HomeSportsJames Wiseman and Warriors soak up long-awaited NBA Summer League debut

James Wiseman and Warriors soak up long-awaited NBA Summer League debut

LAS VEGAS – Somehow, Warriors coach Jama Mahlalela made sure a dunk was thrown Sunday night to open their Las Vegas Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center against the San Antonio Spurs.

One option was Jonathan Kuminga leaving with two points, the other was James Wiseman on his Summer League debut. The latter ended up being the reality of a rousing cheer with Wiseman finishing a Kuminga driveway in what would be the start of a successful comeback for the 21-year-old Warriors center.

“I’m glad it was Wise,” Mahlalela said with a quizzical smile on the opening points of the Warriors’ massive 86-85 comeback.

Wiseman has played just under 20 minutes in his first playing action, aside from three G League contests this year, as his rookie season was cut short in April 2021 due to a torn right meniscus. He missed all of last season for the Warriors due to complications from surgery and is counting the days to this exact moment. The Warriors faced Wiseman in four minutes to start each quarter, but then brought him back for the final 3:52 of the game.

At the point, Golden State trailed 79-74. Thirty seconds later, Wiseman caught a pass in traffic from Kuminga and completed his second dunk of the night to cut the deficit. The Warriors outscored Spurs 12-6 in the stretch with Wiseman back on the ground, earning their first win of the summer slate.

Sunday not only marked Wiseman’s return and summer league debut after being unable to participate the previous two years. It was also the first time he and 19-year-old Kuminga played together, giving everyone a glimpse of the reigning champions’ bright future.

“He makes our whole job easier,” Kuminga, who scored 26 points including the tying bucket and the game-winning free throw, said of Wiseman. “Much easier. … Just roll it like that, it’ll open up the paint. If I don’t get the ball, he’s going to get it. I feel like throughout the season we could run it a bit like that with [Steph Curry].

“It’s just going to open up the floor more.”

In total, Wiseman scored 11 points while going 5 for 7 from the field. He made his only 3-point attempt, hammered two dunks and hit two jumpers – one being a smooth fadeaway. Wiseman was also called for seven fouls, some trickier than others, and grabbed just two rebounds. Immediately after the game, he tapped Mahlalela on the shoulder and said he needed to get more rebounds next time.

But it’s all part of the process. Wiseman is no longer held. He is in a real game environment taking on other opponents, instead of individual drills or playing with his teammates in controlled scrums. Putting him on the floor is a victory in itself, and his flashes of massive potential had far more impact than any of his mistakes.

The Warriors know Wiseman can score in many ways, and their goal this offseason is to slowly but surely turn the former No. 2 pick into a defensive machine. There were times when he was a force on that side, especially with the first two blocks. His first came at the rim, and his second was further on an outside shot attempt.

This was his favorite.

“Yeah, that one was nice,” Wiseman said.

Following the crowd-raising victory, Wiseman’s coaches and teammates gave him a standing ovation as he returned to the locker room. Those who have been around him all know how difficult this journey has been, and those who are new to the Warriors are not new to his story.

For all the top prospects currently in Las Vegas, Wiseman’s return was near the peak of expectations.

He also showed why.

“It was a great moment,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of tough times, especially as a person and as a human being. But seeing everyone cheering me on and lifting me up is a great feeling.”

The icing on the cake came from a text. Steve Kerr made sure to travel to Sin City to watch Wiseman and had a front-row view of a player who figures as a major part of the Warriors’ future.

Kerr was not disappointed.

“He just texted me saying it was a great job and said, ‘You look really beautiful. “

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As Wiseman sat on the bench during the second quarter, Wiseman locked eyes with head coach Rick Celebrini and gestured to him that he could play more. The impatient center waited a long, long time.

He also realizes his first game back is only part of a much larger and more important process. The Warriors know what kind of talent they have in Wiseman. Keeping the stallion stabled is not easy.

It’s also worth it if it all comes together.

“Yeah, I felt like I could play more,” Wiseman said. “…I had about five minutes a quarter, so I was trying to get as many as I could. And when the rebounds weren’t coming my way, I was pissed off but I was just like, ‘Hey, I am i will run the floor and do all i can. “

The plan is for Wiseman, Kuminga and Moses Moody, who scored 34 points in three quarters Friday night but sat out Sunday to rest and have a stomach problem, all play together Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.

When asked if he’d be ready to go, Wiseman gave us all a look like we should tag him in Sharpie.

“Yeah, I’m going to play on Tuesday,” Wiseman said. “For sure.”

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