James Wiseman to stay with Warriors on road trip after strong performance

PHILADELPHIA — As the Warriors collectively held their breath Wednesday over Steph Curry’s injured left shoulder in their loss to the Indianapolis Pacers, former No. 2 overall draft pick James Wiseman returned to El Segundo, Calif., for playing their 10th G League game this year. season with Golden State’s Santa Cruz affiliate. Wiseman scored 31 points in 34 minutes for the Sea Dubs, shooting 12 of 17 from the field.

Wiseman, along with rookie Ryan Rollins, was called up by the Warriors on Thursday. They took an overnight flight to Philadelphia to meet the big team, and Steve Kerr called Wiseman’s number for the first time with nine minutes left in the second quarter and the Warriors leading by five points. Two minutes later, Wiseman grabbed his first rebound of the night, but committed a tough turnover by throwing the ball out of bounds on a missed pass intended for Jonathan Kuminga. Wiseman’s frustrations with himself were clear, but not with his coaches or teammates.

Kerr immediately clapped his hands and told Wiseman he was fine, doing his best to keep the 21-year-old’s spirits up. As the players headed to their respective benches after a 76ers timeout, Kuminga gave Wiseman a thumbs up, waited for him and high-fived. Wiseman has all the outside pressure in the world on him, and the Warriors know how important it is to build his confidence right now.

following the Loss of the Warriors 118-106 against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center, Wiseman’s confidence should be on the rise. Kerr and Wiseman’s teammates certainly expressed their happiness with him after a loss in which they were without Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.

One play in particular earned him a massive fist bump, a big smile and a proud high-five from Kerr to Wiseman after a timeout from a frustrated Doc Rivers.

Throw it away and let him throw it away. That’s what Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo did in the fourth quarter, with Wiseman throwing a ferocious alley-oop on Georges Niang.

“Just the movement of the ball and the action,” Kerr said when asked what he liked best about the highlight play.

Although Wiseman and fellow center Kevon Looney, who finished within one assist of a triple-double with a career-high nine assists, play very different styles, DiVincenzo reminded Wiseman early on what a great screen maker Looney is. The message clearly resonated with the 7-footer.

“I told him to just go in there, put up a hard screen and it would be open,” DiVincenzo said. “[Jordan Poole] He found it in the first half for a great dunk. In the second half, I found him in the balloon and he always tells me, ‘Throw it away and I’ll go find it.’

“That’s exactly what he did. Honestly, that builds confidence in the guards to know that when you throw a risky pass up in the air in traffic, he’s going to get it. He just keeps building that for him. Whatever minutes it takes You’re going to get it, be solid and Loon will get it.”

In his 12th NBA game this season, and only his second since last month, Wiseman played 11 minutes off the bench. He scored six points with two big dunks and a soft jump shot.

Wiseman began the fourth quarter with the Warriors trailing by seven. On both sides of the ball, he had several strong stretches. Wiseman was moving his feet well and his development of more attention in the G League was evident.

After the loss, Kerr announced that Wiseman will remain with the Warriors for the remainder of their road trip, which still includes games in Toronto and two in New York. The first appearance of him on the trip was to be excited.

“I think James did a very good job on both ends tonight,” Kerr said. “He got to the dunk, he made himself available. They had several plays where they just fell behind on him and we got open 3s early in the fourth when we put him there. We had three or four open 3s and one of the reasons why they were open is because James was right on the rim and when that lob threat, the defense closed in. And I thought he did a good job defensively as well, playing cat and mouse on the pick-and-roll.

“He’s gotten a lot better in the last few weeks with all the practices in Santa Cruz and the game action, the replays. It was fun to watch James play.”

What was evident in Wiseman’s performance is what the Warriors expected from him early in the season. On a roster that includes Curry, Poole, Wiggins and Klay Thompson, the Warriors will always be known for lighting up from long range. DiVincenzo was the one who wore the latest Splash Brother early on, hitting five 3-pointers in the third quarter.

But Wiseman changes things up and, as Kerr said, he can also open up the floor. He’s a clear lob threat, one who brings a terrifying turnaround to the opposing defense.

How does that help guards like Poole and DiVincenzo, and what’s the fit there? This is what they said when I asked exactly that question.

“Switch on that weak side,” DiVincenzo said. “[The defense] it has to sink and suddenly you have the weak side open for a three. And it’s a different look than Loon. A lot of times, Loon takes a hit in the pocket and makes a lot of plays. But I think with James, since he’s so big and athletic, just getting him in front of the rim… they need to help, they need to send a second defender and go under.

“Allow our guards to find the weak side.”

Poole added: “It’s just an extra option whenever we’re driving to the basket or when we’re on a pick-and-roll. It takes up a lot of space in the paint and to be able to have a target above the rim is huge.”

RELATED: Poole throws down a politically correct response to the Warriors’ lack of free throw attempts

Evaluating Wiseman is all about small victories right now. There will always be something to work on and, of course, he wants the score to be on the Warriors’ side next time.

Dropping to 14-16 on the season and 2-14 on the road, the Warriors badly need to start racking up wins, all while without Curry yet. On a night when the Warriors fell short again, Wiseman looked like a game-winner in many cases.

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