Warriors' James Wiseman close to full contact, could return to action in Summer League: Sources

Warriors’ James Wiseman close to full contact, could return to action in Summer League: Sources

Warriors center James Wiseman was selected second in the 2020 NBA Draft, but his early career has been stalled by a tricky knee injury. There is light at the end of his proverbial recovery tunnel.

Wiseman underwent an orthobiologic injection during a multiday trip to London with Warriors general manager Bob Myers in April, multiple sources told The Athletic, as both sides worked to find a way to promote healing in the knee. The plasma-rich injection in Wiseman’s arm was a therapeutic treatment used to increase healing throughout the body.

A torn meniscus cut short Wiseman’s rookie season, and he had surgery to repair it in April 2021 under the belief he would return in the middle of the 2021-22 season. But persistent swelling led to multiple setbacks and a December knee scope, eventually persuading the Warriors to shut down Wiseman, and his decision to go the orthobiologic route.

Wiseman has gradually progressed in the couple months since. In recent weeks, he has increased his court activity and is now sprinting for pain-free stretches. Wiseman is nearing clearance for full-contact workouts, and he and the Warriors are now optimistic he could return to action during NBA Summer League in July, sources told The Athletic. It’s been both sides’ goal for Wiseman to play in Summer League. A final determination on Wiseman’s status is expected to come in the next two weeks, sources said.

Warriors rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody — the Nos. 7 and 14 picks in the 2021 NBA Draft — are both set to participate in at least a portion of Summer League as well, sources said.

The Warriors will host the California Classic on July 2 and 3 at Chase Center, facing the Summer League Kings and Lakers, before heading to Las Vegas for the larger league-wide event. Wiseman’s potential inclusion will be the Warriors’ most substantial storyline.

Despite his lack of availability and experience — he has played 39 games for the Warriors after only three in college at Memphis — Wiseman remains a key figure in the franchise’s plans moving forward. He will be entering his third season and is expected to have his fourth-year option picked up.

But everything moves rapidly in the NBA. Wiseman will be extension-eligible next summer, and the Warriors are less than a month away from free agency, where they will attempt to reinforce what’s proven to be a championship-worthy roster. Every data point allows for cleaner decision-making, and Wiseman hasn’t provided many data points.

Kevon Looney is an unrestricted free agent who has played his way into a bigger payday, appearing in all 102 games this season and leading the entire playoffs in offensive rebounds. There was an expectation, by this point in Wiseman’s growth curve, that he’d be ready to take over the starting center spot for the Warriors.

But that’s become too shaky of a bet for a team that will still employ Steph Curry and harbor championship expectations again next season. The retention of Looney has become increasingly imperative, maintaining a veteran presence above Wiseman on the depth chart as he attempts to get his career off the ground.

This next month is crucial for Wiseman’s reset. He returned to contact in March and even played a few G League games, nearing an NBA return before that swelling again shut him down and triggered the decision to seek the orthobiologic treatment. He’s feeling well and nearing contact again. His healthy inclusion in Summer League is the next big hurdle.

(Photo: Darren Yamashita / USA Today)

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