It didn’t take long for Corey Kispert to feel like a rookie.
Before tip-off, Bradley Beal took Kispert over and introduced him to the officials before his first preseason game. Then, he had to stop himself during the game after a jump ball, because he pointed in the Wizards’ direction — momentarily forgetting the difference between college and the NBA.
But the Wizards’ first-round pick showed signs of why the Wizards selected him in the first round, as he led the team in minutes, earned a spot in the starting lineup and put up 12 points.
“I’ve played in big arenas and in different environments a lot, but this was different,” Kispert said postgame. “It’s different kind of having the NBA experience, getting my first NBA basket, really really happy with how today went, just on a personal level.”
In 25 minutes on the floor, he went 5-of-9 shooting (including 2-of-6 from deep) and the team’s fourth-most points in their first of four preseason games.
It was a good start for someone who might be thrust into the Wizards’ starting lineup right off the top.
“I talked to him before the game and he’s kind of been playing those starters minutes in practice,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “So he’s got the full taste of it, it didn’t feel uncomfortable, I thought he played within himself, trying to do the right thing and he had great looks.”
His chances came due to two things. First, he actually had practice time with the NBA lineup, something not possible during Summer League. And secondly, every lineup he’s played in up to this point never consisted of NBA regulars.
Tuesday, he got the start with Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, Spencer Dinwiddie and Beal after a few days of practice reps.
“A few days ago I started to get some reps with those guys and it’s really easy to play with guys like that,” Kispert said. “They know exactly where I’m going to be on the floor and they have good vision of the floor and have a really good balance between taking what the defense gives them and finding me in the open opportunities. Really easy to kind of step in there.”
Should Kispert find himself in the mix to start the season, he’ll likely be on the floor with the same four that he took the court with on Tuesday. There’s a lot of hope, and confidence, building with the rookie sharpshooter.
“I think the practice before we left, he was an absolute flamethrower,” Dinwiddie said. “...Can really shoot, smart, head-y, he’s gonna get to space. I think that’s really big for our team because obviously Brad is a prolific driver, so we have to find ways to continue to find space. Kispert already has some of that ingrained in him, which makes him an easy fit to play with the main unit.”