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Warriors blasted through an easy one, now Celtics will offer a challenge
Payton, Iguodala, Wiseman, still out; Wiggins questionable
The Golden State Warriors are pretty much done with the regular season, but rather than coasting across the finish line, they’re fine tuning the machine in preparation for the playoffs. After blowing out the soft Washington Wizards, it’s time for the Warriors to try their cards against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics.
On the injury front, the Warriors are still in the exact same position as the last game: Andre Wiggins is questionable with a non-Covid illness, Andre Iguodala and Gary Payton are out, and James Wiseman is on assignment with the G League.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (47-22) vs Boston Celtics (41-28)
WHEN: Wednesday March 16, 2022 // 7pm PDT
Warriors not waiting on Wiseman, and that’s for the best
With the return of Draymond Green, the Warriors have begun their final tune-up for the post season. One of the names missing from the rotation is second-year center James Wiseman, a guy that was pretty clearly penciled into the team’s plans heading into the season. At first, it was rumored that Wiseman would come back alongside Green on Sunday, but that sailed past as Wiseman continued his assignment with the G League.
He’s not available tonight, and the Warriors have been predictably close-mouthed about what exactly to expect moving forward:
That puts Wiseman’s return on Sunday… but also maybe not. It’s a pattern that Golden State has embraced when it comes to Wiseman’s slow return. Slowed by a second, unannounced surgery, the heralded #2 pick from a year surgery was initially expected back sometime before the end of 2021 before getting bumped into the current purgatory of being day-to-day.
Whether the center returns at all now (or even later) is becoming a valid question. Green’s return and the dependability of Kevon Looney has made the question a whole lot less pressing, but with the timer ticking down, it’s becoming more and more urgent that Wiseman starts to get folded into the team as soon as possible.
But one way or another, the team’s performance has removed some of the pressure for Wiseman to come in and help right away. It’s perfect for Wiseman because in contrast to getting thrown in against starters last season, the team now understands that the way to play Wiseman back into the lineup is to remove as much pressure as possible and just plug him in and see how it all looks. The raw skill is there.
There’s no blame here, but it’s fair to point out that Wiseman’s path into the NBA has been tough. Beset by injuries and Covid-related impacts, he’s had one of the weirdest career launches in the history of the NBA. Whenever he can return, it’s still a matter of not just cracking a Warriors rotation that’s doing well without him, but doing so against the backdrop of a team undergoing final tuning as they head into the playoffs.
Wiseman, in limited time in the G League has been a familiar mixed bag of impacts:
The interesting thing about Wiseman is that being a mixed bag is maybe a little bit more forgivable, given his absurd combination of size and athleticism.
In the meantime, the Warriors have leaned into the smallball revolution fomented by Don Nelson, but truly realized by Draymond Green. Wiseman’s return, while nice to dream about, and welcome to arrive, isn’t a prerequisite to success.
A big part of that success that the Warriors have found is Jordan Poole’s strong season. For a team that just needs some lift from somewhere, Poole’s emergence has opened the door to a successful post season, regardless of Wiseman’s status.
The Boston Celtics are one of the best teams in the East, and have the fourth best net rating. This isn’t going to be an easy one, but the Warriors’ season isn’t measured by the easy games. As long as Golden State plays their game, this is a very winnable game.