Why Kerr benched Wiseman for first three quarters in LA


It wasn't surprising that Steve Kerr switched up the Warriors' rotation on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. 

It has felt like it has been heading that direction for a few weeks now. 

What was surprising was the decision to bench James Wiseman for the first three quarters of the Warriors' eventual 130-104 loss.

The decision came on the heels of Wiseman missing a COVID-19 test over All-Star break which resulted in him missing practice on Wednesday. The league cleared the rookie to play, but Kerr opted to teach him a lesson.

"I'm not going to go into detail, but this is all part of development," Kerr said. "As a young player, you have to take care of your business. Everything matters. This was the reaction to missing the test and not being able to practice last night. That hurt us."

Prioritizing Wiseman's development and finding instant success has been a tricky balancing act for the Warriors all season long. 

Kerr opted to continue starting Kevon Looney because it's proven to be a more successful and efficient lineup. But Kerr vowed to find significant rotation minutes for Wiseman throughout the game off the bench. The best way for him to develop, they say, is for him to watch Looney, and then put it into action. 

That's why Thursday's decision felt like a disconnect. But according to Kerr, benching Wiseman was another part of his development. 


"We are trying to help him become the player that he can become," Kerr said. "He's got everything he needs, so there is going to be some lessons along the way. It's all part of being a rookie and inexperienced."

If it weren't for the missed COVID test, Wiseman would have played his regular rotation minutes -- starting the second quarter alongside Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion. 

But the mix-up left the Warriors with an almost entirely new bench unit. 

It's no secret Wiseman is a perfectionist. And because of that, a logical train of thinking after a three-quarter suspension was, how will this affect him mentally?

It was clear he was angry when he finally entered the game at the start of the fourth quarter when the Warriors were trailing the Clippers by 39 points. But maybe that was a good thing and sparked some of the fire Kerr wanted to see in him. 

"I loved his frustration," Kerr said. "His frustration shows how much he cares. To be perfectly frank, I've known a lot of seven-footers over the years in the NBA who basically play because they were seven feet. Somebody told them they should play basketball. That's not James. James loves the game. His frustration is a sign of his passion. It's a great indicator of what kind of player he's going to become."

Wiseman scored seven points in his first five minutes before finishing the game with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds in just 12 minutes. To put that in a little bit of perspective, Wiseman is currently averaging 11.8 points in 20.8 minutes per game.

So maybe Kerr's lesson planned worked. The message of how important it is to take care of your off-court business was surely hammered into Wiseman's brain

"I was angry at myself," Wiseman said. "I am very self-responsible and my mom raised me really well. I just made a mistake, just a simple mistake. I'm human. But when they called my name I was ready to out there and give it my all."

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It's unknown how the conversation between Wiseman and Kerr transpired when the decision was made. It's unclear how Wiseman responded in the moment. Who knows how it affected Wiseman mentally? 

What is clear is that it pushed Wiseman to respond on the court in real-time. 

So as long as this doesn't linger -- in Wiseman's head or around the franchise -- perhaps nothing was lost except the game, which was already on its way down for the Warriors.