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Steve Kerr — Can’t force issue with Warriors rookie James Wiseman’s development

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors remain confident that center James Wiseman will find his rhythm during the final stretch of the regular season despite an up-and-down rookie campaign, but head coach Steve Kerr says the team can’t “force the issue.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft is averaging 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but has struggled to find the consistency the organization was hoping to see as the season rolled along.

Kerr believes the 20-year-old big man will find his way in the near future, but offered an honest assessment Monday on how Wiseman’s minutes will be doled out during the final 22 games of the season.

“I think it’s important not to automatically assume that minutes equal development,” Kerr said after practice. “I think development also includes observation from the sidelines, earning time, earning minutes. If there are mistakes made in the previous game, let’s work on those mistakes. And if we correct those then we get more playing time; if we don’t correct them then we get less playing time. So it can’t just be throw him out there and let him go for 30 minutes because frankly he’s not ready for that.

“And I think it’s just all part of the process and no matter how we look at it, James just needs time. He’s going to need a summer league and a training camp next year. And he’s going to grow, he’s going to get better and better and he’s going to be a great player. But we just can’t force the issue.”

The fluctuation in Wiseman’s minutes and lack of development have been a constant source of intrigue within a frustrated Warriors fan base that has watched the team lose seven of its past eight games to sit four games under .500 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wiseman, who missed most of training camp because of COVID protocols, started the season in the starting lineup but was replaced by veteran Kevon Looney on Jan. 25. At the time, Kerr was hopeful that the change would steady the Warriors’ defense and said it was “not a demotion.”

Wiseman initially responded well in the bench role, but he suffered a wrist injury in a Jan. 30 win over the Detroit Pistons that caused him to miss close to a month. Kerr inserted Wiseman back into the starting lineup on March 4 against the Phoenix Suns, a night after playing the rookie just 11 minutes in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Wiseman then missed two straight days of COVID-19 testing during the All-Star break, which frustrated Kerr and got the young center benched for the first three quarters of a March 11 loss to the LA Clippers.

Wiseman has shown flashes of promise throughout the season, but Kerr acknowledged Monday that what’s keeping him from more minutes are his repeated errors on the defensive end.

“I would say so,” Kerr said. “He’s been pretty good offensively for the most part. I thought the Toronto game was more an outlier. No Steph, no Draymond and for whatever reason we got completely destroyed, and I don’t think that game made any of us look good, myself included. So if you take that game out and you just look game to game you can see James — he’ll have his moments offensively where you can really see it.

“Defensively, is really the key though, there’s just so much to learn. So much ground to cover. Transition defense in particular, he’s got to improve upon, all these things, they’re just going to have to come gradually because it’s just too much for a young guy to absorb it all in one span of a few months. But he’s coming along, and as I’ve said many times, he’s just a great kid and very coachable and I’m really excited about his future.”

Kerr and several Warriors teammates have repeatedly stood behind Wiseman publicly, with Kerr pushing back at times on the notion that Wiseman was struggling with his confidence. Over the past week, though, Kerr admitted that the Warriors were trying to simplify the game plan for Wiseman to help build his confidence back up. But in his first three games this month, Wiseman is averaging just 7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 22.7 minutes.

While it appears Wiseman has regressed since the beginning of the season, the rookie said he can see the improvements in his game.

“I’d say being more aggressive,” Wiseman said, when asked what aspects of his game he’s better at since the beginning of the season. “I’d say rolling to the basket faster. I’m still working on my rebounding, but that’s getting better. And this will come by me being more aggressive on the rebounding side. But I’d say really running the floor, talking, talking on defense and playing better defense. Actually better than my previous games, like I’m playing way better.”

Wiseman, who also noted that the game is slowing down for him and he feels more “poised” on the floor, brushed off the criticism that has surrounded his first season on social media and beyond.

“It’s really funny to me because I really don’t look at none of the negativity and stuff like that,” Wiseman said. “Because I look at the bigger picture of things. Like I know that if I keep working then I will be a great player. So I got to just keep working, just keep getting better each day.

“Mind you, I didn’t play in college, I only played like three games and I’m still trying to figure stuff out so I’m still behind the eight ball, but I’m most definitely getting better, exponentially each day. So I just feel the growth like every day, so I’m just getting better tremendously and just staying focused and just staying intact with everything. And just asking questions and doing what I can to get better.”

Interestingly, Wiseman said that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving gave him some solid advice in regard to the effort needed to succeed on the NBA level. Wiseman also pointed out that he speaks to another Nets star, former Warriors forward Kevin Durant, on a regular basis — thanks to a friendship that began when Wiseman was in high school.

“I talk to KD every day,” Wiseman said. “We talk about the system, like how he was able to fit into the system here. He just gave me like a lot of advice.”

As Wiseman continues to put his professional game together, he does so with the pressure to help carry an organization that hasn’t been the same since Durant left the Bay in the summer of 2019. As Kerr has pointed out many times throughout the season and did so again on Monday, the Warriors are caught between trying to develop young players and trying to win games for a proud group that is still hopeful of making the playoffs behind the play of veterans Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

As the Warriors wait to find out what kind of player Wiseman will ultimately become, Kerr offered another straightforward assessment while describing Wiseman’s first professional season.

