Warriors' Marquese Chriss lives in moment after so much uncertainty

Logan Murdock
NBC Sports BayArea

Sitting in a New York City hotel room, Marquese Chriss still is reconciling the year he has experienced. 

At this moment, he's employed with the Warriors under league's two-way deal -- a product of the team's place against the hard cap -- a week away from a freshly signed guaranteed contract.

Under the two-way deal -- signed last month -- he has just 24 allowable NBA days on the roster, limiting him to hotel gyms to stay in shape while providing a unique set of circumstances. 

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"I mean, I don't even know how to explain it," he admits to NBC Sports Bay Area. "I don't get to practice. I just get to play. So I can't say it's too bad of a gig" 

His two-way status is just the latest twist for the roller-coaster season Chriss is experiencing. Nearly out of the NBA five months ago, he signed a non-guaranteed deal with Golden State, earned the last roster spot in training camp, flourished, then got cut on the eve of his guaranteed date in favor of a two-way teammate. 

Even with a guaranteed deal -- signed last week after 29 teams passed him during waivers -- Chriss' time in Golden State beyond this year still is cloudy. Nonetheless, the former first-round draft pick is finding solace in a young career that's been anything but stable. 

"I think it's been pretty turbulent," Chriss said last week. "But I think I finally found a comfort zone that I can enjoy myself again." 

Chriss' current place of employment is just down the road from his roots. Born in Sacramento, he moved around frequently as a child, settling in Elk Grove -- an agricultural suburb 15 miles outside the city. All the while, he had a different dream than the one he's currently realizing.

Ball in his court

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(Marquese Chriss meets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 8 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Photo via AP/Frank Franklin II)

"I wanted to be in the NFL," Chriss said. 

His gridiron ambitions lasted briefly. In eighth grade, he broke his collarbone diving for a long pass, forcing his mother, Shawntae, to cancel her baby boy's plans prematurely, and even basketball seemed like a means to an end for the teenager. 

"I was just like, 'OK, I'm just going to play basketball kind of as a hobby and try to figure out how to go to [college],'" he said. 

Until his mother, Shawntae instilled some reality into her child. 

"My mom told me straight up we wouldn't be able to afford school if I didn't play basketball." 

Chriss took heed to the message, averaging 21.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks as a senior at Pleasant Grove High School, garnering Divison I interest along the way, giving credence to his newfound NBA ambitions. 

"Basketball kind of was my means of getting an education and going to college," he said. "And then when it became a reality, when I was probably a junior in high school, I started thinking about like, 'OK, I actually want to make this what I do and what is going to be my livelihood.' "

His intent led him to the University of Washington, where his game garnered lottery interest after he dominated on a team sprinkled with NBA talent. By the end of the year, he led finished fourth among freshman in school history in scoring, fifth in rebounds and first in blocks. 

His name would get called months later when the Sacramento Kings drafted him eighth overall, much to his chagrin.

"I think being a competitive kid and being somebody who wants to be better than most people and better than people that I'm going against," he said. "I think that that was something that I wanted to do, was try to go as high as possible."

Sacramento's selection came with a caveat. His hometown team agreed to trade the pick to the Phoenix Suns, putting an end to his family's hopes. 

"My mom cried. My sister cried when they said Sacramento," he said. "But I had to tell her I wasn't going to Sacramento."

Instead, Chriss inherited an organization in peril. In two seasons with the Phoenix Suns, he played under three coaches, never winning more than 24 games in a season. On the court, he frequently struggled with foul trouble. Off the court, he developed a reputation of immaturity as he attempted to find his way.  

"Turbulent to say the least," he said. "I mean, I went through a lot of change, a lot of culture shock."

"I think the culture that we had in the locker room was different than people understood on the outside," he added. "I think we enjoyed being around each other. We enjoyed going to each and every game and practicing with each other. I think we had a good team aspect. I just think we didn't understand how to win at the time, being so young."

Finally home

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(Marquese Chriss meets with Warriors coaches before a game at Chase Center. Photo via USA TODAY/Neville E. Guard)

His time in Phoenix ended unceremoniously after his second season, by way of a trade to the Houston Rockets. Six months later, he was traded again to the Cleveland Cavaliers, putting his career in jeopardy. His career tailspin momentarily was stopped prior to the season when he agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Warriors. 

Chriss' addition came as the Warriors' health began to deteriorate. On the eve of training camp, the team announced Willie Cauley-Stein would miss a month with a foot strain. Days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Kevon Looney strained his hamstring in a controlled scrimmage.

Chriss took advantage of the opportunity, averaging 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in the preseason, earning the team's last roster spot.

However, despite starting three games, he was waived last month. The decision had little to do with his play, but a product of Golden State's place against the league's hard cap. Chriss' non-guaranteed deal coincided with the team's desire to convert Damion Lee's two-way deal into a standard NBA deal. 

Momentarily unemployed while living in the Bay Area, he crossed his fingers that he'd clear waivers for another chance with the Warriors. Days later, he agreed to a two-way deal with Golden State. Following the trade deadline, he signed on for the rest of the season after the team traded away fellow big Omari Spellman. 

At the moment, Chriss remains tentatively in Golden State's future plans. In Saturday's loss to the Lakers, he showed why, scoring 20 of his team-high 26 points in the first half, despite playing against Los Angeles' vaunted frontline. But, the losses have piled up, making Golden State the league's worst team as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have played a combined four games this season.

Nonetheless, Chriss is happy with the team's progress. 

[RELATED: Chriss' game vs. Lakers is exactly why Warriors are excited]

"I think this is the most fun I've had in the NBA," Chriss said. "Obviously, we're not having the best season with wins wise, but I think we're growing. I think we're understanding what we're capable of doing and capable of being in the future." 

Underscoring Chriss' happiness is something he hasn't had for much of his career: Solace in an ever-changing landscape. With that in toe, he has bigger goals for himself. 
 
"I just want to be remembered for something," he said. "Obviously money comes and goes. You can't take it with you. But I just want to have the most fun that I can while I'm here. Like I said, just live in the moment."

Warriors' Marquese Chriss lives in moment after so much uncertainty originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area



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