There was plenty to focus on after the Warriors' dismal 130-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Thursday, and rookie James Wiseman led the way.
Wiseman was benched for the first three quarters in the loss after missing two mandatory COVID-19 tests over the NBA All-Star break. Due to league protocols, the 19-year-old had to sit out of the Warriors' practice Wednesday, and coach Steve Kerr made sure Wiseman learned his lesson Thursday.
However, if you think the incident changed Kerr's perspective of Wiseman, you'd be far from correct. Kerr emphatically defended the young center during a video conference with reporters following Thursday's loss.
"It's a struggle. There are very few rookies in the history of this league who just came out ready to play. especially in the modern era where guys don't go to school and don't spend a few years preparing for the NBA," Kerr said.
"James is doing great, are you kidding me? All he's enduring is the normal ups and downs of what a 19-year-old young player goes through in the NBA. He's playing against men now. But you look at some of the things he's done, you look at the way he responded tonight in the fourth quarter, the things he's capable of and the kind of person he is, I have no doubt James is going to be a great, great player."
Wiseman, who took full accountability with poise and candor not common for someone his age, took the lesson in stride. He played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter with a noticeable edge, scoring 14 points and securing seven rebounds.
He admitted he "played mad," but his frustrations were more at himself for making a mistake, one that he vowed he wouldn't repeat again.
"I completely forgot," Wiseman said after the game regarding his missed tests. "I'm human, and I made a huge mistake. But I'll most definitely not do that again because I've gotta make sure [I'm] disciplined in terms of that."
Kerr had Wiseman's back after the game, delivering an impassioned defense of the No. 2 overall pick by noting his age, limited experience in college ball, overall talent and demeanor.
"At 19, with very little experience, and as someone who cares that much, to me that's a great sign," Kerr said. "I love his frustration. His frustration shows how much he cares. ... His frustration is a sign of his passion. It's a great indicator of what kind of player he's going to become.
"Part of the deal for James is understanding how to handle the noise and handle everything that is coming his way, and it is not easy."
Wiseman, Kerr and the Warriors likely want to move past Thursday as quickly as possible. After what was supposed to be a fresh start into the second half, Golden State stumbled tremendously instead, falling to 19-19 and 10th place in the Western Conference. The Warriors have lost a season-high four straight games and have two tough home matchups next against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers.
While everyone was frustrated after the final buzzer, especially Steph Curry, Thursday served as a valuable lesson for a rookie star in the making and a wake-up call for the rest of the team. Wiseman's mistake will be under the bridge sooner rather than later, but it will serve as a valuable learning point going forward in his young career.