“There are moments when he looks like a future superstar,” Kerr said. “And there are moments he looks like a young rookie who is trying to figure things out. So I think that’s perfectly natural at this point.”

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Heat’s Udonis Haslem ejected after dustup with 76ers’ Dwight Howard

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It took almost five months for Udonis Haslem to play in a game for the Miami Heat this season — and he didn’t last very long.

Haslem, who appeared in a game for an 18th straight season, played three minutes before getting ejected early in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

He checked in with 59.3 seconds to go in the first quarter of what is Miami’s final home game of this season, getting a standing ovation from the several thousand fans in attendance.

And, briefly, he had some success. The first time he touched the ball was to nearly save it on the baseline late in the first quarter, and he followed that up with a nice catch and finish on the break to end the quarter. Haslem then took a charge on the first possession of the second quarter, and followed that up with a baseline jumper from the deep corner in front of Miami’s bench a couple of possessions later.

But after Sixers center Dwight Howard threw Haslem to the ground on one possession, Haslem sat on the ground for a moment, appearing to gather his thoughts, before eventually getting up. At the next whistle, however, he got into Howard’s face before shoving him, resulting in him being ejected from the game.

The irony of Haslem’s dustup with Howard was that earlier in the first quarter, he had served as a mediator when teammate Trevor Ariza got into it with Sixers superstar Joel Embiid after Ariza took exception with Embiid rolling into Ariza’s leg, causing him to hurt his ankle.

Haslem, who will turn 41 next month and is the NBA’s oldest active player, has been a bit player for the past several seasons for Miami, as Thursday’s game was just the 45th he’s played over the past five seasons and the 82nd he’s played over the past six.

A Miami native, Haslem has only played for the Heat, whom he signed with in 2003 as an undrafted free agent after spending his first year after college at the University of Florida playing in France.

He told reporters in Miami recently he was unsure whether he would return next season for a 19th year in the NBA, though it’s clear the Heat will continue to employ him for as long as he wants to be around.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Haslem said. “But I’m sure [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] and our guys keep those things close to hand and understand the importance of that. But for me, if we don’t win the Detroit [regular-season finale] and I got in, it really wouldn’t matter.

“My thing is, let’s win out this season, let’s get this best playoff spot we can possibly get and let’s go in here and try to get it done.”

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Golden State Warriors sign Juan Toscano-Anderson to multiyear deal

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors signed forward Juan Toscano-Anderson to a multiyear deal Thursday and forward Jordan Bell to a two-way contract for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

Toscano-Anderson originally signed a two-way contact with the Warriors in December. He is averaging 5.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 55 games this season. The Oakland native has scored in double-figures 10 times, including a career-high 20-point performance on April 15 at Cleveland.

Bell is back for a second stint with the Warriors after spending the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons with Golden State. He most recently signed a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards at the end of April and appeared in five games, scoring 14 points and grabbing 19 rebounds.

Bell is averaging 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 159 career games with Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis and Washington.

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Blake Griffin debuts “McLovin”-themed Air Jordans

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Along the French Riviera in Monaco during the summer of 2019, Blake Griffin and the entire Jordan Brand roster of athletes, designers and execs gathered for their annual extravagant team trip, a longtime bonding tradition led by Michael Jordan.

Some 5,500 miles away from their usual Beaverton, Oregon, product meeting location, Griffin sat down with designers and had a few ideas that he wanted to see come to life on his “player exclusive” sneakers for the upcoming season.

He wanted a shoe inspired by one of his favorite movies.

Jordan color designer Kelsey Amy and the team got to work, creating a Hawaii driver’s license graphic based off the 2007 movie “Superbad” and the character Fogel’s iconic liquor store scene with a fake ID in hand.

Initially designed for the Air Jordan 34, while Griffin was still on the Detroit Pistons, the theme was carried over onto this year’s Air Jordan 35, after Griffin missed most of the 2019-20 season due to injury and was unable to break out the sneakers.

Styled in white and blue hues and originally made just for Griffin in his size 16, the tongue’s license details include his birthday, height, weight, hair and eye colors. The toe of each shoe is accented with “Chikka Chikka,” a line from the quirky Fogel character after he gets hold of the “McLovin” license. The address leads to Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena.

Of course, the updated ID doesn’t even have a first name, it just says “McGriffin.”

“They’re honestly so fly,” Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played the Fogel/McLovin character, told ESPN. “My buddy sent them to me last night and I was stoked, but didn’t expect the internet world today to be this into it!”

Now with the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin debuted the shoes Wednesday night along with the team’s gradient fading blue Classic Edition jerseys in a home win against the San Antonio Spurs. He chipped in 13 points in 20 minutes, including a driving dunk.

“Superbad” co-writer and fellow co-star Seth Rogen, “Officer Michaels” in the movie, also caught wind of the themed sneakers.

“[It’s] super cool and flattering people are still into this movie and character almost 14 years later,” added Mintz-Plasse. “Plus the shoes are SICK. Not just a gimmick.”

Once the sneakers caught fire online, the brand and the original McLovin quickly got in touch.

“I got a pair comin’!” he said.



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