Brandin Podziemski

Podziemski's talent, grit on full display in Warriors' win vs. 76ers

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SAN FRANCISCO – When he first took up basketball in junior high, Brandin Podziemski had the realization that he wasn’t the biggest, fastest or most athletically gifted player around. That wound up being the foundation of who he has evolved into during his rookie season with the Warriors.

A perfect example of that was the hard offensive foul by Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid that Podziemski absorbed during the second half of Tuesday's 119-107 win at Chase Center. It was just a simple play in the game but it typified exactly what type of player Podziemski is, one who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“I wasn’t overly athletic or anything like that, so I was like, ‘How can I impact the game defensively at the rim, not being able to jump as high as everybody else?’^” Podziemski told NBC Sports Bay Area. “That’s the easy way. It’s a turnover for them. It’s a foul for them. It’s kind of a momentum-shifter. I’ve always had that in my back pocket and I try to use it accordingly.”

The 20-year-old has done just that.

Although his stat line against the 76ers was average -- 11 points, six rebounds, three assists – the rookie made one of the biggest plays of the night in the third quarter when he stepped in front of Embiid and took the charge from the 280-pounder.

Embiid was whistled for an offensive foul, marking the 20th time this season that Podziemski has drawn a charging call from an opponent during the 2023-24 NBA season. That’s tied for the second-most in the league, not just rookies.

It was a perfect example of Podziemski’s smarts and how quickly he’s developing.

Earlier in the game, Embiid leveled the much smaller Podziemski with a screen that knocked the wind out of Podz and left him lying on the court for several moments.

Matched up against the NBA’s reigning MVP later in the game, Podziemski was more than ready when Embiid plowed into him.

“I kind of just flipped the roles for a second,” Podziemski explained. “It was like, ‘If I’m Embiid what am I going to do? I’m probably going to try to back down a smaller guy.’ I kind of knew that so I just tried to get a feel for when his bump was going to come. He bumped me a few times. Once he got about to the free throw line area, I was like ‘If he bumps me again I’m just going to take it.’^”

Take it he did. 

It was Embiid’s fourth foul on a night he ended with five overall. The 76ers, who already were scuffling to get much going against the Warriors, never really recovered.

For Dub Nation, the play wasn’t all that surprising. It was classic Podziemski, throwing himself around in any way possible to make a play for the Warriors. It’s been that way ever since he was drafted No. 19 overall in the 2023-24 draft.

The win over the 76ers capped a magnificent day for Podziemski, who was notified earlier in the afternoon that he had been selected to play in the NBA’s Rising Stars Game during All-Star weekend. He is the fifth Golden State player in the last five seasons to be chosen for the event, joining Jonathan Kuminga (2022), James Wiseman and Mychal Mulder (2021) and Eric Paschall (2020).

The announcement was a validation of sorts that Podziemski’s game truly is worthy of such accolades, though he hardly needed it.

While Podziemski oozes energy every time he’s on the court, he’s got a certain level of self-confidence that should not be confused with cockiness. He is fully aware of who he is and what he’s capable of. 

And he’s willing to do whatever it takes.

“It was definitely a goal of mine coming into the year on a personal level. But in terms of validation, I never need anybody to validate what I do,” Podziemski said. “I know what I bring. I know the 14 other guys in here know what I bring. I know the coaching staff knows what I bring to the table. For me, it’s just stacking little wins each and every day, just contributing and knowing that if you consistently do the right things it’ll all pan out for you.”

Other Warriors players, like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, have become big fans of Podziemski in a very short time. 

“I just love his confidence when he’s out there,” Curry said. “He gives us great energy in practice and in games. He feels like, and he knows, he belongs. You can’t teach that. It’s just about him learning the lessons he needs to learn as a guy that’s being trusted to play the heavy minutes. He comes with that attitude every night.”

Podziemski had that confidence long before he became a first-round NBA draft pick.

Whatever expectations that others try to put on him pale in comparison to the ones that Podziemski puts on himself. And it’s paid off handsomely so far, both for him as a player and the Warriors as a team.

“I feel like if you expect the world and you expect big things for yourself, there’s always things you can get better at,” Podziemski said. “Definitely a motivational thing for me to just keep striving and knowing that although I’ve done all these things already, although I’m playing as a rookie for the Warriors – that usually doesn’t happen – starting some games here and there, I always have bigger goals for myself and for our team. I know that I can make an impact so I’m going to continue to do that.”

A steady shooter and a very solid distributor who can run the point when Curry gets a rest, Podziemski is full of talent. But it’s his hustle and grind that stand out the most.

“It’s kind of what my calling card is in the NBA,” Podziemski said. “That’s kind of why coach (Steve Kerr) believes in me playing because he knows I’m going to bring that every single night. And I think it’s going to be something that helps me stick around in the league for a long time.”

Podziemski knows he’s not a finished product. He currently is shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range and would like to get that number up into the 50 percent range. He’s also looking to improve other aspects of his game.

And if he ever feels like he’s a complete package, he gets a gentle reminder from his family that more is out there.

That’s probably why Podziemski didn’t get overly excited when told he would be taking part in the Rising Stars game.

“I think that maybe a strength and a weakness of mine, looking for more, looking for more I can do,” Podziemski said. “It’s cool I’m a rising star but I’m not an All-Star yet. That’s where I want to get to.”

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