Jerome knows what he proved with Dubs: ‘Zero hard feelings'


SAN FRANCISCO -- For the last 11 Warriors games, Ty Jerome's pregame routine has changed. Once the game begins, Jerome has stayed on the sideline in a sweatsuit. That's the life of a two-way player in the NBA, and it's about to change again Tuesday for the 25-year-old point guard.

Jerome last played over three weeks ago on March 11, in a nine-point Warriors win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Since then, Jerome has done his lift and drill work earlier in the day so he can shower, get into his clothes and head out of the arena soon after the final buzzer. He's healthy, and the Warriors would love to have him dressed head to toe in his Golden State uniform.

Strategy and his contract says otherwise.

Two-way players are allowed just 50 active games with their respective NBA teams. Jerome, through March 11, was up to 47 -- 44 games played and three DNPs (Did Not Play).

In the midst of it all, the Warriors had a decision to make with their open roster spot: Would it go to a player on the buyout market, or would they stay in-house and choose between Jerome and fellow two-way player Anthony Lamb?

They chose to stay in-house, but not with Jerome. The Warriors officially converted Lamb to a standard contract before their March 17 game in Atlanta, giving him their 15th and final roster spot. Lester Quinones was promoted from the G League as the Warriors' second two-way contract, and Jerome's status remained the same.

"They were very open about it with both me and Anthony," Jerome told NBC Sports Bay Area. "In the heat of it, we were both playing leading up to that decision. Steph [Curry] was out and a few other guys were out, and it really wasn't on the forefront of my mind at the time. I was really locked in. I'm just trying to win games.

"We had a good stretch of like five in a row. We won some good games, and that was kind of more on the forefront of my mind, and then with Andre [Iguodala] being out for the year and [Andrew Wiggins] not being here, it just came down to positional depth."

When Curry recently went down with a lower left leg injury from Feb. 6 through March 3, Jerome appeared in all 11 games, averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 assists in 20.4 minutes per night and shooting 48.5 percent from the field. Jerome then was inactive for Curry's first two games back before scoring 11 points against the Memphis Grizzlies and then playing 14-plus minutes in the last game he appeared in, against Milwaukee.

Without Curry, Jerome's skill set as a backup point guard were needed. But without Wiggins since Feb. 13 and Iguodala being out for at least the rest of the regular season because of a broken left wrist, Lamb, at 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, was more needed by default.

What felt obvious to the outside felt the same to Jerome. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was honest with Jerome, as was general manager Bob Myers. Even if they weren't, Jerome didn't have a blind eye to the Warriors' roster construction. On the court, he kept tunnel vision the best he could.

"Once Andre got hurt and Wiggs was kind of not here, writing was kind of on the wall," Jerome said. "And I kind of let my agents and the front office communicate more, and they're very great at communicating with me as well. But at the end of the day, we're here to win, win games and do a job, and that's kind of been everyone's main focus.

"It hasn't been something that you're talking about every day with Steve or Bob. Nah. We're all here to win games and we knew they had a decision to make, and like I said, whatever the decision was they made, my mindset was helping this team win as many games as I can, and I still have three left to do that."

Lamb and Jerome both were late Warriors signings entering the regular season, and their training-camp deals were turned into two-way contracts on Oct. 14 after they were with the team for a week. The expectation was Lamb and Jerome would see plenty of time in Santa Cruz with the Warriors' G League affiliate and fill in with Golden State when players needed a rest or were sidelined to injury.

Instead, they each became main fixtures off the bench for myriad reasons. Jerome currently is four games behind his career high of 48 for a season in his four-year career. Before this season, Lamb had played 26 total games in the NBA over the last three years. He played just two last season with the Houston Rockets.

Entering Tuesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lamb has played 59 games this season, averaging 6.9 points over 19.8 minutes. Like the rest of his teammates, Jerome was quick to congratulate Lamb on the news, laughing at the notion of any animosity.

"Yeah, of course," Jerome said. "There were zero hard feelings. I have zero animosity toward him, toward the front office, toward the coaching staff -- there are zero hard feelings to anyone. It was a decision they made, and Anthony's had a great season, and I'm really happy for him."

This summer, Jerome will be a restricted free agent. He was traded two weeks after being drafted in 2019, and then again in November 2020 and one more time two years later in September 2022.

The Rockets waived him on Oct. 1, paving the way for the Warriors to bring him in three days later. His career has been full of uncertainties, going up and down between the G League and NBA while moving homes more than once, too. Finally, he felt at home with the Warriors.

"Uhh ... for sure, for sure," Jerome said on Feb. 14 when asked if he feels at home in San Francisco. "The only reason I took so long is because I've been here for what, six months? I came here in early October. But the coaching staff, my teammates from the day I got here, they empowered me. They instilled confidence in me to go be myself.

