Look out, NBA: Golden State has no plans of slowing down thanks to young core
8: 00 AM ET
Ohm YoungmisukESPN Staff Writer
- Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. He covered the Nets, Knicks, and NBA for almost a decade before joining ESPNNewYork.com. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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PRACTICE BEFORE GAME 2 of the NBA Finals had not begun yet, but rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody took a moment on the Golden State Warriors bench to soak up the rare atmosphere inside Chase Center.
Everywhere their young eyes turned, there was a not-so-subtle reminder of exactly where they were. Flashing repeatedly on the gigantic big screen, on the LED board that wraps around the arena, on the scorer’s table and even on the seats they were sitting in, the NBA Finals cursive-script logo and Larry O’Brien Trophy were impossible to miss.
” What do you think? Kuminga asked Moody while they looked at the Finals signage.
“What would you think if we were running this team? “
While Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were fortifying the Golden State dynasty by winning their fourth championship in eight years and defeating the Boston Celtics, the Warriors were also doing something that no champion in recent memory has done. As coach Steve Kerr put it, the Warriors were also “raising” two 2021 NBA lottery picks during this title run and hoping the championship masterclass Kerr and his Big Three delivered each day of their quest left a permanent imprint on the pair. They’ll have to [eventually] chart and fight their own battle,” stated Bob Myers, the Warriors president of basketball operations. “They are lucky to get to see it all.
“Steph and Klay never had the opportunity to do this kind of advanced scouting about the Finals and the playoffs. They had to go through it all and find a way. It’s why it’s so important for young men to taste it, see it, and hopefully desire it. “
Kuminga, Moody and the Larry O’Brien Trophy will be marching down Market Street in San Francisco during Monday’s Warriors championship parade. This is almost a year since they were drafted.
Kuminga, Moody, are the first team of rookie lottery-pick picks to play in the NBA Finals. They are also the youngest team to win a championship according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Add on 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman — who missed this past season because of a knee injury, though Myers says he is expected to go through contact soon and participate in next month’s summer league — and Golden State returns a trio of lottery picks in their third season or less for the title defense.
The tradeoff 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 a championship core and a new generation of lottery talent to groom in Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody. Along with 23-year-old Jordan Poole, the young players will push for more significant roles next season.
Green was skeptical earlier in the season about whether this combination of veteran players and young first-rounders would make for another championship.
” If you look at the history of championship teams, you will see that it has been difficult to build one unless there are veterans around you, like the Warriors. “We have never seen it work before. “
Golden State resisted the urge to trade away its future to add more experience after it started the season 27-6, and the Warriors made it back to the NBA mountaintop again. The defending champs must find creative ways to keep their key players and improve. However, the Warriors next season will have a pair of lottery picks from home who will bring valuable playoff and Finals experience to the team.
Now the Warriors’ championship DNA also flows through Kuminga, Moody.
” Most people spend their careers chasing that,” Green stated. “And worried like, ‘I need to get to the team, I need be around these guys, they need that coach. If you’re not a loser, as we have many of them through this league, then you don’t worry about it your whole career.
” To make it easier for them to move forward, they can feel like they already have the stamp of “I’m a champion.” You can now do everything you do from there from another space. You don’t have to chase anything or want something that you can’t get. “
Relive the top moments from every game of the 2022 NBA Finals as the Warriors defeat the Celtics to reclaim their spot atop the NBA.
THE INTOXICATING AROMA of champagne can be detected down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room in TD Garden after Golden State’s triumph over Boston in six games. Moody and Kuminga are enjoying something that no rookie lottery-pick teammate has ever experienced.
As Warriors players go to take professional photos with the championship trophy, Kuminga, 19, holds it like a baby, nestling it into his left arm. Moody, who turned 20 last month, holds the greatest prize in the sport like an expensive guitar. The Warriors’ veteran veterans hope that this moment won’t be lost on the team they have been trying to make into NBA champions all season.
