Draymond Green arrived at Warriors training camp Monday, and he brought James Wiseman with him.
Now, one week into camp, the Warriors earnestly can begin digging the foundation that will determine who they are and what they will become in the 2020-21 NBA season.
“It’s so great to have those guys back out on the floor,” coach Steve Kerr said Monday. “Draymond, he's our leader. So, to go through camp the first week without our leader was difficult and he made his presence felt immediately, with advice in the film session and then advice on the floor and a whole lot of trash-talking too. So, the energy level just skyrocketed.
“And with a James, it's just so exciting to see the potential that's there and for him to feel a real practice with his teammates for the first time was exciting. He was playing with huge energy, flying around everywhere. Couple guys came off the floor at one point and just shook their heads and said, ‘Man, this guy is massive. So, it's really exciting. The potential is there for James to really make an impact.”
Week 1, to be honest, was mostly about introductions, familiar faces greeting unfamiliar faces and getting an idea of the personalities. Sure, there was weightlifting and cardio work and tying up loose ends regarding equipment. Drills and scrimmages, too.
But everyone in the building acutely was aware that the Warriors were profoundly incomplete, and not only because of Klay Thompson’s absence. They were missing Green, the starting power forward who will set the tone for their defense. And Wiseman, the rookie drafted to contribute immediately and projected to become a franchise cornerstone, was limited to watching.
With Green and Wiseman participating, the temperature in the room rises. Now, every minute matters. Now, every sloppy possession, every coaching tip, every practice whistle and every missed defensive assignment has significance.
They now look like the team they hope to have for the next five or six months.
“We can be really good,” Green said. “We have to grow a lot and it won't be Day 1 that we’ll be really good. We’ve got a lot of things to figure out with this team."
With Draymond on the scene, Eric Paschall, who started at power forward on Saturday and will do so again on Tuesday, goes back to the bench. He’ll be in the rotation, typically playing 15 to 20 minutes per night.
Wiseman’s presence means Kerr has a 7-footer to shuffle into his center rotation with Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney, both of whom stand 6-foot-9. They’ll all play, but Wiseman is the better physical matchup with at least a half-dozen big men in the Western Conference.
There’s a lot to digest for a 19-year-old who missed the first week of camp and whose college experience was limited to three games. Wiseman can expect many trials, all of them by fire.
Wiseman disrupted one play and punctuated it with a job of a Green lob. Kerr praised Wiseman’s screening ability, noting that his ability to dive toward the rim opened up wide-open 3-point shots.
“He had a really good first day of practice,” Kerr said. “But there’s so much to learn and long way to go but we're all excited for him and for us.”
The three primary perimeter players -- Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins -- have been trying to feel their way through camp while knowing change was coming. After Curry and Green – who have operated like clockwork for years – there is a lot of newness.
Oubre’s defensive intensity was evident in Phoenix and it was on display Saturday in the preseason opener. If he maintains that, it will make an impact. Wiggins also will have to be a defensive presence on the wing. Oubre and Wiggins are two of the nine players whose wingspans go beyond seven feet.
“The length this team has, we can be really good defensively,” Green said. “And, obviously, I pride myself on defense,” Green said. “But the length that we’ll have at every position, I think that can really bother a lot of teams. I’m excited about that."
No one else is coming anytime soon, so the process can begin. For real.