The first should be addressed to University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway.
The second goes to the Indianapolis headquarters of the NCAA.
The third should be emailed to the gremlins in Chicago for their ingenious rigging of the NBA Draft Lottery in August. The fourth and final card -- this one should come with multiple gifts -- is shipped to Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Please allow me to explain.
The platoon of men in the Warriors’ front office spent nearly a year evaluating talent in the 2020 draft. They saw dozens of college games before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season. Upon realizing their 15-50 record could net them the first overall pick, they studied endless hours of video. They liked Wiseman. A lot.
Then came the Aug. 20 lottery, with the Warriors missing out on the No. 1 overall pick. They “settled” for the No. 2 pick. No worries, because the gremlins had a backup plan.
Minnesota, which back in February opened its wholesale store to the Warriors, got the No. 1 pick. The Warriors quietly began singing inside their souls. Of all the teams near the top of the lottery, only the Timberwolves would have zero need for Wiseman. They had their star center, 7-foot Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns, by the way, had already done the Warriors a solid. He pouted and pleaded to management, implying that one way to please him would be a trade that would bring in his good friend D’Angelo Russell, who was biding his time with the Warriors.
The deal was made last Feb. 6, with Andrew Wiggins coming to Golden State.
It’s hard to figure who was happier, Towns for getting his wish or the Warriors for moving a player that had no future with them and adding talent at a position of need. Minnesota further sweetened the deal by taking Jacob Evans III, the least productive Warriors first-round pick of the decade.
The road to Wiseman was relatively clear, the only threat being the possibility of another lottery team locating the T-Wolves store and raiding it to snag the 19-year-old.
There was speculation that the Charlotte Hornets, holding the No. 3 pick, might make an offer. And maybe they would have if they had seen more of Wiseman, whose college career consisted of 69 minutes over three games -- just scant enough to cause hesitation.
For that, Hardaway gets a card. Wiseman’s career was so short because the NCAA had slapped him with a 12-game suspension upon discovering that Hardaway -- then coaching at East High in Memphis -- two years earlier had provided $11,500 for Wiseman’s mother, Donzaleigh Artis, to relocate the family from Nashville to Memphis, where James would play at East High.
Seven months later, in March 2018, Hardaway was hired to coach at Memphis. Wiseman, after playing his senior year at East, committed to Memphis In November 2018. The violation is a result of Hardaway, back in 2008, making a $1 million donation to the university. That made him a “booster.”
The infraction and suspension were announced early in the season, with Wiseman dropping out of school a month later to prepare for the draft.
“If he had played 15 or 20 games,” Hall of Famer Chris Mullin says of Wiseman, “he would’ve been the No. 1 overall pick for sure.”
By the time NBA teams were allowed a limited number of in-person workouts, the Warriors were deep into their draft board. They finalized it by going through workouts, interviews and meals with several potential picks.
The Warriors then held their breath, hoping Minnesota wouldn’t accept a trade to a franchise craving Wiseman. Not until Wednesday night, after the Timberwolves chose Anthony Edwards No. 1 did the Warriors allow themselves to exhale.
“We were high on Wiseman,” president/general manager Bob Myers said late Wednesday night. “We had him. We had him No. 1 on our board when all the dust settled.”
Wiseman is a solid pick, the right pick at the right time. Consider it fate, if you will, but given the chain of events that led the Warriors to their center of the future, a few “Thank You” cards would seem the least they could do.