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Santos' breakout latest in season of growth for Warriors' youngsters

Santos' breakout latest in season of growth for Warriors' youngsters originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Gui Santos still is getting used to life in America after growing up in his homeland of Brazil, and while it hasn’t been a completely smooth adjustment, the 21-year-old now has become a part of the Warriors rotation, making things easier to handle.

Santos, who spent parts of two seasons in the G League before getting called up to the NBA by the Warriors, has made so much progress that he was on the court for the final moments of their 109-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday at Barclays Center.

That’s significant because Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been jumbling his lineups for most of the season, especially the group that is on the court to close things out. Against the Nets, Santos was part of that closing squad while others – most notably veteran and five-time NBA All-Star Klay Thompson – sat on the bench and watched.

Fellow rookie Brandin Podziemski also was on the court when the game ended and said Santos helped swing the game in the Warriors’ direction with his energy and passion.

“He’s the reason why we won the game," Podziemski told reporters. "Without him we probably lose, quite honestly. When he came in in the second quarter he gave us some life. Then when we he came in in the third, you could just feel his energy and his presence both offensively and defensively. I think that’s why coach decided to rock with him and finish the game with him.”

Santos delivered career-highs with nine points and six rebounds, finishing as a team-high plus-13 in 17:43 minutes.

That’s the most that the 2022 second-round draft pick has played during his rookie season and continues a trend that has seen Santos being used more than ever. He has played in three consecutive games for the first time in his career while logging 43:33 minutes of playing time. He was used for a total of 34:50 minutes combined in the six other games he has played in during the 2023-24 season.

After spending the majority of the season on the bench, Santos not only is clocking more playing but Kerr now is open to using him in crunch time like he did against Brooklyn.

Kerr opted to stay with Santos down the stretch rather than bringing in Thompson or someone else because the closing group against the Nets was playing so well.

Additionally, Santos was providing a different type of energy that the Warriors were in need of. Like Podziemski has done for most of the season, Santos was making plays and doing things that don’t always show up on a stat sheet.

“That’s what was so impressive about Gui tonight, just the multiple efforts,” Kerr said. “He was going after every rebound and loose ball, diving on the floor. Gui Santos was amazing, just getting on the floor for loose balls, getting offensive rebounds, generating extra possessions.”

All the while, Santos is still trying to get used to living in another country,

“The culture is a little bit different, especially being away from the family and (not being) there in special moment,” Santos said. “It’s tough but you gotta know that’s how it’s going to be.

“It’s not easy to be in another country. With the Warriors organization they make me feel like I am in a family.”

Injuries and performance has led to a lot of the lineup changes that Kerr has had to make this season. Sometimes they’ve worked out, and other times they haven’t.

Doing the dirty work, and the little things that aren’t accounted for in a box score, is how Santos has worked his way into the conversation.

“I've got to bring that for the team," Santos said. "I don’t care like how many points or my rebounds. I just want to go there and help the team win. And every time I got a couple of minutes I’m going to be there helping the team to win, it doesn’t matter what.”

And that in itself is huge for a team that is in somewhat of a transition. The team still is anchored by the core three of Stephen Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. But this season, as erratic as it has been, has also seen the growth and development of key players like Jonathan Kuminga, Podziemski, and now Santos.

“He was incredible,” Podziemski said. “That’s stuff we need from our young guys.”

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