. He’s one of the all-time greats and one of the best point guards of all time. As soon as he comes on the floor, he really helps us.”
Kerr has said he’ll have “six starters.” How do you adjust to the fluidity with different starting lineups and rotations throughout the season?
“It’s just basketball. You go on the court no matter who you’re with, and you get to it. When you’re in practice, that’s what you prepare for. So when you have the games, it becomes easier.”
Steve hasn’t indicated yet who would come off the bench now that Chris is here, but what’ll be your approach for both when you’re starting and if your role changes?
“I haven’t given that too much thought, so I don’t know.”
Considering you made the All-Star team the year before, how do you maintain the consistency you showed that season (2021-22)?
“Most importantly, it’s about keeping your body right and staying healthy. You can’t stay consistent if you’re hurt. I’m focusing on taking care of myself and staying on top of everything so that I can stay healthy.”
You’ve had a few seasons where you played all 82 games (2014-15, 2016-18) or came close (2018-19, 2020-2022). Besides still being in your prime, what have you done that you think helped you stay durable before last season’s injuries?
Wiggins: “I try to eat healthy. I stay hydrated. I always know what I put in my body. I don’t eat red meat, pork or dairy. I eat chicken, turkey and fish. I feel clean. Training wise, the method is there. If you train hard and prepare right, then everything will be good. It’s just about having the mindset and the want to do it.”
What did you enjoy about your off-season trip to China?
“It was cool. I went with Peak. It was great. I was there for 10 days and had a chance to interact with the fans at different Peak events. The whole time was crazy. From the time we jumped off the plane, it was crazy. The fans were everywhere. They showed a lot of love for me, my family and my friends. They showed a lot of love to Peak. I had a good time.
I read you saw different animals there. What was that like?
“I saw a panda for the first time. That was cool. I never had seen one before. I got to feed some giraffes. That was cool, too, and they’re friendly. I petted a baby tiger, a slot and an orangutan. It was a big zoo.”
Was that scary?
“Nah, it wasn’t scary. There were a lot of people there. The changes of them doing something to me and everybody were slim because I’m fast” (laughs).
I saw some fans were pretty emotional at some of your autograph signings. What experiences really hit home with you?
“For both some younger and older fans, you could tell they were fans of me for a long time. There was a little kid that cried when I signed his shoes. That was pretty cool he showed a lot of love. I was on the bus, and he was outside and wanted to see if he could get it signed. We called him up, and he started crying. I signed it and he said, ‘Thank you.’ That was so dope. It’s a different culture. You see a different side of the world. It’s pretty cool.”