Warriors' Eric Paschall antsy to build on head-turning rookie season

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Warriors' Paschall antsy to build on surprising rookie year originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

When Eric Paschall earned the biggest honor of his NBA career to date, the Warriors forward was playing video games.

Paschall learned in September he made the NBA's All-Rookie First Team while participating in a Madden NFL tournament. 

"I was on Zoom for the Madden tournament, and I think I just got a notification on my phone," Paschall recalled in a video conference call with reporters Friday.

"And then I just got a whole bunch of messages."

Paschall called his father, Juan, and then heard good friend Donovan Mitchell "screaming on the phone, saying congrats" when he called the Utah Jazz star back after the Madden tournament.

"That was pretty much it, and then I continued my day and finished playing video games for the day," Paschall said.

That's not so different from how many 24-year-olds have passed the time in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic holds a tighter grip on the United States than it did when Paschall's rookie season effectively ended in March after the NBA suspended the 2019-20 regular season. Paschall and the Warriors didn't participate in the league's Orlando bubble this summer and fall, leaving him with nearly nine months between their last game on March 10 and the start of training camp this week.

The 2019 second-round pick believes he used it wisely, in hopes of building upon a head-turning rookie season.

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Paschall averaged 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game during his first NBA season. While Steph Curry missed all but five games with a broken left hand and Klay Thompson sat out the entirety of the campaign rehabbing a torn ACL, Paschall practically was the Warriors' lone consistent bright spot.

The Villanova product said coach Steve Kerr gave him "a lot of confidence" acclimating to the NBA, and Paschall made a point of working on Kerr's points of emphasis from game to game. Paschall trusts Kerr with his development, especially as the Warriors boast a much better roster than they did at the end of last season. 

"Whatever coach wants me to do," Paschall said when asked of the role he envisions this season. "Come off the bench, start, whatever he has planned, it's in his hands. I just try to come in in good shape and keep trying to get better every day."

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With Curry back, Andrew Wiggins' continued integration into the fold and the offseason additions of Kelly Oubre Jr. and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, Paschall could be less of an offensive focal point in his second NBA season. That shouldn't require too much adjustment, as Paschall wasn't a high-usage rookie -- his 21.5 percent usage rate barely cracked the top 25 among first-year pros -- and he pointed to his experience playing a variety of roles in four years at Villanova as a reason he can adjust this season.

Paschall said he feels "pretty good" shooting 3-pointers after an offseason working on trying to jump less and get more arc on his shots. If Paschall's going to make good on Kerr comparing him to P.J. Tucker, he'll need to knock down a much higher percentage of his attempts from beyond the arc than the 28.7 percent he hit last season.

But perhaps most importantly, Paschall said he has a greater understanding of the rigors of an NBA season. He never played more than 38 games in a season at Villanova, and knowing how to navigate a longer season should prove helpful, particularly during a condensed schedule in which the Warriors are set to play three or four games per week between the end of December and beginning of March.

"For me personally, it's just a lot of ups and downs during the year," Paschall said of his biggest rookie-year lesson. "Your body's not always going to feel the greatest, but just learn how to take care of that and mentally get yourself right for the next day."

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Paschall had plenty of time to reflect, and work toward improving upon an unusual rookie season. With the regular season just over two weeks away, he said he was antsy to get back on the court.

Video games, a staple of his offseason, could only keep him interested for so long.

"I was just ready to go," Paschall said. "Tired of sitting in the house and playing video games to pass time. Now I'm ready for the season, and I just can't wait to get going."