Wiseman stayed sharp before draft playing pickup with pros – Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
The Warriors selected James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday night, 372 days after he last played in a competitive game.
He did play plenty of pickup games during that time, though, and not against competition from the local YMCA.
Wiseman tested himself against the likes of John Wall, Michael Beasley, Jahlil Okafor and former Warrior D’Angelo Russell during the lead-up to the draft. Wall’s a former No. 1 pick, Beasley and Russell all were selected in the same spot as Wiseman and Okafor was the No. 3 pick in 2015. The four of them have a combined 1,719 games of NBA experience, giving Wiseman a much-needed taste of the competition he’ll face in the pros.
“I’ve played a lot of pickup games with pros, so I’ve gained a little bit of experience,” the former Memphis center told reporters Thursday outside of Chase Center during his and second-round pick Nico Mannion’s introductory press conference.
“But I feel the pre-draft process has been great for me, but I just can’t wait to get to the Bay Area, work on my game and just uplift my teammates and be a high-character guy every day.”
Wiseman scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Memphis’ loss to Oregon on Nov. 12, 2019. The NCAA suspended him for 12 games eight days later, ordering Wiseman to donate $11,500 to a charity of his choosing for “recruiting inducements his family received” in 2017.
That year, Penny Hardaway — then the coach East High School in Memphis, Tenn. — gave Wiseman’s mother $11,500 to cover moving expenses when Wiseman transferred to the school. Hardaway, who also recruited Wiseman to Memphis and coached him in college, was considered a university booster because of a $1 million donation he made to Memphis’ athletic program in 2008. Last December, Wiseman left the program and declared for the NBA draft.
Wiseman called the experience “heartbreaking” in a February interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and he told reporters after the draft Wednesday that reflecting on his time at Memphis was partly why he was moved to tears when the Warriors made their selection. After such a long layoff, Wiseman now is a little over a month away from making his professional debut, as the NBA season is set to begin on Dec. 22.
Warriors general manager and president of basketball operations Bob Myers attended Wiseman’s last game for Memphis, and he joked that Golden State’s scouting contingent implored Wiseman “to shut it down” after that night. The Warriors themselves haven’t played in a game since March 10, but the lack of time between the draft and the start of the regular season has thrown Myers for a loop.
“[This] is a brand-new environment for us,” Myers said of the turnaround. “The pace of it is frenetic. Steph Curry just called me. I blew him off for the press conference because this is [these] guys’ moment. It’s too fast … but I get to work in basketball. These guys get to play. Steve [Kerr] gets to coach. That’s not so bad.”
Wiseman and Myers have a lot on their plates in the coming days. The rookie has fewer than two weeks to get settled in the Bay Area before the start of training camp. The GM must prepare for the start of free agency Friday, contending with the loss of Klay Thompson for the season with a torn Achilles.
“Not at all,” Wiseman said. “Really just to go in, just learn and just grow and adapt. I feel that just me coming to my first year, it’s going to be a lot [already]. But I’m ready for it. And I’m ready for everything, and I’m just willing to come in … and learn as much as possible and grow my game.”