Wiseman can only watch, wait and hope as Dubs chase title


He works in darkness but can only watch when the lights come on. He cheers for his teammates, but he can’t participate. It’s the most exhilarating time of the year in the NBA, and James Wiseman is a spectator.

“It’s all a mental game,” the Warriors center said Monday. “Also, that’s in my DNA. I’m not going to ever give up, no matter how hard it gets. I’m never giving up.”

It has been 13 months since Wiseman underwent initial surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Five months since he underwent a second procedure. Seven weeks since his comeback was halted as he received official word that he would miss the entire season.

Here he is at age 21, dreaming of the NBA for half his life, forced to learn the virtue of patience as others carry on.

“I’ve just stayed strong,” Wiseman said. “Of course, I’ve had some hard times, just me being a competitor. I want to obviously be out there playing with my teammates.

“But keeping an even keel, I reassure myself that I’m young; I’m 21 years old. So, I’ve got a long career ahead of me.”

There cannot be enough reminders of that, particularly now as he experiences for the first time the intensified aura and drama of the NBA playoffs -- from a distance.

Wiseman’s life these days is built around rehabilitation, more rehabilitation and encouraging words of wisdom from teammates and others. He leans hard on former NBA center Tyson Chandler, harder on former Warriors guard Shaun Livingston.

“It’s a small world,” Wiseman said of the fortuitousness of landing with Livingston. “Just having that dude in my corner, it’s great for me, especially being young.”

Livingston entered the NBA in 2004, directly out of high school. He was drafted at age 18, a fourth overall pick, making his debut at 19, and his future was at least as bright as that projected for Wiseman. Livingston was 21 when he landed in such a grotesque way that his knee was shredded.

A torn ACL, torn PCL, torn MCL, torn lateral meniscus. A dislocated kneecap and tibiofemoral joint. Livingston had to learn to walk again. The injury, sustained in 2007, cost him three years of his career and surely shortened it. It took seven years before he found a home with the Warriors in 2014.

If anyone associated with the NBA knows patience, it’s Livingston, who now serves as the team’s director of players affairs and engagement.

“He was young coming into the league,” Wiseman said. “He’s just taught me a lot of stuff about dealing with adversity because he’s been through it. And how to deal with that and keep persevering.”

The Warriors still consider Wiseman their center of the future. He was pleased to see centers once again in dominant roles, with Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokić winning a second consecutive NBA MVP award and Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid as runner-up in the voting.

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A career on pause, Wiseman said, has not tested his faith or dimmed his hopes.

“I know I have talent,” he said. “I know I have the skill set. But I learned a lot about myself during this process. I kept me more grounded. It humbled me even more. Just to say to myself that the game of basketball could be taken away from anybody at any moment.”

For now, Wiseman is restricted, longing for what he can’t have with no idea when he can. There is no timetable for a return to full-contact activity, much less Summer League.

He’s part of a team, but not part of the team.

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