Jonathan Kuminga

What Kuminga told Kerr in private post-benching conversation

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Jonathan Kuminga's ascension has been one of, if not the Warriors' biggest storyline during the 2023-24 NBA season.

The 21-year-old showed signs of being ready to take a leap earlier in the campaign, but was limited to a reserve role early on before one game -- and difficult conversation -- changed Kuminga's trajectory in his third year.

Kuminga was benched for the remaining 18 minutes of the Warriors' 130-127 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 4 at Chase Center after scoring 16 points in 18:57 on the court, a decision that didn't sit well with Golden State fans and the former lottery pick alike.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the following day that Kuminga had "lost faith" in Kerr and that his benching against the Nuggets was "the straw that broke the camel’s back."

Sensing his young star's growing frustration, Kerr invited Kuminga into his office for a chat later that week, Yahoo! Sports' Jake Fischer reported in his latest feature story.

The conversation was productive, and Kuminga shared with Fischer what he told Kerr in that private meeting.

“I just told him how I feel, he told me how he feels," Kuminga told Yahoo! Sports. "Things he wanted me to do more to get more playing time. After that, just going out there and just enjoying it, enjoying playing for him. He’s coaching me harder. Sometimes you don’t understand things until it comes to your eyes.

"Somebody wants great things for you, that’s why they coach you harder. I think that’s what it was, just him coaching me harder every time because he wants great things from me. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be on this court. I wouldn’t have this type of spirit to go out there and play."

Kerr felt that Kuminga wasn't as focused on the court as he should have been and that his interactions with his coach since the private meeting have lit a fire under him.

“He felt like I wasn’t locked in," Kuminga told Fischer. "Basketball, every possession matters, so I just wasn’t locked in on certain possessions. He told me, ‘I need you to do the small things that will help our team.’ He keeps repeating that to me every single time we talk.

“People think it was me switching gears. It’s not, nah. I had to just keep going, keep growing every day. Locking in even more. It’s not the haircut. I had a mindset that was already set.”

Kuminga, even with Draymond Green's return from an indefinite suspension, has remained a mainstay in the Warriors' starting lineup and has been a catalyst for the team's recent success leading up to the NBA All-Star break.

Kerr and the Warriors will rely on Kuminga now more than ever as they look to climb the Western Conference standings and secure one of the top-six playoff seeds.

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