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Sports

The Story of Andrew Wiggins

It’s far too common today to label an athlete a ‘bust’ before they’ve gotten a fair chance to shine. Top picks are tasked with not only transitioning their game to the NBA level, but are also expected to contribute to winning. That is way easier said than done when a majority of these picks are walking into not-so ideal situations. Newly minted NBA champion Andrew Wiggins had that exact experience. So how did Wiggins get labeled as a ‘bust’ and how did he beat that misnomer?

High School
(Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins was born in Toronto, Canada and played high school basketball there for two years. To say he dominated the Canadian basketball scene would be an understatement. Wiggins led his team to a 44-1 record on the road to an Ontario Provincial championship. There was no more to conquer up north for Wiggins so he took his talents to the prep school circuit. He was the consensus #1 prospect in the country after putting up averages of 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. After winning just about every national player of the year award Wiggins was ready to take on the collegiate level. In May of 2013 he would officially commit to the University of Kansas.

University of Kansas
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Although Wiggins would only play one year at Kansas, it was a year to remember. Kansas would finish the 2013-14 season with a 25-10 record and a two seed in the NCAA tournament. Wiggins put up averages of 17 points and 6 rebounds, earning him Big-12 All-Freshman team honors. Kansas would make a mid-tier run in the tournament, losing to Stanford in the third round. Wiggins was still the consensus #1 prospect in the country and the next logical step was declaring for the draft.

Timberwolves Days
(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Backed by maddening hype and dubbed ‘Maple Jordan’, Wiggins would go first overall in the 2014 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As the Cav’s were eagerly awaiting LeBron James to announce his return to the team, they sent Wiggins to Minnesota in return for a win-now player in Kevin Love. Wiggins would find individual success right off the start for the Timberwolves. He would average 17 points and 5 rebounds en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award. Wiggins would spend five seasons with the Timberwolves and only make the postseason once. Despite averaging 19 points over that time, the Timberwolves felt that Wiggins couldn’t help contribute to winning and would trade him at the 2020 deadline.

Winning Warriors
(Photo by Josh Leung/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wiggins next landing spot would be with a Warriors team that was plagued with injuries. The team had just lost Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson was sidelined with a season-long injury. During his third year with the Warriors they were finally healthy and primed for a title run. Wiggins was spectacular all season averaging 17 points and five rebounds while propelling the Warriors to a top seed in the West. He earned his first all-star honors and was even named a starter. Wiggins would elevate his game during the postseason. He played superb defense all NBA Finals and was even the second leading scorer for the champion Golden State Warriors. There is no question in anyone’s mind if Andrew Wiggins can contribute to a championship squad. It’s truly incredible the resiliency that Wiggins has shown over these past couple of years. His story just shows that a fresh start and the right situation can be the difference.

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Sports

Tony Parker Sits Down With ONE37pm

NBA legend Tony Parker recently announced a collaboration with MTN Dew and Buffalo Wild Wings to give back to fans. We sat down with the 2007 Finals MVP to discuss the collab, his time on the Spurs, and who he thinks will win this year’s finals. 

ONE37pm: We’re here today because you teamed up with MTN DEW and Buffalo Wild Wings to give back to the fans. Can you tell us what’s in store for that?

Parker: Of course! I partnered with them because of the love they have for our game and our fans. They wanted to do something special to celebrate that. If the NBA finals goes to game seven, you can get free MTN DEW Legend at every Buffalo Wild Wings. I thought that was pretty cool because I think the series will go to seven and I played in a couple game sevens myself so that’s why i’m here today. 

ONE37pm: We’ll definitely be rooting for the series to go seven games then so we can get our hands on some free MTN DEW legend.

Parker: There you go haha. 

ONE37pm: So, when you won Finals MVP in 2007 you attempted seven threes throughout the entire four game series. In game five of the Mavs-Warriors conference finals, Klay Thompson took sixteen threes alone. What is your reaction to that type of three-point volume?

Parker: The game has changed just a little bit since I was playing haha. When I was playing we shot some three’s, but not a lot. That’s why me and Timmy (Duncan) never shot a lot of threes. Even back then in the 90’s Michael didn’t shoot a lot of three’s. Now the game is all about three’s, everybody is shooting threes. Sixteen three’s back then would be a total for a team, but now it’s kind of normal for a player. It’s just kind of the evolution of our game and the way Steph, you have to give him a lot of credit, the way he changed the game. It had an effect on Damian Lillard, Trae Young, all those guys now shoot from half-court like it’s nothing. 

ONE37pm: And you got the chance to play a young Steph Curry in 2013, what was that like?

Parker:  Oh I remember them in 2013. I remember being in the locker room and I was like “man i’m happy we’re done playing against those guys”. I remember telling Timmy “They’re going to be good for a long time, they’re going to be really good”, and sure enough two years after, they won the championship in 2015. They are a very good team and have a lot of similarities with our championship runs. They’ve been playing well for a very long time. Six finals in eight years, the way they are built with the same coach and same core. It’s a lot of similarities with how we did it, winning four championships in a nine year span, so it’s pretty cool to watch. 

