Donte DiVincenzo looks to be Warriors' latest health success story

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DiVincenzo looks to be Warriors' latest health success story originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LAS VEGAS -- When Donte DiVincenzo spoke over the phone with Steph Curry and Draymond Green before agreeing to a two-year contract with the Warriors in free agency, the emphasis was on culture and environment. But his conversation with Curry contained a different element.

Health.

If anyone knows what it's like to bounce back from an ankle injury, or in Curry's case multiple ankle injuries, it's the Warriors superstar. DiVincenzo believes being a part of the Warriors is the best place for him to do exactly that.

During the 2020-21 season, the former first-round pick out of Villanova was enjoying his breakout season in Year 3 as the Milwaukee Bucks' starting shooting guard. In 66 regular-season games, all starts, DiVincenzo put up multiple career highs, including points (10.4), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.1) and 3-point percentage (37.9 percent) while playing strong perimeter defense. In the first two games of the playoffs, he totaled 17 rebounds, eight assists and three steals but then was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle that he sustained in the second quarter against the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Bucks' first-round series.

After undergoing offseason surgery, DiVincenzo simply wasn't the same player upon his return at the start of last season. He missed the first 30 games of the season and tweaked his ankle during warmups after playing only three games. The stats didn't do him any favors either. He knows it, but also knows the player he is and what he can provide to a championship team.

As does Curry.

"That's something that Steph and I talked about, just the injury thing," DiVincenzo said Saturday. "He's like, 'We know you can play. You know you can play. You just have to show everybody for a year that you can play.'

"Coming off the injury, it's not hidden -- I got off to a slow start. Percentages weren't there, everything wasn't there. I was still trying to get traction and everything. Then getting traded, it just weighs on you.

"Now I have a full complete offseason to start developing more and get acclimated to this system. I think once I get acclimated to the system and everything that they do, everything will take off from there."

On Feb. 10 of this year, DiVincenzo was part of a four-team trade that sent him to the Sacramento Kings. In 17 games with the Bucks last season, he averaged 7.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 28.4 percent from deep. But in 25 games with the Kings, those numbers jumped up to 10.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and a 36.8 percent clip on 3-pointers. He also averaged 1.5 steals per game for Sacramento.

More than anything, he felt like he ran out of time in Sacramento and was hitting his stride as the Kings' season was coming to an end.

DiVincenzo's surgery now is 15 months behind him. He says he feels great, is moving like he never even had surgery and already is working with the Warriors' training staff.

"You can't do anything on the court unless you're healthy," DiVincenzo said. "That's a huge focus for me. I've already been out there with the performance staff trying to get acclimated with them to just take my body and take everything to the next level."

The Warriors have a long history of finding success with previously injured players. That's true for new names to the organization and those who have been in the building for years.

DiVincenzo, like everybody else, saw the work pay off for Klay Thompson last season after missing the previous two-and-a-half years to leg injuries. Curry missed the final two weeks of the regular season to a foot injury and came off the bench the first four games of the playoffs before winning MVPs in both the Western Conference finals and NBA Finals. Head trainer Rick Celebrini spent All-Star weekend in Cabo going through double days with Draymond Green to get him back on his feet, pushing to return from a back injury that kept him out for two months.

There were hugs and tears left and right on the TD Garden floor once the Warriors could celebrate their latest championship. One of the biggest was between Thompson and Celebrini.

Now healthy, DiVincenzo also can join a long line of players whose careers have taken a turn for the best after becoming a Warrior. He talked with former Warrior Eric Paschall about that, as well as Jordan Poole. Just look at this past season's squad, and it's clear how the 25-year-old DiVincenzo, who has a player option for the second year of his contract, can set himself up for the future.

"I know Jordan Poole took a huge step forward in his career and you can see how much they care about that," DiVincenzo said. "And then [Gary Payton II]. What Gary did last year. The same with [Otto Porter Jr.]. Looking at how those guys have helped other players, that's what I think is best for me."

RELATED: How Steph, Draymond were key to Warriors signing DiVincenzo

Everything is lined up in DiVincenzo's favor to be a strong role player, one who will be needed for the Warriors to try and repeat. He has spoken with coach Steve Kerr and said he's ready to do whatever's asked of him, on either side of the ball. DiVincenzo believes he's another perfect piece to the puzzle, and so do all the right voices within the Warriors.

History, past and present, is on his side.

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