Brandin Podziemski

Podz overcoming rookie wall could determine how far Warriors go

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SAN FRANCISCO – During a season filled with uncertainty and inconsistency, Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski has been one of the team’s few constants.

Whether coming off the bench or occasionally starting, the 20-year-old is a bundle of energy every time he steps on the court. He’s on the floor scurrying for loose balls, driving through heavy traffic to get to the basket or battling for a rebound with much bigger opponents.

In just about every fashion, the youngster provides the Warriors with a much-needed infusion of positivity.

Yet recently, Podziemski seems to have hit the proverbial rookie wall.

The road loss a week ago against the Memphis Grizzlies was his 34th NBA game, with more than half of the 2023-24 season remaining. That’s two more games than he played in college for Santa Clara during the 2022-23 season.

That might be why Podziemski’s numbers have dipped a little, although Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn’t seem too worried about it.

“It seemed like a couple weeks ago on our homestand, the last few games, he looked a little tired to me,” Kerr said following practice Tuesday. “Then, we went out on the road and he had the big game in Milwaukee when he went home. He’s a highly energetic player. Gym rat, loves the game.”

The No. 19 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Podziemski did not play in five of Golden State’s first six games this season and was completely inactive for one of them.

Since becoming a regular in the lineup, however, Podziemski had been one of the Warriors' most consistent and productive players before his numbers recently began tailing off.

Through his first 29 games, Podziemski was shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and averaging 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds with 3.2 assists in more than 23 minutes of playing time per game.

However, the rookie’s shooting touch has fallen off lately. 

While he had his third career double-double and matched his season high of 23 points in a Jan. 13 loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee, not far from where he grew up, Podziemski’s shots aren’t falling like they were earlier in the season.

Take away his stats against the Bucks (10 of 14 shooting), and the Warriors guard is shooting less than 25 percent (9 of 37) since his hot start. He has averaged nearly five more minutes of playing time during that stretch, but the production hasn’t been the same. 

Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at Chase Center, Podziemski has shot just 5 of 25 overall and 1 of 14 on 3-pointers over his previous three games. Frequently on the positive side of things earlier in the season, he was a team-low minus-31 against the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 10 and has finished with plus production in just two of Golden State’s previous nine games.

Podziemski wasn’t made available to the media on Tuesday, leaving Kerr more than happy to talk about what he has seen so far.

“He’s the guy who understands the game and plays with a lot of energy and force,” Kerr said. “It’s been fun to watch him grow this year.”

Having made it thus far without much of a blip, the real challenge for Podziemski comes over these next few months when he’ll be playing far more than he has during any other season he ever played in. 

How he handles that stretch could play a determining factor in how far the Warriors are able to go.

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