NBA Injury Report: Warriors Rookie James Wiseman Suffers Potential Season-Ending Meniscus Injury
Warriors rookie center James Wiseman suffers meniscus injury
The Golden State Warriors’ bid for a coveted playoff ticket has taken a huge blow as rookie big man James Wiseman has apparently suffered a meniscus injury that could potentially force the young center to sit out the rest of the season.
Wiseman played only six minutes in the Warriors’ 16-point win against the Houston Rockets. He exited the game early after making three of his first five shots for a stat line of 6 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal. ESPN Senior Insider Adrian Wojnarowski immediately reported that Wiseman has suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee, an injury that almost always takes several months to recover from.
But as to the exact timetable of Wiseman’s return from this unfortunate meniscus injury, nothing is set on stone just yet. As per Nick Friedell of ESPN, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr pointed out to the fact that the team is still in the process of receiving numerous perspectives on Wiseman’s injury. Kerr also emphasized that the young big man is in “good spirits”, despite all the injuries that he had to overcome this season.
Kerr also emphasized about the team’s need for a big man right now. Aside from Wiseman, small-ball center Eric Paschall is also sitting out with a hip injury. That leaves only two big men for the Warriors in Draymond Green and Kevon Looney.
"I don't know that. We are in the process of getting multiple opinions. He had an MRI and so we're having multiple experts look at the MRI to determine what's next. We don't have any timetable yet. The biggest thing is making sure James is OK. He's obviously had a lot of adversity this rookie season, with the wrist injury, now the knee injury and of course missing training camp, not having a summer league. He's really gutted through a lot of difficulty. ... And so this is yet another obstacle that's been put in front of him.
I just feel terrible for James. It seemed like he was just starting to get a little rhythm offensively and starting to feel good and picking up some momentum. So it's really tough to see him go down. He's in really good spirits. He's just been through an awful lot this season. And he has a really good way about him and he's at minimum putting up a good front, but I know he's really crushed, but he's hanging in there. We're obviously very thin in the front court. That's obviously something that we will be looking at as we go forward and once we get word on what James' prognosis is.”
It is indeed an unfortunate turn of events for Wiseman. The 2020 NBA Draft second overall pick had his share of struggles this season, something that is definitely expected from a rookie big man who is immediately inserted into a starting role for a playoff-chasing team. Prior to the draft, the scouts’ concerns with Wiseman is that he still has a raw skill set.
That concern was obvious early on, but it is also true that Wiseman has been showing his high potential of being a rim-running, defensive big man in the NBA. He has started in 27 of the 39 total games that he has played for the Warriors. Wiseman is logging in 21.4 minutes per contest, the seven-foot center is putting up decent numbers of 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per game, including a good 51% overall clip from the field.
The potential is there, but it is unfair if the Warriors organization will try to fasttrack his progress and development as a player. That is the main reason why Kerr is not too worried about Wiseman’s struggles as a rookie, and that is also the reason why he is preaching the important virtue of patience to his young player.
As per Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area, Kerr reiterated that there is no use in rushing into Wiseman’s development as a player. Kerr even likened Wiseman’s struggles as to that of the late great Kobe Bryant, who also had tons of difficulties with making his shots during his rookie year in the NBA. Kobe, who went on to win five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, was not a very good and impactful player right way. He only logged in 15.5 minutes per game for the Lakers during his rookie year, producing 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
"What we've learned is we can't rush it. We can't force-feed him. It's just going to take some time. That's really par for the course for players who have been in James' shoes in the past. I've mentioned some of their names. Highly-touted prospects who didn't have a college experience, whether it's Kobe or Kevin Garnett or guys like that. It was the same thing. I don't know that after Kobe's couple of airballs in the playoffs against Utah in his rookie year, I don't know that we could have said that guy is going to be a top-five player of all-time. So all this stuff, it just takes time and reps and we just have to be patient and keep working with James every day and he's going to get better as he goes.
I think when you get a guy, especially someone who didn't play much -- I mean we watched three games of tape and then no Summer League as I mentioned, and then no training camp, so we throw him out there on Opening Night and really have no idea what to expect. He goes out and I think he had 20 points in Brooklyn and made a bunch of shots, that was literally our first look at him. This process from the very beginning has been so convoluted because of COVID and because of James' situation at Memphis."
When the Warriors selected Wiseman with the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, it is obvious that they imagine him as a defensive big man who can also catch lob passes on offense for the easy throwdowns. On top of those assets, Wiseman also showed an adept touch from the mid-range, although he is yet to really dive deep into that facet of his overall game.