ONE37pm: Going off that, today you see players bounce around a lot from team to team, but the Warriors and Celtics both have had a solid core for a number of years. Playing with the same core in San Antonio for so many years, how much do you think that attributed to your guys success?

Parker: For me it’s no secret. If you want to win and you want to have success you need to build chemistry and that comes with time. Sometimes NBA franchises want to go too fast and break up teams after 2-3 years, but it doesn’t happen like that. If you want to win and especially for a lot of years, you have to build a core and have some stability with the same coach. That’s what happened with Golden State and that’s what happened with us and the Spurs. With Boston, even if it’s a rookie coach, he came from stability and the franchise, he (Ime Udokah) was with the Spurs for seven years. The team you have has similar players. Tatum, Brown, Smart, they’ve been playing together for a long time. Now you see the result, they made the finals with an unbelievable run. 

ONE37pm: I know you said earlier you think the series will go seven games, any inkling on who might be lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy?

Parker: I think Golden State’s gonna win and I think at the end experience is going to be a big factor. I think the story is just beautiful with what happened in 2019. Not making the playoffs for the last two seasons and coming back like that is unbelievable. 

ONE37pm: So you think Steph get’s ring number four?

Parker: I think so yeah, I think he will tie me haha. 

ONE37pm: You were the third french player to ever play in an NBA game. Today well over thirty Frenchman have touched an NBA floor. What’s it been like to see this new generation of European players make such a large impact on the NBA today?

Parker: It was just great to be an ambassador. To be the first Frenchman to win an NBA title, first Frenchman to be an all-star, first European to win finals MVP. I can appreciate it even more now, I can look at it and have some perspective. I am very proud of my country and everyone that is playing in the league now. I always took it very seriously to be a good ambassador for my country. 

ONE37pm: Do you have a favorite player to watch currently in the NBA?

Parker: If I go with a veteran I have to go with Steph and if I have to go with a young guy I’m going with Ja Morant. 

ONE37pm: The Heat vs Spurs finals is one of the earliest memories I have watching basketball and I remember how dominant you guys were in 2014. What was your mentality like going into that series because you had just lost to the Heat the previous year in seven but came out and dominated in 2014?

Parker: Man, we were so motivated. I think 2014 is the best basketball we ever played in our Spurs history and that was created by game seven of 2013. The way we came back just showed our mentality. We wanted to come back at the top. We won a lot at the beginning of our careers, winning three championships in five years. To go through every step every year, Conference Finals, NBA Finals, and then to finally be back on top was the best feeling ever. That’s why out of all the championships I’ve won 2014 stays as my favorite. 

Make sure to follow the NBA finals and get free MTN DEW legend at Buffalo Wild Wings if the series goes seven games! 

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Sports Strength

Gary Trent Jr And The Difference A Fresh Start Makes

As professional sports leagues turn younger and younger in recent years, the amount of pressure put on young athletes to evolve into consistent starters almost immediately has drastically increased. Eighteen-year-old kids are expected to play at the highest level from the day they enter the league. The problem with that expectation is that certain players aren’t in the right place. We have seen time and time again–whether it be Lonzo Ball coming into his own in Chicago or Andrew Wiggins becoming an all-star in Golden State– A change of scenery is sometimes all a player needs to reach the next level. None is more true however than the difference a fresh start made for Gary Trent Jr. Now playing out his first full season in Toronto, Trent has become one of the most reliable scorers the league has to offer. 

Gary Trent Jr. was one of the highest touted prospects in the class of 2017, ranking eighth out of all players. Trent would play out his college career at Duke before entering the NBA draft in 2018. After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings 37th overall, Trent Jr was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers where he would begin his NBA career. Those first few years in Portland saw Trent Jr. take significant strides each season on the offensive end. In his second season, Trent Jr. put up a modest 8.9 points per game and was beginning to come into his own. Even with continued progression, it was clear that something was off with Trent Jr. The young guard wasn’t playing with as much energy or excitement as in his days with Duke, and ultimately the Blazers traded Trent Jr. to the Raptors. 

It was when Trent Jr. arrived in Toronto that things really began to change. It all began with a conversation with Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. He told Trent Jr. that they were excited for the impact he can bring on the offensive side, but needed him to buy in on the defensive end. Trent Jr. was a pretty poor on-ball defender when he entered the league and this was the area of his game that needed the most improvement. Trent Jr. immediately bought in and has propelled himself as one of the best young two-way players in the NBA now averaging just under two steals a game. This newfound confidence has turned Trent Jr. into a flame thrower when he’s on, knocking down three after three. If he can have some more consistency in his shooting, the Raptors will have something special cooking in Toronto.

