Jonathan Kuminga

Why JK wasn't surprised by lack of fourth-quarter minutes vs. Nuggets

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Jonathan Kuminga is playing arguably the best basketball of his young NBA career, but he wasn’t surprised Warriors coach Steve Kerr kept him on the bench for the entire fourth quarter of Golden State's 130-127 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday at Chase Center.

The way Kuminga sees it, that’s how it has been for him during his entire time with Golden State. And with Kerr continuing to fiddle with his rotations, it certainly was no surprise that Kuminga spent the final 12 minutes of the game as a spectator instead of being on the court in crunch time.

“It’s tricky. Since I’ve been here, we don’t have just five guys that we know that they’re supposed to be on the floor whenever it’s closing time,” Kuminga said. “It’s a little, I don’t know how to say it, it’s a little weird. I’ve been here for three years now, I’m used to it. I’m never surprised when I see a lineup change at the end of the game or even in the game. It’s a culture thing.”

Kuminga scored 16 points, his 14th consecutive game hitting double figures. The last 11 of those have come with Kuminga as a starter. He’s averaging 15.2 points a game during that stretch, nearly three points better than his 2023-24 season average. He’s shooting better than 57 percent (82 of 143) over that span.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Kuminga said. “I’ve come so far and I still have a lot of things to accomplish. This is just the beginning of the journey, where things are just changing. Hopefully it changes even more.

“Any time I get a chance to go on the court, starting or not, I try to go out there and make sure the next time they start me or they know that if they need anybody off the bench, if they need any player that could do something, I’m always there.”

Kuminga’s career has been one filled with ups and downs. Since replacing the suspended Draymond Green in Golden State’s starting lineup, Kuminga has shown signs of being the top-flight player the Warriors hoped they were getting when they selected him seventh overall in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Still, the 21-year-old was riding the bench against the defending-champion Nuggets when it counted the most.

Kerr said the decision not to play Kuminga was a combination of the Warriors being in control at the time coupled with how long he had been sitting out.

“His normal time to go back in would have been around the five-, six-minute mark,” Kerr said. “[Andrew Wiggins] was playing great, we were rolling, we were up 18, 19, whatever it was. So we just stayed with [the finishing group]. At that point it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. [Kuminga] had been sitting for a while so I stayed with the group that was out there, and obviously we couldn’t close it out.”

Through three quarters, Kuminga had been putting together another solid effort in what has been a string of good games for the Warriors forward. He opened the game with a leaping dunk down the lane, then later made a key put-back off a Stephen Curry miss in the third quarter to give the Warriors an 88-86 lead.

Also in the third quarter, Kuminga got Denver’s Jamal Murray out of the game when he picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench for the final six minutes of the period. That opened the door for a 26-10 run by Golden State.

Kuminga’s night ended after that and he was forced to watch the Warriors give up the lead down the stretch.

“I really didn’t have much to say about that,” Kuminga said. “The rest of the guys were playing good, we had a lead, everybody was happy.

“There was no explanation. I was just on the bench cheering, just like another teammate. Hyped because we were in it. I really don’t know. I didn’t see it coming at all, especially the way I was playing.”

Kerr will have another tough decision to make when Green returns from his indefinite NBA suspension. Reports circulated earlier in the day that Green would return to the team facilities soon to begin working his way back, but Kerr told reporters he knew nothing of it.

Regardless, Kuminga has forced the coach’s hand with the way he has played. When Green returns, he might not get the minutes he’s accustomed to.

Some of them likely will go to Kuminga, who feels he’s better prepared to handle the starting role now.

“I look back, and I used to have stretches where two months I was playing good,” Kuminga said. “But I feel like now I’m even more poised and more mature knowing what I need to do instead of just being out there running wild. Now I’m more poised. I know a lot of things. I know how people are playing me. I know how people are playing us.”

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