By Madeline Kenney
SAN FRANCISCO — Coach Steve Kerr tapped second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga to start Sunday’s preseason home opener in place of Draymond Green, who is stepping away from the team after he punched Jordan Poole at Wednesday’s practice.
Kerr on Saturday said Kuminga earned the start against the Los Angeles Lakers after having a “fantastic” showing in the team’s full scrimmage Thursday.
“I told him it was the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Kerr said. “I’m excited about seeing him play.”
Kuminga came off the bench in the Warriors’ two exhibition games in Japan last weekend. He contributed six points, three assists and one rebound in a team-high 26 minutes in the preseason opener Sept. 30. Two days later, he scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in 25 minutes.
Kuminga earned 12 starts as a rookie last season after the Warriors drafted him No. 7 overall. In 70 games, he averaged 9.3 points on 51.3% shooting and grabbed 3.3 rebounds per game.
Kuminga, who turned 20 Wednesday, is expected to take on an expanded role in the rotation this season and he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m going into my second year so I have more experience on what’s going on on the court and what the team wants me to do and what I need to do,” he said. “I’m always prepared by the moment.”
It’s unclear when Green will rejoin the team as he lets the situation between him and Poole “breathe.” Green hopes to play in the Warriors’ season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers Oct. 18 but acknowledged it’s not his decision to make.
In the meantime, Kuminga will benefit from the opening in the starting lineup and playing alongside Stephen Curry, Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
“It’s more things you see, just the way they’re moving, the way the ball is moving,” Kuminga said of playing with that group. “Obviously they have more experience so they make your life easier.”
Green won’t be the only star not playing in Sunday’s preseason game. Klay Thompson will miss his third preseason game as the Warriors slowly gear him up for the season. Thompson showed up to camp behind schedule after a mental block prevented him from playing in any pick-up games this offseason. Golden State is playing it safe with Thompson after he returned midway through last season following 2 1/2 years injury-induced absence.
Poole started in Thompson’s place in both preseason games in Japan.
Source: Paradise Post