Warriors' Jonathan Kuminga struggling to lock in with limited playing time
JK struggling to 'lock in' with limited playoff minutes originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, Jonathan Kuminga has been lost and confused about his role with the Warriors. And as Golden State pushes for its fifth championship in nine seasons, it hasn’t become any more clear.
Kuminga is growing more frustrated with his lack of playing time, particularly in the playoffs, and the 20-year-old forward didn’t hold back in an emotional interview with The San Francisco Chronicle’s C.J. Holmes.
“It’s tough going through this season and being in (the game) most of the time and then things just flip out of nowhere without you knowing what’s going on,” Kuminga told Holmes.
After playing 20.8 minutes per game in the 2022-23 regular season averaging 9.9 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists, Kuminga’s postseason action has been limited, to say the least.
The 6-foot-8 forward played just 6.0 minutes per game in Golden State’s opening-round series against the Sacramento Kings, averaging 2.3 points in that condensed amount of time. He was a DNP (Did Not Play) in Game 5 of the series, and played just under four minutes in Game 6 and just under three minutes in Game 7.
And as the Warriors opened the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Chase Center, Kuminga saw his second DNP of this postseason and was forced to watch his team lose Game 1 from the bench.
“It’s still tough to lock in every single time. It’s still tough to smile every single time,” Kuminga told Holmes. “But knowing where I’ve come from, seeing how many things that I’ve actually been through that a lot of people don’t know that got me to this point… I feel like throughout my career, throughout my life, I’ve never been given anything. I’ve seen so many people just get handed stuff. That’s never happened to me.
“When I was in high school I was definitely the No. 1 player, but it never got handed to me, I had to prove my point. … You can’t stop the sun from shining, and at some point, the sun is going to come out. That’s what keeps me ready every day.”
After Warriors practice Wednesday, coach Steve Kerr acknowledged the tough spot Kuminga is in, but said he has to stay ready in case his number is called.
"The playoffs are tough in that regard," Kerr said to reporters Wednesday. "JaMychal [Green] just got through basically not playing six of the seven games against Sacramento because it just wasn’t an ideal matchup.
"The opponent changes, you see the opportunity for JaMychal to play in a game last night. He stays ready. He comes out, knocks down a couple of jumpers. That’s what the playoffs are about. Every game is different, every series is different."
Against the young, fast-paced and fairly small Kings team, Kuminga’s limited play in the series was a matter of matchup, Kerr said. Against LeBron James and the Lakers, though, Kuminga’s utility is fair game.
"JK is always positive," teammate Andrew Wiggins said Wednesday. "He’s working hard, always wants to learn. He’s a young kid. Everyone knows he wants to be out there. I know he’s going to get his opportunity, and when he does, I know he’ll make the most of it."
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Since entering the league as a 19-year-old last season, Kuminga has flashed glimpses of his unique athleticism time and time again.
While Wiggins was away for two months due to a personal matter, Kuminga stepped up in his absence and showcased what he had been bottling up on the bench. In the 22 games Kuminga played while Wiggins was out, he averaged 13.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting from the field and 44.4 percent from downtown while adding 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 24.1 minutes played.
But when Wiggins came back just in time for Golden State's playoff opener, Kuminga found himself back in the rearview of Kerr's rotation -- a seat he's unfortunately all too familiar with.
Even though he would like to see the floor more in the Warriors' current playoff run, Kuminga will do what he's always done: Stay ready.
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