It’s impossible to understate the importance of being in the right place. Just a single full season on his new team and Trent Jr. is showing that he can be impactful and contribute to winning basketball. Trent Jr’s father and former NBA player Gary Trent chronicled the whole ordeal by describing how his son’s demeanor changed so significantly when he arrived in Toronto. As the league gets younger I think it’s important to emphasize these stories like Gary Trent Jr’s, because sometimes a fresh start is all someone needs. 

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Sports Strength

Luke Kennard Has Built A Living On The Three Point Line

Contract extensions in the NBA can send fans into a euphoric glee or into a deep despair. Whether it’s an extension, a veteran minimum, or a super-max contract, fans are going to feel a certain way and will be quick to jump to conclusions. The problem with having a visceral reaction to your favorite teams signing a certain player is simply that you’re not clairvoyant. The future is unpredictable, and the impact a new player has on a team isn’t clear until he steps on the floor. This exact scenario arose when Luke Kennard signed a four year, $64 million extension with the Los Angeles Clippers. Fans were puzzled to say the least, and didn’t understand what Kennard had done to earn the deal. But with a little hindsight now two years into the deal, Kennard has more than lived up to his extension. 

Coming out of a blue-chip program like Duke, Luke Kennard was undeniably NBA ready by the time he was selected 12th overall in 2017 by the Detroit Pistons. At this time the Pistons were still fairly competitive, led at the time by a solid young core of Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson (Harris and Jackson were then traded for Blake Griffin at the 2018 trade deadline). Although the Pistons didn’t achieve much on-court success outside of a brief postseason appearance in 2019, Kennard established himself as a lethal shooter and role player. After a subdued first two seasons playing off of Drummond and later Griffin, Kennard had a breakout season in 2020 as he gradually assumed a bigger role. Before injuries and COVID derailed Detroit’s season, Kennard averaged 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game. As a result of this strong season, the Clippers traded for Kennard that off-season and rewarded him with a big contract extension before he even stepped on the court for them. 

Now in his second season for the Clippers, Kennard has continued to be a flame-thrower on the perimeter. While he somewhat struggled in his first season, he’s now returned to his sharp-shooting ways; knocking down 44.8 percent of his 6.1 threes per game, Kennard is the most accurate high-volume three-point shooter in the league this year. Fittingly, Kennard’s incredible shooting marks landed him an invite to this year’s three-point contest, where he fell just short in the championship round and finished second overall in the competition. 

The return of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is looming in the background of the Clippers season, but the most consistent aspect of this Clippers team has been Luke Kennard. Turning himself into one of the most reliable and lethal 3-pt specialists, Kennard has undoubtedly deserved the extension he signed in 2020. Get used to the name Luke Kennard, because he will be ranking amongst the best shooters in the NBA for years to come.

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Sports Strength

Amir Coffey: The Los Angeles Clippers Secret Weapon

When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eloped to Los Angeles to become Clippers in the summer of 2019, it was easy to imagine that the star-studded “Battle for LA” would quickly become the NBA’s marquee matchup. Thanks to their proximity and celebrity, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Lebron James seemed poised to be the principal actors in a potentially era-defining rivalry. Two years later, that rivalry has yet to come to fruition as both teams have struggled with injuries and the psychic weight of high expectations. This year, the Lakers have been sabotaged by a malcontent, misshapen roster and the mangled Clippers face a nightly struggle to field seven ambulatory players for their games. But amidst the Clippers’ injury carnage, there have been ample opportunities for hungry young players to showcase their talent and establish themselves as part of the Clips’ long-term plans: Amir Coffey has done just that.

Going undrafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2019, Amir Coffey signed a two-way deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. After spending most of his first two seasons in the G-League, Coffey has made the most of his opportunities this season and grown into an important rotation piece. In the Clippers’ 20 games since 2022 started, Coffey has averaged 13.2 points per game and drained 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

One of the most overlooked aspects of any great team is their role players. Superstars may do the heaviest lifting, but it’s impossible to succeed without trust-worthy glue guys who can knock down jumpers and make smart decisions with the ball; for Coffey, the biggest difference between this year and last year is that he’s now making enough jumpers to fulfill both of those requirements. Over the last few years, Coffey has improved his true shooting from 53.7 percent during his senior year at Minnesota to 62.8 percent this season. Simultaneously, Coffey has ramped up his 3-point-shooting volume to 3.6 attempts per game, more than double his average from last year.

Although Coffey has shined under the radar for weeks, his value to the team was most readily apparent when the Clippers mounted the second-largest comeback in NBA history last month against the Washington Wizards. Against the ‘Zards, Coffey led his team in scoring, exploding for a career-high 29 points (including nine in the fourth quarter) and helping the Clippers overcome a 35-point deficit to win the game.

Admittedly, there’s a very real possibility that this month might represent the high-water mark of Coffey’s career. Last week, the Clippers nabbed Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers, introducing more competition for playing time on the wings. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will presumably return at full-strength next season. But even if Coffey is forced to readjust to life as a 20-minute-per-game bench player, he’s cemented his status as an important piece of the Clippers’ future as a role player who can ably fill any size role.