Practice ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals had yet to begin, but rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody took a moment on the Golden State Warriors bench to soak up the rare atmosphere at the Chase Center.
Everywhere their young eyes turned, there was a not-so-subtle reminder of exactly where they were. The NBA Finals logo and the Larry O’Brien trophy flashed constantly on the gigantic giant screen, on the LED panel that surrounds the arena, on the scorers’ table and even on the seats where they sat.
A dream come true
“What do you think about it ?” Kuminga asked Moody as they watched the Finals signage. “What do you think when we will be leading this team one day?
While Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green fortified the Golden State dynasty by winning their fourth championship in eight years and beating the Boston Celtics, the Warriors were also doing something no champion in recent memory has done. As coach Steve Kerr said, the Warriors have also “raised” two NBA lottery picks during this title run and hope the championship lesson that Kerr and his Big Three gave each day of their quest. will leave a permanent imprint on them.
“They’re going to have to [éventuellement] chart their own course, and fight their own fight”, said Bob Myers, president of basketball operations for the Warriors. “They are lucky to be able to see what it looks like. Steph, Klay and Draymond have never had access to this type of advanced tracking on what the Finals and the playoffs are. They had to go through it and find their way. That’s why it’s huge for young guys to just taste it, see it and hopefully crave it.”
Add to that 2020 No. 2 pick James Wiseman, who sat out last season with a knee injury, though Myers said he’s expected to step up to contact and compete in the league soon. summer of next month, and Golden State has a trio of lottery picks in their third season or less to defend the title.
The veterans watch over the young
The quid pro quo of going through the misery of losing Thompson to two devastating injuries and Curry to a wrist injury, enduring 50 losses in 2019-20 and not making the playoffs for two straight seasons is championship core and new generation of lottery talent to groom in Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody. With 23-year-old Jordan Poole, the young players will push for bigger roles next season.
Green had doubts at the start of last season as to whether this was the recipe for a new championship: a combination of experienced veterans and young first-round players to develop. “When you look at how champion teams have been built historically, unless it’s a super young team like the Warriors at the start that had veterans around them, then you don’t really seen this before”, Green said. “Historically, we hadn’t seen it work.”
Golden State resisted the urge to trade their futures to add experience after starting the season 27-6, and the Warriors returned to the top of the NBA. While most defending champions need to find creative ways to retain their key players and improve, the Warriors will be able to boast next season of two local lottery players entering their second year with invaluable experience. playoffs and finals, even if they played little. Now, the Warriors’ championship DNA also runs through Kuminga and Moody.
“Most people spend their careers chasing after that,” Green said. “And worry like, I have to get to this team, I have to be around these guys, we need this coach. If you’re not a loser, which a lot of them are in this league, you worry about that your entire career. So that they don’t have that worry going forward, like you already have that mark of ‘I’m a champion’. Now everything you do from there, you can do in a different space. You’re not chasing after anything or really wanting something, which some people never get.”
As Golden State Warriors players go for professional photos with the championship trophy, 19-year-old Kuminga holds it like a baby, nestling it in his left arm. Moody, who turned 20 last month, holds the sport’s biggest prize as a luxury guitar. The Warriors veterans hope this moment isn’t wasted for the duo they’ve tried to elevate throughout the season to become NBA champions.
“They are 19-year-olds”, said Andre Iguodala, who started his professional career in 2004, two years after Kuminga was born. “They’re supposed to be on college campuses getting to know each other, who they are as people, what they like, instead of these guys who make over five million dollars a year, who suffer all the pressures, the madness of having money and being in the spotlight. You can become jaded. We can start taking these things for granted.” It was the seventh NBA Finals for Iguodala.
Two extraordinary young people in Golden State
Kuminga – a rough-and-tumble Congolese, drafted 7th after playing a season with the G League Ignite – had to be more patient than some of his lottery peers. Kuminga played a total of eight minutes in the NBA Finals. He averaged 9.3 points in 70 regular season games and 5.2 PPG in 16 playoff appearances.
“I learned that he was an extraordinary athlete”, said Warriors center Kevon Looney, who will be a free agent with Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. “He’s one of those different types of athletes…like the top athletes in the NBA, Andre in his prime, guys like LeBron.”
While other rookies like Franz Wagner of Orlando (No. 8 overall) and Davion Mitchell of Sacramento (No. 9 overall) have played more minutes in the regular season on teams that are not competitors , Kuminga had to bide his time and learn. But unlike the other lottery picks, Kuminga and Moody now have championship experience. “I never really worry about whether we play, whether we don’t play,” Kuminga said. “As long as I’m still here, learning, improving every day. When they call me, I know I’ll be ready. …everyone here [est] just helping me, much more than the guys [les autres rookies de la ligue], wherever they are right now. “
Moody, who was recruited after a season in Arkansas, is the brightest rookie. But the fullback still has to learn from two of the league’s best shooters, Curry and Thompson. He also has young Poole in front of him. Still, Kerr did play Moody in the Western Conference Finals against Dallas, and the point guard’s 65 minutes was the longest in a conference final for a teenager since Kobe Bryant’s 87 minutes in 1998. Like Kuminga, Moody has played sparingly in the finals, with a total of 10 minutes. During the regular season, Moody’s averaged 4.4 points in 52 games.
Curry, however, has repeatedly praised Moody’s approach and habits, noting how the rookie works like an experienced veteran every day with the same intensity, no matter how little playing time he gets.
“It’s amazing to see the result in just one year”Curry said. “He’s coming into a playoff series in the middle of the Western Conference Finals and making an impact. It’s the kind of stuff you’ll probably look back on and be really proud of, because there’s a lot of instability in this league. Not everyone has the infrastructure and the presence to push guys like that forward.”