Andrew Wiggins didn’t practice with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, with the team only disclosing that he was “under the weather.”
In a normal year, this wouldn’t so much as raise a single eyebrow. Were it any player other than Wiggins, you’d take three seconds to wonder if it’s a breakthrough case, then forget about it and move on with your day.
But it isn’t a normal year, and it isn’t a different player. It’s a pandemic year, and it’s Andrew Wiggins.
The Warriors entered training camp with legitimate aspirations of winning the West and hanging another banner. They have one of the top MVP candidates on their roster. They have one of the top Defensive Player of the Year candidates on their roster. They have two exciting rookies and an intriguing No. 2 pick entering his second year. They have a franchise icon and five-time All-Star on the verge of returning after more than two years lost to injury.
Despite all that, Wiggins has been not just the main headline, but perhaps the only headline. His resistance to get vaccinated for the coronavirus has become an everyday story, as fans and analysts alike ponder what the team would potentially do without their starting small forward for 41 home games, and if he’d really leave about $15 million on the table.
At media day, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers expressed confidence that they would have a full roster for the start of the season. That same day, Wiggins, normally known for his laid-back demeanor, grew impatient and indignant with questions about the vaccination, while refusing to offer up details as to why he remained resistant.
Now we’re getting closer and the issue is getting larger — but also murkier. The city mandate calling for all Warriors players to be vaccinated if they wish to partake in any activities at Chase Center goes into effect on Oct. 13, meaning practices on that day or the next will be available only to inoculated players, as will the preseason finale on Oct. 15.
Which makes Wiggins’ absence on Saturday noteworthy. If Wiggins is under the weather while dealing with side effects from the COVID vaccination, that likely means he was given a dose on Friday, the last possible day that would make him eligible for that final preseason game, assuming it’s a single-dose vaccine. He’d still miss a practice or two, but he wouldn’t miss any games, regular season or otherwise.
It goes without saying that it’s quite an “if.” Yes, Wiggins might be under the weather due to vaccination side effects, but he might also just be under the weather in a normal way, as happens. And given his lack of vaccination, it also could be that he’s under the weather for much worse reasons.
All that we know is that the Warriors continue to express public confidence that Wiggins will be available when the Warriors play their first regular season home game, an Oct. 21 contest against the LA Clippers. Wiggins will need to be vaccinated by Thursday, Oct. 7 to be eligible for that game, and on Saturday, Kerr again said the expectation is that Wiggins will play in that game.
Kerr reiterated that the Warriors expectation is that Andrew Wiggins will be “available” this season. https://t.co/WrUw2Fa1zT— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 2, 2021
Unfortunately, we also know that such public confidence from Kerr means next to nothing. Perhaps he truly is confident in Wiggins’ availability; perhaps he already knows that Wiggins has been inoculated.
But what’s the alternative here?
Wiggins is already publicly upset that the team let the issue reach the media; Kerr publicly saying that the organization is pessimistic, or concerned about his availability would be a management foible of the highest order.
You could make the case that Kerr’s comment is good news, because he could have simply given the answer a “no comment,” or an equivalent response. You could just as easily make the case that Kerr’s comment is bad news, because if Wiggins is indeed vaccinated, Kerr could have merely said that. And yes, there’s likely a desire to keep that news private, but we’re all going to find out on Oct. 15 regardless.
So what are we left with? Mostly nothing. Wiggins may be under the weather due to a shot of Johnson & Johnson, or he may be unvaccinated. The Warriors’ public confidence may be honest, or it may be fake.
But until Wiggins clarifies his stance or reveals that he’s vaccinated, this will continue to be the only storyline in what would otherwise be a fascinating and exciting training camp.