James Wiseman has been nothing short of sensational during his first eight career NBA games. The Warriors rookie center has shown the ability to pretty much do it all.
Penny Hardaway, who coached Wiseman in high school and for three games at Memphis, always knew the 7-footer would be a great fit with the Warriors. Hardaway was around a number of talented centers during his career and played alongside Shaquille O'Neal when the Big Diesel was a young, athletic center putting the NBA on notice in Orlando.
Wiseman's talent and ceiling are obvious, but Hardaway wouldn't compare him to a young O'Neal at the moment.
“No,” Hardaway told The Athletic's Anthony Slater. “He doesn’t have the meanness that Shaq had all the time. Shaq had a chip. Shaq always had a plan. And Shaq always knew he was the best. James carries that chip now. But Shaq always knew he was the chosen one. Shaq came from a different path. He had a military base stepfather. That military background helped Shaq be tougher. James was raised with women. He had his mom and his sister. They kind of babied him and spoiled him, not in a bad way. They were firm. But it wasn’t the same.”
The Warriors tossed Wiseman into the NBA fire right away, giving him the starting nod on Opening Night against the Brooklyn Nets. The rookie didn't disappoint, scoring 19 points and pulling down six rebounds in the Warriors' blowout loss.
While Wiseman has been everything the Warriors hoped he would be when they drafted him at No. 2 overall, the young center knows he still has a lot to learn about the NBA game.
"I call myself a perfectionist because if I mess up one mistake that I know I can make, I get very, very angry," Wiseman told reporters after a frustrating performance in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. "That’s just because I want to be the best version of myself."
Wiseman has been among the top rookies in the NBA early on in the season. He's the rare center who can handle, stretch the floor (although the jump shot remains a work in progress), bang down low and alter the game on the defensive end. He's got all the tools to be a star in the NBA.
Given the challenges Wiseman has faced in his rookie season, with no Summer League and a shortened training camp, the Warriors can't help but be impressed by the future face of the franchise.
"I think I've even said it to you guys -- as far as I know, there's never been a player in the modern NBA who's been thrown out there on opening night without any training camp or Summer League," coach Steve Kerr told reporters in a video conference. "As many young players as we have in this league, even going back to the days of Kobe [Bryant] and Kevin Garnett going straight out of high school to the pros, nobody has ever done what James has been doing over the last two weeks, literally just being thrown into the fire without any preparation based on the circumstances of the [coronavirus] pandemic and the impact the pandemic has had on the season.
"So, when you factor all that in, it's remarkable how quickly he's picked things up and how well-suited his, temperament-wise, to deal with the frustration of having to learn so many things in such a short period of time."