Before I tackle the question of, “Will Jonathan Kuminga play?” let me first answer the question, “Who is that bearded guy in the lower left of your article pic (the one above him is me, obv)?”
That’s one of our regulars on the YouTube live chat. He’s not a former basketball player, coach, blogger, or Twitterer. Imo he’s better than all of the latter and probably a better human than most of the former. He’s a devout Golden State Warriors fan, he’s a super-positive, soft-spoken guy, he’s a smart observer of the game, always willing to learn and humble, and he’s always always always appreciative of how the Warriors got to where they are today. Like Stephen Curry and myself, we are believers of the process.
Dean Chambers grew up in Salt Lake City, so he first became aware of great basketball through the lens of his dad and John Stockton and Karl Malone, thereby having his heart torn out on multiple occasions by one Michael Jordan. He’s seen the good and the bad. So that comes with pretty high hoop IQ as far an observer’s standpoint, actually.
In short, Dean is a diamond in the rough among this zombie apocalypse of outrage and overly-sarcastic-in-the-attempts-to-be-funny “hot takes” on free and anonymous social media commenting platforms. Oh, and outrage. Did I mention outrage? Yeah, he’s none of that. Ever. I actually didn’t find him. He found me. On YouTube. After searching around the app of the present and future, the app where outrage can’t really interrupt your peaceful life, and seeing that no one was providing Warriors information like the LetsGoWarriors channel.
Anyways, we got to talking like we do on some postgames when he’s not working, and the other night after Game 4 the talking out loud led us to a no-brainer conclusion: it’s time to play Kuminga. And not only that, it feels like the right time to start him. Not that Kevon Looney has done anything wrong (more on this later).
Now, as I’ve often said before, I’m not a writer for The Athletic. Whenever I want to transmit logical Warriors information from my brain to yours, it is not with the intention of beautifully written prose. You will not be entertained. For that, maybe check out Tim Kawakami’s piece in which he came to the same result, albeit didn’t really detail the steps and logic that led to it, that I will below. Incidentally, my “piece” (discussion with Dean postgame) happened before Kawakami’s article posted. Ergo, I was not influenced by him at all:
See comments for timestamps at the 5-hour, 58-minute mark of what ended up being a 7-hour live chat, essentially I offered coverage of not just the during the game, but more than double the game itself. So, Dean and I came to the conclusion of Kuminga at around midnight Pacific time after Game 4. Dean probably had the inception well before that. He gets the credit.
I actually sliced out the last 16 minutes of the 7-hour marathon. That slice covers the Kuminga talk although it excludes the rant of how great Steph was — I was actually thinking more entertaining than, gulp, MJ himself, but maybe I’ll wait til the off-season for that diatribe — and the initial thought of Kuminga (thanks, Dean!), and posted it on YouTube yesterday morning:
So this is really a companion piece for the above. If you’re a person who likes YouTube and consuming information by video, there is no need to read this article any further. But my battle with COVID over the last two weeks has finally come to an end and I happened to have some free time here, sitting and waiting for a family member to finish an errand which enabled me to get the wheels turning on this written version.
Let me outline the logic for starting JK with a few rebuttals to rebuttals (that I got during our livechat and elsewhere):
• “JK did not have great starts vs Memphis”: I do not recall this, actually. None of those “bad” (team) starts were Kuminga’s fault. As always, those bad first quarters when he started, and when he didn’t, always came back to careless turnovers by the Big Four vets: obviously Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Looney. Yes, even Looney — remember perhaps an embarrassing dribble hand-off that ended in run-out fast break for Memphis? I’m pretty sure a good chunk of my “Play Moses Moody” declaration (note: fulfilled, and you can find that article by searching this site for “moody”, as the in-line hyperlinking feature of Substack is currently broken 🙄) for that Grizzlies series I talked about the loose-ness with the ball. Folks, frustrating starts to two NBA Finals games is not something new with our aging core. We saw it in Denver, then Memphis, then, yes, even in Dallas. Not to mention many times in the regular season. Which brings me to…
• “Draymond and Steph said in subsequent interviews that they just need to play better, especially Dray, and with more force”: Well, the lack of force has been an issue after every loss to Denver, Memphis and Dallas. Yes, as Dray goes, so go the Warriors especially in that physicality department — I don’t dispute that one bit — in fact, I might argue that Bob Myers should go find another potential emotional leader like Dray through the Draft or free agency, but I’ll write that in more detail in the off-season.
