Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman impresses in 2022 NBA Summer League debut


LAS VEGAS — As Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga began to attack the hoop, he hooked the ball over his head to find a cutting James Wiseman. With one motion, Wiseman grabbed the ball in the air and launched a dunk.

It was the first possession in the Warriors’ Summer Championship game against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and Wiseman’s first bucket since March, when he played in three G League games.

A minute into his alley-oop dunk, he knocked down his only 3-pointer of the night.

“It was good,” Wiseman said. “There’s a lot of things I need to work on, I mean, my timing was pretty bad. But it was my first game. I had fun there.”

Prior to his short stint in the G League, Wiseman had not played since April 2021, when he tore his right meniscus.

Wiseman played four four-minute drives at the start of each quarter on his summer league debut – an 86-85 win over Spurs. He came back for the final three minutes of the game – something Wiseman said he was more than comfortable doing. In 19 minutes, Wiseman finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks.

In Wiseman’s eyes, the areas where his timing was off were setting screens and playback models.

“For him to go out and play in a summer league game like today with good composure and play on the rim, blocking a few shots, he just looked like a really good basketball player,” said the player. Warriors summer league coach Jama Mahlalela. “That first outing is everything we wanted, and we told him to get out there, have fun, enjoy the game and let it come to him.”

There were glimpses of Wiseman’s athletic ability throughout the night – highlighted by his dunk and blocks. He ran the floor well and wasn’t afraid to play physically.

“It was physical. It’s a huge adjustment,” Wiseman said. “I’ve been out, so I’ve done a lot of individual training. So for me to get that push, that physical contact, I’m proud to be out there.”

His return provided the Warriors with something they’ve lacked in summer league so far: true size and presence in the paint. And that’s something Golden State could use more of.

One area where the Warriors want him to use his size more is on the boards. As soon as the game was over, Wiseman walked over to Mahlalela and told the coach he knew he needed to grab more than two rebounds, like he did against Spurs.

“[It’s really about] stay alert, stay aggressive and just go get it,” Wiseman said. “The ball really wasn’t coming my way a lot, but I was trying to get as much of it as I could.

The Warriors emphasize Wiseman fundamentals in training camp. Either way, that will be a big part of his role with Golden State during the regular season.

But now that they’ve seen Wiseman play, the Warriors can start planning how they want to use the 7-foot center.

“Until he plays, we don’t really know what we have. You don’t know what you’re working with,” Mahlalela told ESPN. “Hopefully by the first week of August we will have a much clearer plan of what he needs to work on during August and training camp.”

Mahlalela also believes they will learn some of that by the end of the summer league, depending on how many more games Wiseman plays.

The initial plan is to play Wiseman in Tuesday’s game against the Boston Celtics, along with Kuminga and Moses Moody. Monday’s practice will be a light day’s work for Wiseman — something the Warriors try to do after every “rough day.”

How much more Wiseman plays after that is up in the air. But right now, having just one game under Wiseman’s belt is the most important thing for Golden State.

“Coming into the locker room after the game and all the players cheering him on, I think he can kind of ‘Ah, I can breathe again,'” Mahlalela told ESPN. “Every conversation I have with him is, I’m so proud of you but now the real work begins.”

Wiseman replied, “Good, coach.”