Warriors center James Wiseman was upset when he found out in late March that his second NBA season had been wiped out due to injury. He also got frustrated when he found out the Dubs would be playing his hometown Memphis Grizzlies in the second round.
Overall, though, the 20-year-old is keeping a positive attitude despite a tumultuous first two seasons in the NBA. Wiseman spoke to reporters Monday, hours before Game 4 of the Warriors-Grizzlies Western Conference semifinals. You can hear the 7 p.m. PT tip-off on 95.7 The Game:
Though he hasn’t played in a game for Golden State all season, Wiseman has been a staple on the team’s bench trying to soak up as much experience as possible. He tore the meniscus in his right knee on April 10, 2021 and hasn’t been able to recover from subsequent surgery and a December 2021 cleanup procedure.
“It’s all in the mental,” Wiseman said. “And also, that’s in my DNA. So I’m not gonna ever give up no matter how hard it gets. I ain’t never giving up.”
Wiseman appeared in three rehab games with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the G League in March, averaging 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 21 minutes per game. Swelling in his right knee flared up after the third game and the Warriors decided to shut him down for the final three weeks of the regular season.
“To be honest, I was pissed because I wanted to play and I wanted to play this year,” Wiseman said. “I mean, it is what it is. It’s life. I’m just gonna take it one day at a time. God got me and I’m not gonna worry about it.”
The 2020 No. 2 overall pick averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and shot 51.9 percent from the floor in 39 games (27 starts) for the Warriors in his rookie season before it was cut short due to his injury, which occurred when he landed awkwardly after a dunk attempt.
His rookie season was rocky itself, as he got off to a slow start and missed training camp due to COVID-19. Wiseman also dealt with wrist issues and once was disciplined for missing a mandatory COVID-19 test. The 7-footer showed a lot of promise and brings an athletic big man the team currently doesn’t have on the roster. Wiseman is at his best when he’s rolling to the basket for lob attempts, but he’s also flashed a mid-range shot and some nice footwork. He’d also help the team’s interior defense and lighten the load for Draymond Green and perhaps Kevon Looney, who is a free agent this summer.
“I know I have talent, I know I have the skillset,” Wiseman said. “I learned a lot about myself throughout this process. It kept me way more grounded and it humbled me even more, just to say to myself – the game of basketball can be taken away from anybody at any given moment. But it’s how you bounce back from that. It’s like how you respond to that. Really, I’m just keeping an even keel-head. I’m just keeping my mentality right, staying up, staying elevated. Just making sure I stay positive.”
Wiseman said he has been leaning on Warriors executive Shaun Livingston for advice, as Livingston suffered a devastating knee injury in 2007 but returned to play for 11 more NBA seasons. Livingston, a former No. 4 overall pick as a teenager, was on the Warriors for all five of the team’s NBA Finals trips from 2015-19.
“He just taught me a lot of stuff about how to deal with adversity,” Wiseman said. “He’s been through it and how to deal with that, and how to keep persevering – being young in the league and everything else. Life is about perspective anyways and how you perceive it.”
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr has told Wiseman to watch Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who has become a solid player after overcoming his meniscus injury that essentially wiped out his 2020-21 season.
“He has not got a break here in the first two years of his career,” Kerr said of Wiseman. “I think it’s helpful for him to watch Jaren Jackson Jr. play so well given that Jaren went through the same injury. … Obviously, Jaren looks great out there. I think it’s helpful for James to have that example in front of him. But he’s a diligent worker and he’s putting in the time. We’re very confident that he’s got a long, great career ahead.”
Sure, Wiseman would love to be playing this series and make the trip back home to play in front of friends and family. At least he got to enjoy some home cooking when the Warriors were back in Memphis during the first two games of the series, as his mom made some spaghetti for the fam.
“It’s always good to be home, it’s always good to feel that energy and feel that atmosphere while being home,” Wiseman said. “It kinda ticked me off a little bit because I wanted to play against Memphis and stuff like that, since I was in my hometown. But it is what it is. It’s life. It’s gonna happen.”