TORONTO — James Wiseman was sweating and sipped from a water bottle on Tuesday as he addressed the media for the first time since being traded to the Detroit Pistons. He had just completed his first practice with his new team, five days after he was deal was first agreed upon.
It’s been a weird week for the former Golden State Warriors center, and everyone else involved in the four-team trade that came an hour before Thursday’s deadline. Former Pistons forward Saddiq Bey end up with the Atlanta Hawks and Kevin Knox with the Portland Trail Blazers. Gary Payton II failed his physical with the Warriors, putting the deal in jeopardy and sending everyone back to their initial teams.
But the Warriors reportedly decided to waive the physical on Sunday, clearing the way for Wiseman to officially join the Pistons. He had already completed his physical last Friday and made the trip to Toronto on Saturday, awaiting the go-ahead to play. Through all of the drama, he never had any doubts that his future in Detroit was secure.
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“Last few days have been crazy for me, obviously,” Wiseman said. “Get off the plane, just doing my physical and stuff. It was a lot, and then the trade situation. I really just stayed present, trying to stay one day at a time and just embracing everything.
“I was super confident,” he added. “I’m just embracing all the opportunities here, it’s a new start for me. I’m just embracing everything.”
Now, he and the Pistons can figure out how to unlock the talent that made Wiseman the second overall pick of the 2020 draft. The 7-footer should bring another jolt of athleticism to a Pistons frontcourt that already includes Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley III, who could return before the end of February. With Isaiah Stewart also in the fold, Detroit’s coaching staff will have to figure out how to make all of the pieces work together.
Wiseman didn’t get much playing time in San Francisco, despite his draft position. He was an awkward fit in their offensive scheme, and the organization wasn’t able to prioritize getting him minutes since their biggest priority was winning a championship, which they accomplished for the fourth time in eight years last summer.
In two-and-a-half seasons, Wiseman logged just 1,098 minutes through 60 games. As a point of comparison, Duren has already logged 1,258 minutes through 50 games as a rookie this season. Wiseman has barely gotten his feet wet.
“Talked to Steve (Kerr) yesterday, and they were just in a different mindset there as far as trying to win another championship, even though they wanted to develop their young guys, they worked with him,” Dwane Casey said Friday. “To get the opportunities he’s going to get here wasn’t there. He had to go play in the G League. Here he’s getting real minutes in the real league since we’re rebuilding and in development mode right now.”
Wiseman’s lack of opportunity isn’t just because of his situation. He also didn’t develop fast enough for the Warriors’ coaching staff to feel comfortable giving him extended minutes. In Detroit, he joins a rebuilding team that will find ample minutes for him even in a deep frontcourt.
The Pistons are high on his long-term upside. He runs the floor extremely well and jumps out of the gym. He’s coordinated with the ball in his hands and has flashed upside as a shooter, which the front office believes will help him space the floor and play alongside any of Detroit’s other big men. He’s not an impactful defender yet, and he’s not a perfect offensive player or even a proven shooter either.
The coaching staff spent the weekend watching film of Wiseman and devising ways to get him comfortable with his new teammates. Casey liked what he saw from him on Tuesday. The next step is getting him on the floor, which he’ll have an opportunity to do against the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday.
“It’s always a challenge when you have a new member come in and you lose a guy that was as significant as Saddiq,” Casey said on Friday. “But it’s a challenge, a good challenge, to take a guy with the ability of Wiseman to try to plug him in and see where he fits in with us and how to play him as a five man in our league, and again to see if he can expand out away from the basket.
“Our challenge is to be creative and see what he can do away from the basket, to use his skills. He has a lot of skills even though he is seven foot. He gives us some length and some size at the rim as a shot-blocker. A lot of tools that we gotta see how we can plug in and fit in and try to make it work as far as him being a five man, or a four, to see who he is or what he is along with Bags and Duren and Isaiah.”
Wiseman is excited for his opportunity. He went from a veteran team with championship aspirations to a team with multiple players who could still be in college, similar to him. The 21-year-old described himself as process-focused and confident.
In Detroit, he’ll be able to do something he hasn’t done much in the last four years — play meaningful basketball.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “At the end of the day, basketball is basketball wherever I go and whenever anyone goes. I’m just staying humble, putting in work, staying true to myself and really just trusting the process for everything.”
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Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.
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Next up: Celtics
Matchup: Pistons (15-43) at Boston (41-16 entering Tuesday).
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; TD Garden, Boston.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WWJ-AM (950).