"Coach Kerr, he lets me shoot my floater. He fully lets me be myself. And someone with the contract I have, not everyone gets that opportunity and gets that freedom. For sure, I'm grateful for that."

Even with the Warriors' decision to convert Lamb instead of Jerome keeping him off the playoff roster, Jerome says his feelings haven't changed a bit.

"Of course not," he said. "No, these guys and Steve and all the coaches, even with the decision they've made, they've still gone out of their way. Steve goes out of his way to communicate with me about certain things and just stuff that he doesn't have to do. He does more than he has to do with me.

"He's been great as a person, as a coach, as a leader. As has our front office been, and as has our leaders been on this team."

Jerome began his career with the Phoenix Suns, for whom he played 31 games as a rookie. He then was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder the next offseason. In his first season with the Thunder, he played 33 games and saw that increase to 48 last season. His respect always will be there for both organizations.

Jerome has seen an innate difference as a member of the Warriors -- one he can't quite explain.

"Without putting any organization down, because Phoenix, they have a lot of good things going, as you can see, and OKC is very organized and they're run a certain way," Jerome said. "This is ... this is ... what's the word I'm looking for? This is ... like I said before, it's the most at home I've ever felt.

"That's the best way I can put it. This is the most comfortable I've been. It's just the most at home I've felt."

With the possibility of playing time in the Warriors' final three regular-season contests, Jerome thus far is averaging 7.0 points and 3.1 assists in 18.5 minutes per game. He's shooting a career-high 48.8 percent overall and 38.9 percent on 3-pointers -- the second-best mark of his career -- while also making a career-best 92.7 percent of his free-throw attempts.

More than anything, what Jerome has been for the Warriors is a steady presence who can control the game for a team that can have an erratic playing style. He has 135 assists and 35 turnovers, good for a 4.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.

"Ty is so underrated as a player for us," Kerr said midway through February when Jerome stepped up for an injured Curry. "You look at his minutes, every time he comes in the game, something settles down. He just takes care of the ball. ... He's the consummate backup point guard."

"I have to be the one that's kind of being the person that's calm, the player that's calm on the court, and it can all blend together," Jerome responded. "That's just who I am as a player. It's who I've always been, and I think it's just valued here."

"I'm not the fastest, so I don't really have a choice."

Jerome had a decorated final two seasons of college at Virginia. As a junior, he helped lead the Cavaliers to a national championship, scoring 13.6 points per game with 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. He solidified himself as a knock-down shooter, making 39.9 percent of his threes in his junior year and 39.2 percent in his college career.

The winning stopped there.

The Suns won 34 games and finished 10th in the Western Conference in Jerome's rookie year. The Thunder won 22 games and finished 14th in the West in Jerome's first season in OKC, and had 24 wins last season as they again ended 14th in the West.

The Warriors -- however strange their season has been -- have the most wins Jerome has been a part of, with 41 and counting.

"Well, I think before this year there was this whole thing of like, 'Oh, he's doing it in OKC, games that didn't matter.' That was the whole knock on me," Jerome said when asked what he believes he has proved most this season. "And I just thought it was silly because I think that one of the best parts of my game is that I can impact winning. Getting the opportunity to do that here, I mean you look at, and this happened for a lot of different reasons, JP was great when Steph went down. We rallied as a team.

"You look at a lot of other teams, you go look at their record when their star player's hurt. And in most of those games when Steph was out, we were missing Wiggs as well. So just the amount of games they missed and what I've been able to help this group do, it definitely means a lot at this point in my career to me."

RELATED: How Jerome secretly sparked Warriors' comeback win vs. Blazers

This season is Jerome's first with a playoff team and championship aspirations. He came here to win again, while learning from Kerr, Curry and others. The Warriors still have plenty of goals to hit this season, but Jerome has been able to check many boxes along the way.

Golden State is 21-23 in games Jerome has played. Many of those were without Curry and without Wiggins, at the least. His help in Curry's second injury absence already has been noted. When Curry missed 11 games from Dec. 16 through Jan. 7 because of a left shoulder subluxation, Jerome gave the Warriors 10.3 points and 3.2 assist per game, shooting 40 percent from deep in 22.4 minutes per night. The Warriors were better than .500 in both instances.

Starting with his previous team Tuesday night at Chase Center, Jerome is guaranteed to wear his No. 10 Warriors jersey three more times. The Bay quickly became home for him. Three months out from his 26th birthday, Jerome knows what he proved for the defending NBA champions, and he has enough fans within the franchise to very much keep his Warriors future wide open.

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