Jonathan Kuminga

Kuminga's personal growth extends well beyond breakout Warriors season

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SAN FRANCISCO – Jonathan Kuminga could have sat at the Chase Center podium Wednesday afternoon following the Warriors’ season-ending NBA Play-In Tournament loss to the Sacramento Kings and spoke about his statistical Year 3 leap, showing stretches of a star as one of the league’s most improved players. 

That wasn’t the growth Kuminga was most interested in.

“I think I grew, not basketball related, just as a person,” Kuminga said. “Just being the person I am when I'm not playing basketball around all my teammates and my coaches.”

Kuminga had recently wrapped up his end-of-the-season exit interview with Steve Kerr before speaking to the media. It wasn’t too long ago the relationship between player and coach was seriously questioned. Splintered and maybe even fractured for good

The former No. 7 overall pick in the NBA draft often has talked about how he feels he can do everything on the court. His affinity for the late Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality and his desire to be a superstar, not down the road but right here and right now. 

But now Kuminga can look back at that moment in early January as a possible turning point for his career. 

“It was more about communication,” Kuminga said regarding his personal development. “Communication is, I think it's the key to everything, no matter how that communication comes out, but there's definitely got to be better communication. I think that was my biggest growth. 

“And I just spoke to Steve not too long ago. We had a couple good conversations this year and he told me that's the thing he was most proud of me, besides basketball. Like that was the biggest thing he was really proud of me about – just being able to communicate with him and communicate with my teammates better and the staff.” 

Later in his press conference Kuminga was asked to expand on why he went into Kerr’s office earlier in the season for an essential heart-to-heart conversation. His answer didn’t resemble that of someone who became old enough to legally drink a mere six months ago. Instead, his reflection resembled a maturing young man who hasn’t just heard advice from his multi-time champion teammates and coach, but has listened and absorbed every word. 

While also finding his own voice as well. 

“Sometimes people don't know you if you don't speak,” Kuminga said. “Sometimes people don't know what's going on in your mind if you don't actually get to see it. Like it's the same way I don't know what's going on in my coach's mind if I don't get to ask them questions. It's the same way as you guys here asking me questions about everything or about basketball or about my life. 

“I mean, y'all wouldn't know if I didn't communicate with you guys. I think that's the biggest thing. That's pretty much what I had to do and learn and just be myself and find a way to communicate with my teammates, my coaches and everything else.”

Prior to Kuminga sitting the final 18 minutes of a Jan. 4 loss to Denver Nuggets, a game in which he scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting and was a plus-6 with four rebounds and four assists, he averaged 12.7 points in 22.2 minutes. After his frustrating view from the sidelines in the Warriors’ loss, he started 34 of his final 41 regular-season games, averaging 29.7 minutes and 18.7 points. 

Kuminga bumped his averages across the board from last season, one where he received three DNPs (Did Not Play) in the Warriors’ 10 playoff games, to his ultra-important third year as a pro this season. He was the Warriors’ third-leading scorer (16.1 points) while playing the seventh-most minutes (26.3) per game. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II were the three Warriors this season who had a better field goal percentage than Kuminga’s 52.9 percent. 

None of those three even took five shots per game, with the majority of their attempts being right at the rim.

“Yeah, he took a big leap,” Andrew Wiggins said. “JK, he's very talented, very competitive and a hell of an athlete. Not a lot of people more athletic than JK. The sky's the limit for him. His potential is off the roof. What is he like, 21? 22? 21? Yeah, I mean, the sky's the limit for him. 

“He's going to keep getting better and better and better, and an All-Star season is coming soon for him – for sure.”

Even in his third season with the Warriors, Kuminga still was the second-youngest player on the team, a little under four months older than rookie Brandin Podziemski. After his first two NBA seasons, and maybe even a few months ago, it would have been easy to assume Kuminga would unquestionably agree with Wiggins’ All-Star assessment. 

The honor undoubtedly can be reached by Kuminga in the near future. First, he’s taking the road of accountability to get there. 

“It's just all going to depend on how I take this summer,” Kuminga said. “It's just going to come down to how I go through this summer. Because anything is possible and I feel like I could do it. Going through next year, it just all comes down to what type of summer I'm going to have.”

Growth begins within, and Kuminga exuded exactly that out loud going into a crucial offseason for himself and the Warriors alike.

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