SAN FRANCISCO — James Wiseman is slated to make his return to the floor Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nearly a month of action due to injury.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice that Wiseman was questionable for the 2022 Western Conference semifinals rematch, but the 7-foot center was later listed as probable, meaning he should be available as long he comes out of warm-ups without issues.
“Just taking it one day at a time,” Wiseman said Tuesday afternoon.
Wiseman sprained his ankle in a game of 3-on-3 late last month after he came down on Andrew Wiggins’ foot. The injury sidelined him for the past 11 games.
He’s returned to practice last week and has scrimmaged in recent days.
“He looked good, he’s moving well,” Kerr said.
Wiseman said he feels good, too.
That’s a positive development for the former No. 2 overall pick who has a tumultuous first three seasons of his NBA career.
Injuries have already derailed Wiseman’s young career on several occasions. He missed time during the 2020-21 season with a sprained wrist before his rookie campaign was cut short due to a torn right meniscus that required surgery. Several setbacks sidelined him for all of last season. And it became clear after his first month of NBA action in over a year that he needed more reps than the Warriors could afford to give him.
Golden State sent him to Santa Cruz in early November to get more experience under his belt with the team’s G League affiliate. He benefited from the additional practices and individualized attention. He showed some signs of growth when he returned to the big league club, but a sprained ankle once again kept him away from the game.
Over the years, Wiseman said he’s learned to “take what they give you.
“All the stuff I’ve been through has been out of my control, so it’s really just trying to just work hard, do what I got to do to get better every day,” he said. “That’s really all I can control — my attitude, putting in the work.”
Now that he’s back, though, Wiseman plans to take on a similar less-is-more mindset as the one Jonathan Kuminga adopted earlier this season when the Warriors’ 2021 lottery pick found himself outside the team’s rotation. Kuminga has proven that being dedicated to doing the dirty work well is the easiest pathway for a young, unproven player to earn a more consistent spot on the floor for Golden State.
For Wiseman, that means playing tenacious, foul-free defense and pulling down rebounds. As for the offense? Well, that will come in time.
“Just keep it simple,” Wiseman said his motto is moving forward. “I don’t really need to score… I can, of course, but I don’t really need to. So just focusing on the small things on defense will get me on the floor more.”
Wiseman averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19 NBA games before his most recent injury. He’s spent the last month watching the Warriors from the bench in street clothes. He’s specifically monitored how Kevon Looney and Draymond Green are able to orchestrate the defense by being vocal.
“I’m just starting to see out there what I need to do,” Wiseman said. “I just got to communicate on the defensive end. But offense will come, I’m not saying not going to say. I’m just saying I’m just going to let it come to me.”
Wiseman’s return comes just in time for the Grizzlies second visit to Chase Center this season. While his minutes will likely be limited, the Warriors could use his size and rim protecting capabilities. Memphis is the top rebounding team in the league this season, snatching 49 boards per game.
Wiseman’s approach for his potentially first game back?
“Really just go in there, be physical, play hard,” he said. “Do what I got to do to help the team win.”
Despite the many setbacks Wiseman has experienced in his young playing career, he remains optimistic about the road ahead.
“I see myself as a true professional, the results will come,” he said. For now, he’s going to embrace the moment. “I feel like I have a great career [ahead] for sure.”
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