James Wiseman isn't your average 19-year-old, nor has he had the typical introductory experience to the NBA that the vast majority of his new peers did. When the Warriors tip off the 2020-21 season against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Wiseman will play in his first game in over 13 months.
A delayed arrival to training camp. No preseason action. While Wiseman's lengthy layoff is partly the product of his decision to end his collegiate career after just three games, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic most certainly extended it.
But finally, the moment Wiseman has long been waiting for is here. Despite having very little time to get into the swing of things, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft will play in Golden State's season opener on Tuesday. As a fellow former lottery pick, Steph Curry empathizes with Wiseman for the conditions that have prevented him from having a typical rookie experience thus far, but also is impressed with Wiseman's efforts to make up for lost time.
"I think he has kept a positive attitude through it all," Curry said Monday after practice. "I know he has just been excited to get out there. It's gotta be tough as a rookie coming in. Second pick, you're expected to just have kind of a smooth sailing into camp and it's your first game, and he got thrown the curveball coming into training camp and missing that significant amount of time. But he has caught up pretty well.
"I don't know how he feels physically, in terms of being as close to 100 percent conditioning and rhythm-wise. But he has been asking so many questions, he has been really engaged in practice, in our scrimmages. Hopefully, tomorrow, he just enjoys the moment of playing his first NBA game. I think most rookies kind of have that initiation through preseason and whatnot, you kind of get your feet wet. He's getting right into it, so hopefully that works in his favor."
Wiseman didn't get a chance to get his feet wet. Nonetheless, he might get thrown right into the fire. While Warriors coach Steve Kerr confirmed that Wiseman would play in the season opener, he played coy on naming Golden State's starting center. Obviously, that would be asking a lot of Wiseman, but clearly, he has proven enough in practice to warrant consideration.
Wiseman hasn't had an ordinary rookie experience thus far, but perhaps that's fitting, considering there's very little ordinary about him. If he is the kind of talent the Warriors view him to be, they'll likely enjoy his long-awaited NBA debut nearly as much as he does.