Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and No. 2 overall draft pick James Wiseman participated in their first practice of the season Monday after sitting out the first week of training camp while following league protocols.
The Warriors never formally announced the reason for Green's and Wiseman's absences because of league rules, but Warriors general manager Bob Myers said last week that two players tested positive for COVID-19 before practices began. Green and Wiseman had been the only two players who had not participated in practice up to this point, but their arrival on Monday brought a new wave of excitement to the organization.
"It was so great to have those guys back out on the floor," coach Steve Kerr said during a videoconference with reporters following practice. "Draymond, he's our leader, and to go through camp the first week without our leader was difficult, and he made his presence felt immediately with advice in the film session and advice on the floor and a whole lot of trash talking, too. So the energy level just skyrocketed. It was great to have Draymond back."
Kerr initially said last week that it was "very unlikely" that either player would play in the Warriors' preseason games. He noted that neither player participated in the scrimmage portions of Monday's practice, but both players sounded hopeful they would be able to play in the Warriors' Dec. 22 regular-season opener against former Warriors star Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.
For Green, who said he felt "good" but still needed to get his wind back after being out for over a week, the opportunity to work with Wiseman was something that stood out to him most in his first day back on the floor.
"I thought James was all over the place today, which was great to see," Green said. "His energy was through the roof which took him out of positions at times, which I love to see because you can teach positioning, but you can't teach high energy. He had great energy today ... asking a ton of questions, which I always think is great. It seems to me he's going to be a sponge -- he asks a bunch of questions."
The 19-year-old center from Memphis acknowledged that his energy level was off the charts after learning a couple of days ago that he would be able to participate in his first practice.
"I just had so much energy," Wiseman said. "Because I just couldn't wait to play. I was just out there talking, giving my full energy to my team ... it was crazy, though. The first practice was really crazy, but I learned a lot from my vets."
Kerr noticed that Green and Wiseman, both of whom will be counted on to anchor the Warriors' defense this season, are quickly developing chemistry on the floor, as evidenced by a defense-to-offense drill in Monday's practice that ended with a Green-to-Wiseman alley-oop.
"It was great," Kerr said. "Draymond is going to help him dramatically. Especially defensively, just with positioning and that sort of thing ... It was a perfect snapshot of what we hope to see -- what Warriors fans hope to see and what might be coming. A defensive synergy between those two and then an offensive connection with that lob -- so very exciting to see that happen."
Green is relishing the challenge of being able to work alongside longtime teammate Stephen Curry and carrying the Warriors back to a level of prominence after the organization languished through an injury-riddled, league-worst 15-50 record last season. Green's expectations for the season haven't been altered because of the new-look roster and the loss of All-Star swingman Klay Thompson to another season-ending injury.
"When I don't win a title, that's unsuccessful," Green said. "There's no moral victories. There's no, 'Oh, this is our first year together,' or 'We don't have as many stars,' or 'Klay is [out].' I don't really roll like that. You step on the floor, same 94 feet, two baskets and one basketball that everybody else got. We're all NBA players. So go out there, compete, try to win, try to compete at the highest level, as high a level as you can personally compete to help this team win. That's what it's all about for me."
Speaking for the first time since Thompson's Achilles injury, Green echoed a similar sentiment felt throughout the Warriors organization -- one that centers around both a feeling of sorrow for Thompson and a belief that he will be able to come back to being the same kind of impact player he's always been next season.
"I think for me, personally, [Thompson's Achilles injury is] hurtful because I know how much he loves and leans on the game of basketball," Green said. "When you're talking about somebody that lives to play basketball it's Klay. Klay is the guy that you'll just randomly see, he's like sitting there doing [shooting motions], working on his shot. There isn't a ball or a basketball court in sight. He's sitting there doing this, and so it just sucks to see that taken away from him again.
"Nonetheless, I think if there's anyone that can come back from two catastrophic injuries and come back strong either at that same level or better, I think it's him. Klay embodies everything it means to be a Warrior. We all know how tough Klay is -- he's tough as nails. If there's anyone that can do it, it's him."