It remains to be seen just how long Wiseman would be sitting out, but it is also obvious that he will be missing a significant amount of time. That will create a problem on the Warriors’ frontcourt depth, which is already depleted with the hip injury of Paschall and the season-ending injury that Marquese Chriss sustained early into the 2020-21 NBA campaign.
Only Draymond and Looney are the players who can actually defend big men inside the paint. The 6-foot-10 Alen Smailagic is the only big man left in the Warriors’ frontcourt depth, but it is safe to say that the Golden State coaching staff will not be inclined on giving a lot of playing time to the Serbian center. Kerr tried to give him a chance when he fielded in Smailagic into the starting line-up against the Memphis Grizzlies a couple of weeks ago. Smailagic played only eight minutes, committed five fouls, made only one of his five attempts from the field, and did not even grab a single rebound or assist.
So this injury to Wiseman will definitely force the Warriors to scour the free agency market in hopes that they could bring in a big man who can log in a few quality minutes and contribute on both ends of the floor. However, it remains to be seen if there will be more players who will reach buyout agreements with their respective teams.
As for Wiseman’s meniscus injury, it is also important that the Warriors organization take a bigger picture, long-term approach on his recovery. As per Marcus White of NBC Sports Bay Area, Dr. Nirav Pandya, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at UCSF, said that a small meniscus tear would usually take four to six weeks of recovery. The Warriors organization are still yet to reveal to the public the severity of Wiseman’s meniscus tear, but it is already safe to say that the young big man will be missing a huge chunk of what’s remaining in this season.
A February review of injuries in the NBA and WNBA -- co-authored by Dr. Sachin Allahabadi, a UCSF orthopedic surgery resident -- cited a pair of studies that found 80.5 percent of players who sustained torn menisci didn't experience a significant change in PER upon their return. Pandya tweeted that Wiseman's age bodes well for his recovery from the injury, and he told KRON-TV's Kylen Mills that the Warriors would be wise to take their time ensuring Wiseman fully recovers.
"I think the key thing is just making sure that, even though people are gonna be impatient wanting him to come back or wanting him to rehab, the most important thing for his development over the next five-to-10 years is to get his meniscus right. So if that means missing the summer or missing some part of training camp because he's healing, that's going to be much more important to his play rather than a couple months of extra time during the summer where he could be picking up some skills. You only have one meniscus [in each leg], and it's important for him to get it healed right."
Aside from Wiseman’s injury, there is also the fact that the Warriors are also dealing with the recent injury of combo forward Kelly Oubre Jr. Oubre sustained a wrist injury that has sidelined him for the past two games. It is really an unfortunate injury, especially considering that Oubre has recently tallied high-scoring games for the Warriors.
Oubre came up with a double-double performance of 20 points and 11 rebounds in a six-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks, then followed it up with 19 points in a one-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Oubre then put up 23 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in a three-point loss to Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards.
Oubre was one of the most coveted trade pieces before the trade deadline last March, but the Warriors ultimately held onto him. He is still a high-impact contributor on both ends of the floor, especially now that he is finding his groove on offense. Oubre is one of the best wing defenders we have in the league, and he has been steadily improving in terms of his shooting from the three-point line.
But it is also true that he is set to enter unrestricted free agency this summer. Bringing him back to the fold could prove to be too costly for the Warriors. As per Nick Friedell of ESPN, team general manager Bob Myers said that he is also uncertain about the future, but one thing that he is sure of is that the organization puts a high value on Oubre’s production on the court.
"I talked to his agent the other night in person, his dad comes to a lot of games. I'm not going to bother Kelly about whether you're going to start next year in the middle of our season. He knows. That's a better conversation for his representation to have when they want to have it. So we had that conversation privately, so he's informed. His focus should be on playing basketball and winning games.
Who knows? I don't know. I don't know who's going to start. I don't know who's [going to be] on the team. That's a good conversation to have in four or five months based on how we finish. But the good news is nobody has to answer that now. It shouldn't be answered now. We got a draft to go through. We don't know what pick we have; we don't know what happens there -- things happen so fast now, with your own team, with other teams, there's never been more big moves, small moves, rumors, player movement ... Looking ahead is something we do do, but you also have to be nimble enough to make changes ... but we like him, he's done a great job, and we'll have those conversations when free agency gets here."
After their recent 116-107 win against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors will then embark on a five-game road trip starting with a match-up against the young Oklahoma City Thunder Squad.
Then the Warriors will move on to the east coast where they will going up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Wizards in their upcoming games. The Warriors are currently sporting a record of 26 wins against 28 defeats, which is good for the 10th seed in the stacked Western Conference standings.