San Francisco – after athleticJonathan Kuminga has lost confidence in Steve Kerr’s ability to maximize his potential, the Golden State Warriors head coach and third-year wing reported Friday night in a 113-109 win over the Detroit Pistons. First met in Kerr’s office.
Kuminga’s latest frustration came the night before as he watched the final 18 minutes from the bench — and a particularly agonizing final six minutes — as the Warriors squandered an 18-point lead over the Denver Nuggets in another gut-punch.
Kerr’s decision to limit Kuminga to 19 minutes and zero in the fourth quarter, despite 16 points early and a clear need for his downhill skill set, was put under a harsh microscope. Kuminga’s boiling emotions came out before the public. Kerr found face-to-face interaction essential. After the win over Detroit, Kuminga said the discussion had a positive impact.
“I think it went really well,” Kuminga said. “I think it was all about understanding each other better. More communication. We don’t really get a chance to sit together and chat about non-basketball things, basketball things. We don’t get to do that much. The conversation we had today made me more comfortable that whenever I want to ask something, I just need to go to his office. His door is open. Go there and rest and wait for him to come back. I think that’s what it’s all about, communicating every time if something is going wrong. “Communication is the key.”
Kuminga played a season-best 36 minutes against the Pistons. He did not rest even for a second in the fourth quarter. He had 11 points and six rebounds and spent most of crunchtime as the primary defender on Cade Cunningham. This was his 12th consecutive game in the starting lineup, but Kuminga has yet to play consecutive 30-plus minutes in his career. Therefore, monitoring of the playing-time tracker will continue.
“I never complained about playing time (during the meeting),” Kuminga said. “We were just talking about how if I do well at something, just go back and remind him, ‘Yo, coach, what do I need to do to get better at this? What do I need to do to get more confidence or more minutes?’ Like I said, it’s about communication and better understanding between us.
Kuminga’s uneasiness about his fluctuating role — which dates back to last postseason, when he went from an integral part of the rotation over the final two months of the regular season to a bench bystander following Andrew Wiggins’ return from a long personal absence Were gone – have raised questions about his future with the Warriors. Does he want to stay with them long term? Will he still be on the roster after the Feb. 8 trade deadline? After Friday’s meeting, how does he feel about his position in the organization and with Kerr in general?
“I love it here,” Kuminga said. “I got drafted here. There are always ups and downs. I feel like when you look at all the ups and downs, it’s going to confuse a lot of people. But I know Steve believes in me. I know he trusts me right now. It was just about communication and better understanding. This was no beef. None of these. Scratch whatever happens. This is the past. Let’s move forward with a better understanding and hopefully we can all work with each other and help this team and leave everything in the past.
What does that better understanding mean?
“I need to have a better understanding of some things on the field to make the team better,” Kuminga said. “Who is he going with tonight or next night? Who does he trust most? As a coach, you talk about who you trust the most or who is framing things as the coach you want at this moment. So it was all about those little things. As soon as we sat together and talked about it, everything fell into place.”
The crux of the problem is the Warriors’ inability to fit Kuminga and Wiggins on the field together. Entering Friday, they were cumulatively minus-66 as a pair in 131 minutes. The Warriors have an analytics department that provides these numbers to the coaching staff, partially fueling their lineup choices. This is why Kerr remains hesitant to play his two big wings together, calling them an “unnecessary” pairing.
But he tried to get time together for them against the Pistons. They were on the floor together for six minutes. They outscored Detroit by seven points. But Wiggins struggled to a 1-of-5 shooting night and offered little else. So he was limited to 19 minutes and Kuminga got 36 minutes.
“I’ll keep it real,” Kuminga said. “I went to the coach and talked about playing with Wigs. I don’t want it to seem like me and the wigs are fighting for minutes here every day. I know wigs come to work every day without even thinking about it. With me too. I don’t come to work every day thinking about taking Wiggs’ minutes, taking this guy’s minutes. We’re here to play well and help the team win and accomplish the things we all want as a team. Championships and all that. Whenever the team wins, everyone wins. Just moving forward, it’s really about doing what the team needs first and worrying about the rest later.”
In the immediate future, more minutes are opening up in the Warriors’ rotation. Chris Paul suffered a fractured left hand against the Pistons and will undergo surgery next week. He is out indefinitely. Kerr said that will give Brandin Podzimski, Cory Joseph and Moses Moody a chance. But it could also open the door to more experimentation with Kuminga and Wiggins lineups.
Draymond Green’s imminent return from his indefinite suspension will create another standoff. But that’s another problem of depth for another day.
“I’ve been there before,” Curry said of Kuminga. “There’s nothing wrong with him being upset and upset, wanting to play. Maybe I should have played. Probably not. …But the biggest challenge for anybody in this league is the story not being told for you and you not being able to address it in your own voice or directly with the coach or whatever the case may be. We all go through our challenges. We all go through our learning lessons. Like I said, he’s not wrong to be upset and disappointed. I heard the coach talking. He was kind of half-joking, but seriously, for 15 years he was always worried about playing time. This is a topic of discussion in some form or the other in every locker room. There are ways to express it, ways to express your opinion but protect the team. I’m proud of his approach – we talked about it before the game. go out and play. Go circle. become a professional. And that’s what he did.”
Here’s a more extended soundbite from Steve Kerr on Jonathan Kuminga. He said he spoke to Kuminga today and wished any resentment would stay at home.
“You have a problem, I’m here. I’m probably the most accessible coach in the league. My door is always open.” pic.twitter.com/nVYW76b7HB
– Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) 6 January 2024
(Photo of Jonathan Kuminga driving against Detroit’s Isaiah Livers during the first half Friday: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)