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Wiseman returns and Kuminga shows out in Warriors’ win

The Warriors’ young center had a strong showing in his first game since April 2022. Maybe they’ve found someone to replace a few of Gary Payton’s dunks

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
James Wiseman is playing basketball again. Yes, really.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors waited 15 months to see prized young center James Wiseman play basketball in a real game. They only had to wait 15 seconds for Wiseman to throw down an alley oop from Jonthan Kuminga in the Dubs’ second NBA Summer League game, an 86-85 comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Wiseman tore his meniscus in an April 10, 2021 game against the Houston Rockets, and after multiple surgeries and many months of rehabilitation and ramping up, he finally came back Sunday. And Wiseman looked like a guy you would spend the No. 2 pick in the draft on! Right out of the gate, Kuminga fed Big Jim for a slam. 18 seconds later, Wiseman blocked a shot by Spurs’ rookie Blake Wesley. 36 seconds after that, he hit a deep three-pointer, and the Warriors fans in the Thomas & Mack Center were going wild. Wiseman altered a Josh Primo shot and blocked another Wesley attempt before sitting after four minutes.

He finished with 11 points on 5-7 shooting in nearly twenty minutes of game action, playing the first 4-5 minutes of each quarter and then returning as the Warriors pulled away in crunch time. On the down side, he committed seven fouls, though it takes ten to foul out of Summer League, and he only grabbed two rebounds, one of which came after he blocked a shot. Big Jim set good screens on offense and put pressure on the defense rolling to the basket, but he seemed unprepared for the shoving matches down low. His jumper looks good, and he seems very likely to replace Gary Payton II as the Warriors’ greatest low post threat.

San Antonio led by as many as 17 points before the Warriors stormed back in the second half. Mac McClung played the entire 4th quarter, scoring 8 of his 22 points, and showing off some nice passes and acrobatic finishes around the rim. Kuminga took over late, scoring 8 points off his own - he had 28 total - including the Warriors’ last five points. He also found Wiseman for another dunk, as part of his four assists. The only blemish on an excellent Kuminga game - one where he hounded a ball handler full court and essentially chased them out of bounds - was his atrocious shooting from the free throw line, where he missed 11 of his 18 attempts.

The Warriors attempted to win even with three white players sharing the floor for big portions of the final quarter (McClung, Dustin Sleva, and Justinian Jessup, the former second-round pick who is not impressing in his third summer as a pro). After winning a late replay challenge, down five points, Kuminga hassled Wesley into a turnover and set up a Wiseman dunk, then tied the game himself with a jumper. Kuminga missed the and-one, but Quinndary Weatherspoon (11 points on six shots) stole the ball after the Spurs rebounded, and made both his free throws after getting fouled. Kuminga followed with a running layup off a nice pass from Lester Quinones, before Wesley hit back-to-back triples to give the Spurs an 85-83 lead.

Kuminga re-tied the game with a beautiful stepback jumper, and after Josh Primo missed badly, JK drew a foul with eight seconds left and split the free throws, but the Warriors harassed Wesley into another turnover. He lost the handle, and as the buzzer sounded, McClung was diving on the floor corralling the loose ball.

Wesley was very good for San Antonio, showing off impressive shooting range (4-7 from deep) and he is a bucket-getter. So much so that he had twenty shot attempts and zero assists. Fellow rookie Malaki Branham had only six points, while Primo shot 2-15 and had ten points.

The Kuminga-to-Wiseman connection is a work in progress, though it led to two spectacular slams. Kuminga seemed intent on feeding Wiseman as much as possible, and while it didn’t always work - one pass was way too high, one ambitious bounce pass went of Big Jim’s hands - it’s encouraging that Kuminga was looking for him so much.

Another work in progress? The Santa Cruz Warriors’ point guard job, where McClung is outplaying Quinones so far. Quinones signed a two-way deal right after the draft, so the Warriors clearly love his size and outside shooting ability. And yes, McClung’s wild drives and flashy style are classic Summer League fool’s gold, where scorers can really thrive against teams who haven’t figured out how to play defense together. But McClung has been really good, especially on his fearless drives to the hoop. Would McClung stay in Santa Cruz after being on a two-way contract last season? And could Weatherspoon get bumped up to a regular NBA contract?

Other future Santa Cruz rotation players include sweet-shooting guard Payton Willis (1-3 from deep Sunday) and 20-year-old Brazilian Gui Santos, who continues to get minutes and ball-handling opportunities and turnovers. Moses Moody rested after his big scoring game on Friday night, but there are no reports that he’s injured.

Wiseman got a standing ovation when his name was announced in the starting lineup, and he got another standing O when he got to the locker room. I think fans and the team alike are just happy he’s standing. And dunking, of course.

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