Wiseman sitting behind Loon a ‘healthy growth situation'


James Wiseman occupied the Warriors' spotlight in the summer, playing four games in Las Vegas and showing signs of why he was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

When the 2022-23 season begins, however, it will still be Kevon Looney getting his name called in the starting five.

“Loon will come back as the starter,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “He has earned that and then some. We’re all thrilled that he’s back. There was a real fear that we’d lose him. To get him back is massive for our team. It sets up well for Loon to continue what he did for us last year.

"In doing so, he’s really a good mentor for James.”

Looney struggled mightily with injuries early in his career. A role player off the bench for the bulk of his career, Looney’s progress as the 30th pick in 2015 was slowed by a variety of injuries from neuropathy to abdominal soreness to a pair of hip surgeries.

At age 24, Looney played in 61 of the Warriors’ 72 regular-season games in 2020-21 and then achieved one of his biggest goals -- playing in all 82 contests this past season (and all 22 playoff games) and rising as the Warriors’ unforeseen iron man.

Wiseman, who has been bitten by the injury bug himself, will benefit from Looney’s tutelage.

“I think this will be a more natural progression for James, one that didn’t really happen his rookie year because of the situation,” Kerr told Slater. “We felt like we needed to get him as much experience as possible, and Looney was coming off a season where he missed all that time with the nerve issues. So this seems much more natural, much more organic. Loon is the incumbent, the championship starting center who has seen everything. Then you have James who will learn from him and with him and will get his chances as we go. It’s a healthy growth situation for James.”

"He's showed me a lot of compassion in terms of what I need to work on," Wiseman said of Looney to NBC Sports Bay Area's Dalton Johnson in July. "But he's also given me a lot of constructive criticism, and me being willing to learn and observe -- I take it as OK, I need to just do better the next day and just develop my game. I don't look at as an arrogant perspective in terms of I'm the No. 2 pick and I don't got to listen. I don't do that.

"I really just want to listen and try to be the best that I can be, and he's given me a lot of information right now and he's most definitely developing my game." 

In Wiseman’s rookie season, his only taste of NBA regular-season basketball, the Warriors were far from championship contenders. Of the 39 games he played before suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee, the Warriors won 18. He missed all but six minutes of the Warriors' 15-5 hot stretch to end the regular season.

In 39 games, Wiseman averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. He posted a usage percentage of 23.8 percent, third on the Warriors behind guards Steph Curry and Jordan Poole.

RELATED: Kerr: JaMychal is 'one guy replacing two' on Warriors roster

Kerr expects Wiseman to contribute to the Warriors' championship repeat effort, but he won't be asked to do as much.

“James I actually think had some really good moments his rookie year," Kerr said to Slater. "It gets lost in the shuffle because overall it was a struggle for our team and James had ups and downs. But you remember he had some really big games for us. 

"As he continues to build momentum and gain confidence in his body and skills, I think he’ll help us.”

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