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He’s Back! Warriors center James Wiseman will play for Santa Cruz on Thursday

The former second overall pick will finally be back playing in an official game after a prolonged injury rehab.

James Wiseman #33 of the Golden State Warriors reacts before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on January 11, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

It’s been a long and frustrating year for young Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman. The second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has been out since April of 2021 when he tore the meniscus in his right knee against the Houston Rockets. He will finally be returning to an official game this week, playing with the Warriors G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz on Thursday and Sunday.

Wiseman was first expected to return around the start of this season. However, his rehab stalled at multiple points and even required a second surgery this winter. According to The Athletic’s Warriors beat writer Anthony Slater, Wiseman would not have been cleared for G-League action unless he was cleared to play in an NBA game, meaning Golden State’s front office is choosing to let him work back into game shape with Santa Cruz.

While the 20-year old native of Nashville, Tennessee was not expected to lead the Warriors this season, his absence has amplified their lack of bigs. Wiseman remains the team’s lone traditional center on the roster. In his absence, head coach Steve Kerr was forced to play a lot of small ball. That strategy helped the team get off to a fantastic start but has stalled since Draymond Green went down with a lower back injury a few weeks ago. Without Green, the Warriors defense has collapsed with absolutely zero inside presence.

Wiseman played in 39 games during his rookie season with the Warriors, starting 27. He averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game. He shot 51.9% from the field, 31.6% from three, and 62.8% from the free-throw line. It’s hard to know how quickly Wiseman will be ready to join the Warriors rotation. The team will likely use these two games with Santa Cruz to gauge how close he is to contributing. After losing so much of his first two NBA seasons to injury, any improvement from Wiseman would be a great development for the Warriors’ future.