Jonathan Kuminga

Why Warriors coach Kerr isn't bothered by JK's playing time remarks

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn't seem too bothered or overly concerned with Jonathan Kuminga’s comments following Monday's 120-114 loss to the Nuggets after he sat out the majority of the fourth quarter despite Denver’s troubles slowing him down.

If anything, Kerr welcomed what Kuminga told The Athletic's Marcus Thompson, and downplayed any chatter about a possible controversy. 

The issue is symptomatic of a bigger issue: Golden State is back to being a team that has strength in numbers, and Kerr is trying to deal with it in a way that keeps everybody happy.

"I don’t mind those comments at all," Kerr said after Wednesday's practice. "Every guy wants to play, and JK's a really talented guy. But every game, I have to read the game, and [Andrew Wiggin] was our best player. We decided to go with Wiggs down the stretch, and those are easy decisions for me. The game before [a 126-106 Warriors win at Portland], I think JK finished, and he was playing great.

"It's just going to vary from game to game for everybody. That's just where our team is right now. Where JK is, too."

Kuminga has been a major force for the Warriors in the two weeks since Draymond Green began his indefinite NBA suspension. In his seven starts, the 2021 first-round draft pick finally has played up to expectations, shooting nearly 60 percent while averaging 14.3 points per game.

Against the Nuggets, however, Kuminga scored just 13 points in more than 23 minutes and was a minus-24 for the game. 

Afterward, Kuminga had this to say to Thompson: "Yeah, I am a difference-maker. I know I am. But it's not up to me to do certain things. 

"How can I say it? It’s not up to me to control my minutes. I feel like I've done that. But the last voice ain't mine. And it's not easy because I know how to score the basketball. I know how to pass. I know how to do different things on the floor. But it's about putting all that together. With the people we have on the floor, it's just tough to put it all together. I'm trying to figure out how to manage that."

To that end, Kerr and Kuminga spent a portion of Wednesday's practice going over film, with the coach pointing out plays when his 21-year-old forward could do better.

"I'm thrilled with JK's development," Kerr said. "What he's doing a better job of right now is just getting the ball out of his hands quickly when it comes to him, so it's a quick swing, swing when we have an advantage. I've seen him get five or six assists over the last three games where he's caught it and immediately swung it to [Stephen Curry] or Klay [Thompson] for an open shot. Those plays early in the season, he wasn't seeing. He was catching and holding, and our offense was getting stopped. Plays like that, he's starting to improve upon.

"He's still a young player with very little experience foundationally, so there's a lot of plays that you just have to show him where the cut is, where the box-out is, where the right position to be in is. All these things matter when it comes down to a one-possession game like most of our games are. 

"He's done a great job of really embracing coaching. We're going to continue to coach him and help him be in the right spots and make the right plays."

Kuminga’s desire for more playing time is part of a bigger issue facing Kerr and his coaching staff. Gary Payton II, who has been sidelined since Nov. 28 with a strained right calf, practiced Wednesday, after being cleared to do so last week, and although Kerr didn't have a timetable for his versatile guard's return, he'll likely be back some time this week.

Green also could be back soon, with reports circulating that he could return sometime in January, meaning Kerr will have to juggle his lineup even more.

"I think about it every day -- that is my job, of course," Kerr said. "It's really hard. Some years, it's just really obvious who your top nine are, and you just roll with those guys. The guys 10 to 14 understand their roles, and you work with them. You try to fit them in to keep them going. 

"This year is very different in that regard. We can play 13 guys in the rotation. Any one of them and every one of them is qualified to be out there and could make the case that they should be out there, but you can only play nine or 10. Very difficult decisions. 

"[Having] Gary back, getting Draymond back, those questions get louder, and we have to figure that out as a staff."

And soon.

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