It was the definition of awkward, but everything will turn out fine for Andrew Wiggins.
Clad in a wine No. 21 Cavaliers uniform while taking part in a rookie photo shoot for Panini trading cards in Tarrytown, N.Y., No. 1 overall draft pick Wiggins did an interview with ESPN on Sunday that put him in a very difficult position.
This is neither the fault of ESPN, which was looking for news, nor Wiggins, a polite 19-year-old who is not yet savvy enough to just say no.
Wiggins, who appears destined to be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a package that will bring All-Star power forward Kevin Love to Cleveland, did as well as he could have when asked about the impending deal, but he would have been better served by not doing the interview at all.
“I just want to play for a team that wants me,” he said. “So whichever team wants me, I’ll play for.”
The Cavs want Wiggins. That’s why they took the Kansas swingman with the first pick in the draft. They just want Love more — and the only way they’re going to get him is to part with Wiggins.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Love will “likely” be traded by Aug. 23 or 24. He didn’t mention a team, but Aug. 23 is the first day the Cavs can trade Wiggins after signing him to his rookie contract, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Cleveland is the likely destination for Love.
The Cavs are expected to send Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick to the Timberwolves for Love, who would combine with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to give Cleveland a “Big Three” every bit as good as Miami’s James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances and two titles.
The Cavs will have to include at least one other player or get a third team involved — Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young may end up in Minnesota as part of the latter scenario — to meet salary cap guidelines, but it certainly looks like Love is destined for Cleveland.
And that means Wiggins, through no fault of his own, is headed to Minnesota. (Even the NBA Store has discontinued selling Wiggins’ Cavs jersey, though T-shirts were still available for $27.95 as of Monday afternoon.)
It’s only natural that Wiggins’ head is swimming a bit at the moment. He’s 19. He was the first pick in the draft. He did a big interview session at Cleveland Clinic Courts the day after the Cavs selected him. He played for Cleveland in the Las Vegas Summer League. He thought he was going to be playing with James and Irving in the regular season and playoffs.
Now he’s in limbo and likely headed to Minnesota.
To Wiggins’ credit, he said in the ESPN interview that he wasn’t taking the very real trade rumors in a “personal” way.
“At the end of the day, you have to remember that the NBA is a business before anything,” he said. “I’m a rookie. I really don’t have too much say.”
A part of Wiggins is probably saddened and a bit confused about the very real — and very likely — possibility of being traded so soon after being taken with the No. 1 pick. That’s only natural.
But he’s a smart young man. If he hasn’t already, he will soon realize the fact the Timberwolves are demanding he be included in the trade is a compliment.
Minnesota wants him.
So did the Cavs. They just want Love more.
In the end, Wiggins will be fine. He’ll be a very good — and maybe even great — player for Minnesota. Until he’s officially a member of the Timberwolves, however, he should politely decline future interview requests.