Home Illustration James Wiseman makes his long-awaited return to the Vegas Summer League

James Wiseman makes his long-awaited return to the Vegas Summer League

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LAS VEGAS – Seconds in Golden State’s Summer League game against San Antonio, the Warriors saw exactly what they were hoping for: James Wiseman, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick, corralling a go-oop pass from Jonathan Kuminga and slamming it home. It was Wiseman’s first NBA bucket in over a year and a reminder that for defending NBA champions Golden State, the best may yet be yet to come.

Last line of Wiseman’s stats on Sunday: 11 points, two rebounds in the shadows in less than 20 minutes. He hit five of his seven shots. He knocked down a three. He picked up seven fouls – Summer League rules allow players to commit 10 before being disqualified – and blocked two shots. Wiseman looked rusty after missing all of last season with a knee injury, but showed the kind of explosiveness that excited the Warriors when they beat Wiseman with a high lottery pick.

“It was good,” Wiseman said. There are a lot of things I need to work on. When I was there, my timing was pretty bad. But this is my first game. I had fun there. I could have played more. My conditioning is improving.

How Wiseman playing in the Summer League is not important to Golden State. This he plays is. Wiseman’s time on the court in recent years has been limited. In 2019, Wiseman played three games in Memphis before being shut down and ultimately leaving the program due to eligibility issues. He played 39 games as a rookie before the knee injury ended his season. And he was in street clothes when the Warriors marched to the title last season.

Getting 21-year-old Wiseman back on the field, Warriors Summer League coach Jama Mahlalela said, is the first step on the way back.

“For him to go out and play in a Summer League game like today with good composure and playing on the rim, blocking a few shots, he just looked like a really good basketball player,” Mahlalela said. . “That first outing is everything we wanted, and we told him to get out there, have fun, enjoy the game and let it come to him.”

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There were nuances of the player Wiseman needed to be. He hit a fadeaway jumper in the first half. He made an 18-foot elbow in the second. Late in the game, Wiseman landed a second dunk late in the fourth quarter. Facing NBA-level physicality, Wiseman looked comfortable.

“It was physical,” Wiseman said. “I’ve been out, so I’ve done a lot of individual training. So for me, just to have that push, that physical contact, I’m proud to be there.

Overcoming the physical obstacles to be able to play was difficult. It was the same with the minds. For support, Wiseman leaned on Klay Thompson, his Warriors teammate, and Shaun Livingston, a former NBA guard and Golden State executive. Both Thompson and Livingston suffered significant injuries during their playing careers. And both overcame them.

“I got a lot of information from Klay and Shaun,” Wiseman said. Really just to hold your head up high and carry on. Because it will be hard, especially to come back after a year and a half without playing. It’s going to be quite difficult… I just told myself that my time would come. I was just at the gym, working out, trying to work on my game and improve.

Wiseman’s potential presents Golden State with a unique opportunity for internal improvement. With Wiseman, along with Kuminga and Moses Moody, the Warriors have an enviable young core. If all three are ready — Kuminga, a 21-year-old lottery pick, showed flashes last season — Golden State could have one of the deepest and most talented rotations in the league. Alternatively, the Warriors could look to wrap their young players up in a deal that brings back a player matching the timeline of Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

That, says Wiseman, is not his concern. “I just play basketball,” Wiseman said. “I nod. That’s what I do. I don’t worry too much about the media stuff. The Warriors are just happy to see him play. His teammates gave Wiseman a standing ovation when he returned to the locker room. Steve Kerr sent him a text message saying he played well.One night, Wiseman was a basketball player again.

“I went through a lot of tough times,” Wiseman said. “As a person, as a human being. Seeing everyone cheering me on just lifted me up. It was a wonderful feeling.

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