What Wiseman is focusing on as he nears Warriors return


SAN FRANCISCO -- During the Warriors’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Steph Curry walked over to James Wiseman on the bench to break down what had just happened on the court.

Curry had found Kevon Looney in the corner, and Looney got fouled. 

"Steph said, 'When you come back, that's going to be a lot of lobs right there,'" Wiseman said after practice on Monday. "It's going to be a lot of open opportunities for me to score."

Wiseman might be on his way to coming back soon. 

On Monday, the Warriors released an official update on the status of Wiseman, who is recovering from a meniscus repair surgery he had in April. The team announced that Wiseman has been cleared to be a full participant in team practices, except for scrimmaging. 

According to Wiseman, getting clearance to participate in scrimmages comes down to how he is feeling. There's a chance he could get the green light soon, but neither he nor Warriors coach Steve Kerr know exactly when it will be. 

Because of this, Wiseman hasn’t been given an official timetable for his return. 

“It’s just been a gradual improvement over time,” Kerr said. “He hasn’t had any setbacks but this is obviously something we are taking very seriously and taking very slowly. The good thing is he advanced on his individual work to do all the routine stuff. So that’s a good step. It’s just part of the process.”


Last week, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole reported that Wiseman could be back on the court in mid-to-late November. There isn’t any reason to believe that isn’t still the case. 

The caveat is, just because he is cleared to be on the court, that doesn’t mean he will be out there a lot. If anything, don’t expect Wiseman to be picking up heavy rotation minutes for at a while once he’s given the OK to return. 

“He needs to play. Before we put him into a game, he’s got to get real reps,” Kerr said. “Whether it’s a scrimmage in our practices or a game in Santa Cruz. Could be either, could be both. One thing I know is we’re not going to just throw him out on the court without really getting him up and down and getting him some game action.”

Wiseman is more than open to the idea of spending time in the G League with the Sea Dubs. 

"Of course I would like to go down there so I can just get sharp physically, mentally," Wiseman said.

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Wiseman hasn't been able to play any real basketball since he first tore his meniscus back in April. A rookie when it happened, Wiseman's on-court development has taken a step back. But Wiseman says his time on the sidelines has allowed him to learn the game from a different point of view. While he hasn't been able to get the playing reps, his mental development of the game has still been able to progress. 

"Mentally, it's come along really well," Wiseman said. "I've looked at a lot of games, a lot of film, stuff like that. I've been watching Loon, watching his position, watching how he plays defense and I've learned a lot. And also in Summer League, too, when I was down there." 

Through this development via osmosis, Wiseman has a much better understanding of the Warriors' system -- and most importantly how he fits into that system -- than he did when he joined the team a year ago. 

"I'm bit lost out there," Wiseman said.

Particularly through watching Looney, he knows where he's supposed to be on defense, and what opportunities he will be given on offense. Looney has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and understands how to set screens for players such as Curry and Jordan Poole, giving Wiseman a good blueprint to follow. 

"Him and Draymond [Green] are the two essential pieces in terms of the best way for me to come in," Wiseman said. "Seeing how they react on defense and offense, their mindset, everything."

The physical work Wiseman has been able to do at this point has almost exclusively been done with new assistant coach Dejan Milojevic. Milojevic, who has helped develop Ivica Zubac and Nikola Jokic, has spent most of his time working on footwork and the fundamentals with Wiseman. But by laying this foundation now, Wiseman should have a better understanding of how to use his body -- which he says has gained seven to 10 pounds of muscle -- to his advantage. 


Kerr has been very vocal about how when the time comes for Wiseman to get back out on the court for games, they will make sure his role is clearly defined, and he will be put in the best position to succeed. This isn't something the Warriors necessarily did last year. But, with a deeper bench and more shooting threats, Golden State can be more patient with Wiseman. 

He'll primarily be a pick-and-roll guy, something Wiseman says he's been doing since high school and is comfortable with. 

Though the Warriors have gotten off to a good start, and Looney has been able to play a significant chunk of the center minutes, adding extra size at the five will be a welcomed tool to the Warriors. 

When exactly that additional depth will come is still up in the air. But, Wiseman is confident that when it's time to get back on the court, he will be ready and far better equipped than he was a year ago. 

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