Wizards: Wes Unseld Jr. explains Corey Kispert’s progression

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·4 min read
Wizards: Wes Unseld Jr. explains Corey Kispert’s progression
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  • Washington Wizards
    Washington Wizards
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  • Corey Kispert
    Corey Kispert
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Corey Kispert was shocked to learn the Washington Wizards have already played the first half of the 2021-22 season but the rookie out of Gonzaga has learned quite a bit in such a short time frame.

Kispert played sparingly to start the season but has seen his role increase dramatically over the last month. He even recently entered the starting lineup with several Wizards players out due to injury and the health and safety protocol.

The 15th pick earned his first start of the season on Dec. 23, producing a career-high 20 points in a win over the New York Knicks. Since that point, Kispert is averaging 9.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 28.3 minutes on 45.2% shooting from the field in 11 games, including six starts.

He was stunned to learn the Wizards reached the halfway point of the season on Tuesday.

Are we halfway done? Wow! That went by fast! 41 games? Wow. I’m getting more comfortable every single day. I’m loving it. Wow! Halfway, that’s crazy. The season has gone by so fast. I’ve learned so much. I’m looking forward to what the second half brings.

The recent uptick in playing time has really expedited his development.

Kispert is playing with the Wizards’ first unit for longer stretches now, compared to the start of the season when he wasn’t seeing much playing time. In fact, prior to entering the starting lineup versus the Knicks, Kispert was averaging just 3.9 points in 13.1 minutes per game.

He called it the most important stretch of the season.

It has been one of the biggest things to happen for me this year. By the luck of the draw or just kinda going home and not really seeing anybody, I was able to not catch COVID and stay healthy for that stretch. It led me to more minutes and more playing time. Every minute I’m out there, I feel more comfortable and I feel better and better.

In total, Kispert has appeared in 37 games for the Wizards in some capacity. Like most rookie players around this time of the year, those 37 games are more than he played last season at Gonzaga and it ties the most he played in one season during his four-year run with the Bulldogs.

The mid-way point of the season is typically when first-year players hit that so-called “rookie wall.” They are dealing with the travel and day-to-day grind that comes with an 82-game schedule in the NBA, something that is a big adjustment for most players.

Through the first half of the season, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. pointed to Kispert’s internal growth that has impressed him the most to this point.

He is learning how to cut; he is not relying solely on his jump shot. Teams honor him as a shooter so they’re going to run him off. He is able to put it down, get to the rim. At times, he has shown an ability to play through contact and then the cutting. It’s underrated but spacially, it does wonders for you.

Kispert often pointed to the veterans on the roster that have helped him with the transition to the NBA this season. He previously singled out Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie for giving him tips and advice both on and off the court.

The knowledge they can provide, Unseld said, is invaluable for a rookie.

Those guys have been through it and have had different paths so I think it’s great they give him a semblance of what it’s supposed to be and how you prepare — take care of your body, find moments to decompress and how you handle adversity. … You carry those lessons on and, hopefully, you can impart that onto someone else at some point. It’s smart for him and it’s great our guys are willing to do it.

The selection of Kispert last year in the NBA draft seemed to be a good fit. He gave the team a strong floor-spacing option and that has been on display throughout the season. He is also adding other elements to his game that have helped him stay on the court longer.

With the team asking more of Kispert, he has played well and produced in that role as of late. The Wizards have trusted Kispert in a larger role and the 22-year-old should only continue to improve with those minutes.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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