Warriors’ James Wiseman sucks in long-awaited NBA Summer League debut

LAS VEGAS – Somehow Warriors coach Jama Mahlalela had a thump thrown down Sunday night to open their Las Vegas Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center against the San Antonio Spurs.

One option was for Jonathan Kuminga to get away with two points, the other was James Wiseman in his summer league debut. The latter ended up becoming the reality of an uplifting cheer with Wiseman ending a rattling alley from Kuminga in what would be the start of a successful return for the 21-year-old Warriors Center.

“I’m glad it was wise,” Mahlalela said with a smile when asked about the opening points of the Warriors’ huge 86-85 comeback victory.

Wiseman played just under 20 minutes in his first action, apart from three G League competitions this year, since his rookie season was shortened in April 2021 to a torn right meniscus. He missed the entire last season for the Warriors due to complications from the operation and has counted down the days for this very moment. The Warriors played against Wiseman in four-minute sprints to start every 15 minutes, but then brought him back in for the final 3:52 of the game.

At the time, Golden State was down 79-74. Thirty seconds later, Wiseman caught a pass in the traffic from Kuminga and completed his second dunk of the night to shorten the deficit. The Warriors outscored the Spurs 12-6 with Wiseman back on the floor, earning their first win of the summer game.

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 Kuminga, 19, played together, giving everyone a glimpse into the bright future of the reigning champions.

“He makes all our job easier,” said Kuminga, who scored 26 points, including the matching bucket and the battle-winning penalty throw, about Wiseman. “Much easier … Just having him roll like that, it’s going to open up the paint. If I do not get the ball, he’s going to get the ball. I feel like we can run it throughout the season a lot like that. [Steph Curry].

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

Overall, Wiseman scored 11 points as he went 5-for-7 from the field. He made his only 3-point attempt, hammering two dunks and hitting two jumpers – one was a smooth fadeaway. Wiseman was also called for seven errors, some more ticky-tack than others, and took just two rebounds. Right after the match, he tapped Mahlalela on the shoulder and said that he must get more returns next time.

But it is part of the process. Wiseman is no longer held back. He is in a real game environment and goes against other opponents, instead of individual exercises or playing with his teammates in controlled matches. Getting him on the floor is a victory in itself, and his glimpse of enormous potential was far more effective than any of his mistakes.

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

This was his favorite.

“Yes, it was fine,” Wiseman said.

After the victory that had the whole audience on their feet, Wiseman’s coaches and teammates gave him a standing ovation when he returned to the locker room. Those who have been around him through it 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 best prospects in Las Vegas right now, Wiseman’s return was close to expectations.

He also showed why.

“It was a great moment,” he said. “I have been through many difficult times, especially as a person and as a human being. But to see everyone cheering on me and uplifting me, it’s a good feeling.”

The cherry on top came from a text. Steve Kerr made sure to take the trip to Sin City to see Wiseman, and had a view of the front row of a player who seems to be an important part of the Warriors’ future.

Kerr was not disappointed.

“He sent me a text message and said good job out there and said, ‘You look really good.’ “

RELATED: How Steph, Draymond Was the Key to the Warriors Signing DiVincenzo

As Wiseman sat on the bench during the second quarter, Wiseman locked his eyes with head coach Rick Celebrini and made signs that he could play more. The eager center has been waiting a long, long time.

He also realizes that his first fight back is just part of a much bigger and more important process. Warriors know what kind of talent they have in Wiseman. Keeping the stallion in the stable is not easy.

It’s also worth it if everything is connected.

“Yes, I felt I could play more,” Wiseman said. “… I had about five minutes in the quarter, so I tried to get as much as I can. And when the returns did not come my way, I was pissed, but I was just like” Hey, I’m going to run on the floor and do all I can. “

The plan is that Wiseman, Kuminga and Moses Moody, who scored 34 points through three quarters of an hour on Friday night, but who sat on Sunday to rest and a stomach problem, will all play together on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.

When asked if he would be good to go, Wiseman gave us all a look as if we should mark it in Sharpie.

“Yes, I have to play Tuesday,” Wiseman said. “Surely.”

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast