Warriors coach Steve Kerr opened training camp saying Golden State's starting center spot is up for grabs, but Marquese Chriss believes there will be plenty of available minutes in the rotation at the position.
Any one of James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in last month's NBA draft, Chriss and Kevon Looney could take the season-opening tipoff against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 22. The next few weeks will determine who does, but Chriss believes the battle for the Warriors' lone open starting spot will be largely collaborative.
"I'd say we're competing with each other, not against," Chriss said in a video conference call with reporters Thursday. "Even when Omari [Spellman] was here [last season] and that was like my bruise brother, I think we all want to find a way to complement each other and I don't think anybody's really trying to out-show anybody. I think we all offer different things that the team needs, and that's why we're here."
The Warriors believe Wiseman can be much more than a rim-runner and a roll man on offense and a rim protector on defense, but his development will require multiple seasons rather than the 72 regular-season games between now and the NBA playoffs. Golden State aspires to play in the postseason after a finishing a league-worst 15-50 last season, and Chriss and Looney will need to provide effective minutes in order for that to happen.
Each provides a different look than Wiseman. Chriss was a strong rebounder and a surprisingly adept playmaker during his first season with the Warriors, averaging 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 20.3 minutes per game. Looney was a key piece of the Warriors' defense during their dynastic run, capable of switching onto smaller offensive players. When healthy, he offers the Warriors the most defensive versatility at center, but he has played at least 72 games in a season just once.
Chriss and Looney, each listed at 6-foot-9, also are smaller than Wiseman. The 7-foot-1, 240-pound rookie became Golden State's biggest player the moment he signed his rookie deal.
"I think we all offer different things. Me, as far as my passing and trying to [make plays] and things like that. Loon on the defensive end, and he's just a smart player. And I think James just comes in and he does everything. He does everything really well. ... So I think it's going to work for us pretty well. Just having a bunch of players who can offer different things at different times in the game is just gonna give us a lot of versatility."
Chriss, the No. 8 overall pick in 2016, said it "really doesn't affect" him that the Warriors drafted a player at his position with their highest selection this century. He can relate to the weight of expectations Wiseman will feel, and he wants to share his experiences with the 19-year-old.
The Warriors believe they can build around Wiseman in the future, but they will need Chriss and Looney's contributions to get to where they want to be this season. Even if Chriss doesn't start on opening night, he believes his time will come to contribute.
"He's a good player, and I'm thankful to have somebody like that to compete against every day in practice, and also to have on my team and go to battle with," Chriss said of Wiseman.