NBC Sports

Why Wiseman's rapid development in camp is thrilling Kerr

NBC Sports

SAN FRANCISCO – Three days into training camp, the biggest mystery surrounding the Warriors is starting to clarify.

James Wiseman, who as a rookie struggled with court awareness and spatial understanding, is showing signs of processing the blur of activity around him and adapting on the fly.

In short, Wiseman already is earning minutes.

“I’m really thrilled with James’ progress, physically – he looks great, he feels great, the knee is fine – and then also, mentally,” coach Steve Kerr said Monday. “He’s picking up concepts much quicker. It’s the first time that he’s had a real training camp. From Day 1 to Day 3, you can see that he’s picking everything up and he’s making the necessary adjustments.”

Though Wiseman is entering his third season, this is the first time he has participated in a full NBA training camp. He was ill as a rookie, and he was rehabilitating a surgically repaired right knee last season.

Training camp lessons don’t do much for veterans but can be of great benefit to someone Wiseman insofar as only Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins, both drafted in June, have less NBA experience.

Only Jonathan Kuminga, who didn’t attend college, has less post-high school experience than Wiseman, who played three games, totaling 69 minutes, for the University of Memphis.

Which is to say most everything he is seeing is new.

“I’m just blessed to be out there, just playing . . . just playing,” Wiseman said. “It’s been such a hard process for me, coming into the league. But me having that resilience, keeping God first, I was able to keep pushing, keep getting better.

 

“And now, since I’m here, I’m just grateful to be back on the court again.”

Wiseman, 21, has been the most visible participant in Golden State’s offseason workout programs. He’s the only member of the team with perfect attendance in the pickup games at Chase Center.

“This summer was great for me because I was able to get the reps in and get adjusted to everything,” Wiseman said. “Me coming into training camp, the NBA speed is different, but it’s not as hard because I’ve been playing this whole time.”

Though he was only 19 years old, Wiseman’s athleticism and length – 7-foot-1, with a 9-foot-6 standing reach – were evident from the moment he made his NBA debut on Dec. 22, 2020. His shooting touch was soft. He looked raw because he was raw.

There were times during the 39 games he played as a rook that Wiseman looked lost in space, unsure of where to go, what to do, how to get involved. Some of the blame for that belongs to Kerr, and he has admitted as much.

Those factors nonetheless led to widespread dissection of his game. Can he play? Some concluded the Warriors had blundered by selecting Wiseman second overall in the 2020 draft.

The Warriors maintained belief in Wiseman, stressing his inexperience as a factor for his physical and mental errors.

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The first two years of Wiseman’s career have been rife with injuries, illnesses and misuse. He’s now healthy. He’s being coached – assistant coach Dejan Milojević was lured from Europe primarily as an investment in Wiseman’s development – on the finer points of basketball.

Wiseman is learning and has been able to apply lessons. Feeling the game and being in sync with its speed, elements that were missing, are the steps required to reach the next level.

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