Golden State Warriors’ James Wiseman earns raves, has career night in new bench role

SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors were always confident James Wiseman could handle anything that came his way during his rookie year. That faith was rewarded in a major way Wednesday night, when Wiseman racked up a career-high 25 points in 24 minutes in a 123-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That Wiseman had his career night just a game after he was pulled from the starting lineup reinforced to Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his staff what they believed all along: They made the right decision with the No. 2 pick of the 2020 draft.

“I’ve said it many times,” Kerr said during a postgame video conference with reporters. “He’s not only talented, but he’s got a great head on his shoulders. The way he handled everything the last couple of days, moving to the bench, the way he responded to the media questions. The way he responded in practice, he had a great practice [Tuesday]. So this is a young guy who is very mature and wants to win and competes and works his butt off, so it’s pretty exciting.”

What has really endeared Wiseman to his teammates and coaches over the first few months of his professional career is his ability to roll with whatever comes his way. Kerr has repeatedly praised the time Wiseman has spent watching tape with assistant coaches Theo Robertson and Chris DeMarco, and he said he was very pleased with how the 19-year-old played throughout the night.

“Picture yourself at 19,” Kerr said. “I’ve tried to picture myself at 19 putting up with everything that he’s had to put up with. It’s remarkable. This is a man’s league, and you come in with almost zero experience. Three college games, [playing in] a pandemic, nine months of individual workouts, and no training camp. It’s really stunning how quickly he is picking up things. Again, it’s a sign not only of his athletic gifts but more importantly, his brain, his intelligence, his wisdom beyond his years. It’s remarkable to see.”

Wiseman acknowledged he’s even more motivated to come off the bench and contribute while continuing to learn from veteran Kevon Looney.

“I’m more effective because I’m just studying Loon and how he can be able to guard the defense,” Wiseman said. “And just trying to figure out the different coverages, so it’s really helping me out a lot. So most definitely coming off the bench is something that’s very effective so far.”

Wiseman has said all along the Warriors were always the team he wanted to play for, but it wasn’t lost on him that Wednesday’s performance came in front of Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and against No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards, who scored 25 points in the loss.

When asked if it meant a little more to have this kind of performance against the team that could have drafted him, Wiseman didn’t hesitate, but tried to focus on the end result.

“You could say that,” he said. “But I was just focused on the coaches’ game plan and just trying to win this game. I really wasn’t worried about that factor, but I’ll be motivated each game just trying to get better, just trying to be the best I can be out there.”

Kerr reiterated that Wiseman would be the team’s starter “long term,” but for now the Warriors remain focused on developing their center while also trying to stack up wins.

“Every game’s going to be different,” Kerr said. “If he’s playing like he’s playing tonight he’s going to be out there. But every game’s going to be different and we’ll just play it by ear but the plan is to continue to develop him every day, whether he’s in the starting lineup or not.”

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