OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Andrew Wiggins told Kansas coach Bill Self that he wants to be traded from Cleveland to Minnesota because the No. 1 overall pick believes it will be better for his long-term future.
Wiggins joined his former coach as a guest instructor at Self’s basketball camp in suburban Kansas City on Sunday. And while Wiggins declined to speak to the few reporters at Shawnee Mission West High School, Self said the rookie wants to carve out his own legacy in the NBA.
“When all this trade stuff started, I talked to Andrew and Andrew told me, “I hope I get traded,” Self said. “And I’m like, ‘No you don’t.’ And he said, “Coach, I do. It’s better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I’m forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they’re going to be patient with me and I’m going to be a piece.”
Earlier, The Associated Press and several other outlets reported a deal had been reached to send Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick to Minnesota for All-Star forward Kevin Love, who will join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to form a new “Big 3” in Cleveland and give the city’s long-suffering sports fans realistic chance to celebrate a first title since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL title.
The deal cannot be consummated until Aug. 23, when Wiggins is eligible to be traded.
The Love-to-Cleveland chatter has been going on for weeks and the teams had been discussing a possible deal long before James announced he was re-signing with the Cavaliers.
In Miami, James won two titles and went to four straight NBA finals with teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They were a power trio, making the Heat both envied and despised by the rest of the league.
James, Irving and Love could be equally devastating.
Now in the prime of his career at 29, James is the best player in the NBA as he returns home to Ohio. Irving is 22, this year’s All-Star game MVP, and just beginning to scratch his potential. And the 25-year-old Love is coming off his best season, one in which he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He’s the top “stretch 4” — a power forward who can rebound and shoot 3-pointers — in the game, but all of his offensive gifts haven’t been enough to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference.
That won’t be a problem in Cleveland now that James is back.
The Cavs, who haven’t been to the playoffs since James left in 2010, are certainly expected to be one of the league’s top teams. Although they’re giving up Wiggins and Bennett, they have promising role players in Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller and Anderson Varejao, giving them more than enough talent to challenge anyone in the Eastern Conference.
Love can opt out of his contract next summer, and the three-time All-Star made it clear to the Timberwolves that he was looking to join a contender after missing the postseason for six seasons in Minnesota.
For the Timberwolves, the departure of Love ends one era. But Wiggins could be the start of something special in Minnesota.
Self said that he initially thought everything worked out perfectly for Wiggins, who would have a chance to win immediately in Cleveland. But he also saw Wiggins’ point: The low-key, soft-spoken swingman could fare better if he’s carrying the weight of a franchise.
That would never have happened if Wiggins was playing in James’s lengthy shadow.
“Even though in a weird way everybody would love the opportunity to play with LeBron because you’re guaranteed winning,” Self said, “for the longevity of his career, he needs to develop that mindset to be the guy, for him to be great, and I think being Minnesota will help him do that.”
Wiggins, who set numerous freshman records during his lone season with the Jayhawks, also appears to be a good fit for the Timberwolves. While his defense is already NBA-caliber, Wiggins will be able to develop his offense alongside point guard Ricky Rubio in an up-tempo system.
Speaking of that offense, Wiggins took part in a modified game of horse on Saturday against former Kansas stars Jeff Graves, Jeff Hawkins and several young campers. After clanking a series of 3-pointers off the iron, Wiggins was the first contestant to be eliminated.
He took the ouster with a smile and a shrug, just as he has all of the trade talk.
“I think he’s handled everything great. He’s excited,” Self said. “I think the whole thing that’s been blown out of proportion a bit is that he’s been in limbo. He’s known since the summer that he’d be traded. It’s OK. In some ways he’s looking forward to going to Minnesota.”