Raise your hand if you’re excited about James Wiseman. OK, all of Dub Nation, you can put your hands down now.
Wiseman didn’t disappoint. The 19-year-old 7-footer posted 19 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of play, impressing his coach Steve Kerr in the process.
“I hate to show my age by using this expression, but he literally fell off the turnip truck last week and he went out and got 19 points in 24 minutes in his first NBA game,” Kerr said. “He is so raw. There’s so far to go, in terms of calling out defensive coverages. The game’s slowing down for him so he can execute on both ends.
“That’s what’s so exciting, is he’s a really smart young man, he’s got a great work ethic and he hasn’t even scratched the surface. That’s what I think is really exciting -- to think about where he’ll be a few months from now, and beyond that, a couple years from now. He’s got a chance to be a great player in this league.”
Admittedly, Wiseman had some butterflies as he stepped on the hardwood at Barclays Center. It marked his first competitive game since Nov. 12, 2019, when he appeared for the University of Memphis for the final time before being ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
“I felt a lot of jitters,” Wiseman said. “But as soon as I took my first shot attempt, everything just went out the window. I just started playing hard. I think I did really well for not playing in a year.”
Wiseman showed some bounce in his step, recording his first career bucket on a dunk, but soon learned he wasn’t in Memphis anymore. Wiseman said his ‘Oh-I’m-Not-In-College’ moment came early in the second half, when DeAndre Jordan slammed home an alley-oop in transition.
As Wiseman sat on the bench to rest late in the third quarter, he told himself to be more aggressive once he got back to the floor. The pep talk worked. Wiseman took over during a 49-second spurt in the fourth, knocking down a 3-pointer, a 21-foot jumper and slamming home an alley-oop for seven quick points.
“Soon as I got out there in the fourth quarter, I just went in a whole ‘nother world,” Wiseman said.
What’s on the to-do list for Wiseman? Well, everything, but Wiseman said he’s focused on being a better rebounder and communicator on defense, where he feels like the “quarterback” barking out calls.
There was no shortage of aggressiveness from the rookie, though.
“I wasn’t shocked to see that,” Steph Curry said. “He showed that in practice and our scrimmages. Very confident in what he can do. It’s good to see him get his feet wet, get some reps in.
“Obviously, in the fourth quarter, he showed a little bit of his skillset, what he can do inside and out. Just getting him comfortable as possible as quick as possible. Twenty-four good minutes for him to start his career, that’s a good step for him individually.”
Both Wiseman and Curry said they’ll need more time to get familiar with each other playing a high/low game, particularly with screens. But that will come with time. One game into his NBA career, Wiseman is saying all the right things.
“I’m very patient,” Wiseman said. “I just got in the league. So, I’m just trying to get a feel for everything. I’m just trying to improve and trying to get as much wins as possible. That will come down the road, but I’m just focusing on one day at a time.”