“They’re 19-year-old kids,” said Andre Iguodala, who started his pro career in 2004, two years after Kuminga was born. They’re supposed be on college campuses learning more about themselves, their personalities, and what they like, rather than being paid five-plus million dollars per year. You can become jaded. These things can become second nature. These were Iguodala’s seventh NBA Finals. He also told Kuminga, Moody and others to capture the moment and even “take photos.” “
Articulating these tips to teens without sounding like a parent can be tricky at times with the generational gap.
Green noticed this past season that whenever he saw Kuminga pass him, the teen would “start to laugh.” “
“I’m 32 and he’s 19,” Green said. Green said, “And what I like to be doing may not be cool to you.” … Imagine looking at an old head doing something. … It’s hilarious how old-fashioned that is.
“That’s what I felt like he was saying to me. You move old. You look old. ‘”
Kuminga — a raw forward from Congo drafted No. After one season playing with the G League, Ignite, Kuminga was drafted No. 7. He has had to be patient than his lottery peers. Kuminga played 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 a freakish athlete,” said Warriors center Kevon Looney, who will be a free agent along with Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. “He’s one those athletes that is different from the rest. He’s like Andre at his peak, or guys like LeBron. “
The 6-foot-7 forward started 12 games as a rookie and played some key playoff minutes in the second round against Memphis when Green was ejected in Game 1 for a flagrant foul 2, and in Game 2 when Green needed stitches after being hit in the eye. Kuminga also scored 18 points in Golden State’s blowout win over Memphis in Game 3 and 17 points twice in blowout losses against Memphis and Dallas, respectively.
But unlike other lottery picks Moody and Kuminga have championship experience.
” I don’t worry about whether we are playing or not,” Kuminga stated. “As long I’m here learning, improving every day, it’s okay. I know that when my moments come, I’ll be ready. I feel like everyone here is helping me more than any other rookies in the league. “
Moody was drafted after a season at Arkansas. He is the more experienced rookie. The shooting guard is still learning from Thompson and Curry, two of the best shooters in the game. He is also learning from the emerging Poole.
Still, Kerr played the 6-6 Moody in the Western Conference finals against Dallas, and the guard’s 65 minutes were the most in a conference finals by a teenager since Kobe Bryant’s 87 minutes in 1998. Like Kuminga, Moody played sparingly in the Finals, seeing a total of 10 minutes. During the regular season, Moody averaged 4.4 points in 52 games.
Curry praised Moody’s attitude and habits repeatedly, noting how the rookie plays like a veteran, with the same intensity, no matter how little he played.
“It was amazing to see the results in just one year,” Curry stated. Curry said that Curry was able to make an impact by getting into a playoff series during the Western Conference finals.
“This is the stuff you will look back on and be proud of, because there’s so much instability in this league. Not everyone has the infrastructure or the presence to bring men along like that. “
IN THE MIDDLE section of the Warriors’ team plane on their flight to Boston for Game 6, Myers saw Curry, Thompson and Green sitting together at the same table, laughing and joking.
Myers couldn’t help but notice the rareness of the moment. A trio of All-Stars still enjoying each others company after a decade together.
” I think they see it,” Myers said about Kuminga and Moody. “I hope it registers. It will, I’m certain. However, it may register differently with each one. They are all different. Like Steph, Klay, and Draymond. … It’s almost as if there is a band. The personalities complement one another and that’s why you can be willing to sit next each other even when you don’t need to. “
Perhaps Kuminga or Moody will produce the same champion hits as their predecessors when it is their turn. They know that they are already world champions.
“A pig will eat a pancake and then want syrup,” Moody stated. “Once you get the championship, you will want something else. “
When it comes time to run the Warriors, Kuminga, Moody, and Thompson will have to wait until the Curry, Thompson, and Green eras are ready to take over.
“Eventually, years from now, they’ll pass the baton and see what the other guys can do,” Myers said.
“It’s a difficult act to follow, I’ll be honest with them. It’s as difficult as it gets, no matter who’s next to take the baton. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.