Now, the James Wiseman Watch truly begins.
As the Warriors start the second half of the 2020-21 NBA season, the focus shifts to what kind of team will gather next fall for 2021-22.
You know, when the Warriors will — gulp — *try to win another NBA championship*.
Seems incredulous to think that we’ll be rushing back to championship dreams, after all that’s transpired. But that’s the plan in Joe Lacob’s world. In the world of bravado-filled owners — your Jerry Joneses, your late George Steinbrenners, your late Al Davises — houses are built in Championship City, population you. Everything else is LoserVille.
That brings us back to James Wiseman, the 19-year-old rookie center who started the second half of the season by failing to show up for a COVID-19 test. That meant he couldn’t practice with the team on Wednesday, before the second half lid-lifter at the Clippers. That means we got Steve Kerr’s “I’m not mad . . . I’m disappointed” speech.
And everyone knows how it felt when our parents weren’t mad — they were disappointed.
Tough start to the second half for the teenager.
Assuming Wiseman sorts out the COVID-19 protocol, what kind of second half can he have, and how fast can he accelerate to be a major player in next year’s Klay-Is-Back-Let’s-Have-A-Championship-Parade party?
That starts tonight. It means watching his minutes increase, hopefully. It means watching his defensive footwork and watching to see if he can correct his tendency to foul. It means watching his hands, and whether he can gather NBA-level passes. It means watching how assertive he can be in taking it to the rim, and how assertive he can be in protecting the rim.
It means assessing that most undefinable of qualities — his confidence.
Who knows what effect it has to see your fellow rookies LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets and Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings win the Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month — in consecutive months?
Steph Curry even addressed that issue at the close of the first half, saying Wiseman needed to not worry about rookie rankings and concentrate on his own game. Easier said than done when: a) you’re a competitor; b) you’re 19 years old.
But part of maturing as a competitor is just that — to drown out the noise (like, say, a Jock Blog) and do the work.
I heard my KNBR brother Greg Papa suggesting this morning that if Wiseman wasn’t such a public figure as the No. 2 draft, he could have really done with some time in the G League, to get some much-needed sweat. While that sounds drastic, I understood what Papa was saying. This kid is an NBA infant. He’s going to be asked to be part of a big boy’s world next year — not just part of a hoped-for 50-win team, but part of a deep run into Father’s Day, 2022.
The James Wiseman Watch begins. Put on your hard hat, kid. Time to go to work.