Anyways, the Celtics are obviously a different breed. And I have described Green as a Rocky Balboa type who gets better the more he’s beaten to a pulp, for better or for worse.
How many more “I played terrible, I’ll be better next game” gauntlets do we want Draymond to throw? They always happen after a beat down. We don’t have many beatdowns left. This is it. Seven-game series and now we’re at Game 4 meaning we’re halfway through it.
• “Meh, you’re a prisoner of the moment”: First of all, gee, thanks for the catch-phrase-on-social-media insult. I heard it loud and clear. Social media commenting is where the latest trendy way to say F— YOU, DUMMY, I’M RIGHT AND YOU’RE WRONG lives, and it reinforces itself each and every day. I mean, I don’t want to point out negativity with negativity; I’m trying to learn from my mistakes of the past, but sometimes it’s really hard. There are definitely more mindful ways to disagree and allow for the possibility that you could be wrong, just try it, rather than slap a new and cool label right on my face, which intentionally does not leave me room for a rebuttal. That’s why I always say social media does not allow for erudite discussion. “Prisoner of the moment” is a muzzle intended to stifle, not the round table of philosophers introducing different prisms of life.
What is your preferred method of Warriors content consumption? I submit that the vision of Aristotle bouncing ideas off of Plato and Socrates on how to defend Ja Morant and Luka Doncic is more appealing than rattling off 280-character insults after 280-character insults. My hope is that our YouTube channel becomes that refuge for those of us who are coming from a foundation of positivity, willingness to learn from each other, and no entitlement. And, sure, I do think character limits on free social media commenting make that ideal harder. But back to the topic at hand…
Was Kerr a prisoner of the moment when he rematched Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen in Memphis in 2015, down 2-1? Was he a prisoner of the moment when Steve told Andre Iguodala he would be starting (and Bogut sitting) directly opposite LeBron James when the Warriors went down 2-1 to the Cavs a few weeks later?
There might even be some parallels to being down 2-1 and making certain adjustments in other years, but all that is outside the scope of this post (for example, Klay missed Game 4 when they were down 2-1 vs the Raptors due to a hamstring injury, so his mere return in Game 5 was a built-in adjustment). The fact remains: Steve has made big adjustments “only” down 2-1 in the past — being down 2-1 should be a back-against-the-wall moment because you don’t want to go down 3-1 — and everyone else is making comparison after comparison between 2022 and 2015 anyways (comparison is, indeed, the thief of joy, though, per Moody, ironically).
And what do we do if we win Game 4 without Kuminga but with Dray’s energy and “Playoff Draymond” intensity and offensive contribution? Can 32-year-old Green muster the same physicality and offense in Game 5? That’s the bad pattern that I see. Again: it’s time to introduce the Kuminga variable and see how the Celtics respond to him.
• “It is risky to put a rookie into the NBA Finals. He might screw up a defensive assignment”: This is why you go with veterans and see how they do the first three games of a seven-game series. I was never in favor of the rookies to start any of the series. But we’re down 2-1 and this is what you do in seven-game series: introduce a new variable to get yourself out of the mud, to break a trend.
More importantly, it’s the Big Four that have been making the mistakes. As I said in the Moody article weeks ago, what really is the risk when you’re loosey-goosey with the ball any way? It all comes down to the Big Four. Although Kuminga is athletic enough to change a series, he is still complementary, he is still support, he is a spark. Playing Kuminga does not alter the championship equation that much, it just gives the aging core a boost that they so sorely need.
Dean, actually, puts his own philosophical twist on it: TAKE the risk! Steve, you built “Strength In Numbers.” It brought us to this point. Now, use it.
Last caveat: Kawakami mentioned (in the live Zoom calls I watched, not necessarily in his article, I’m not sure) that playing Kuminga, or Moody for that matter, would be a signal to the other team that you’re desperate. So, okay, maybe don’t start Kuminga if that is indeed an issue. And I’m not as smart as Kerr and his hard-working staff to know if that is. I still think starting Kuminga is the right thing to do (in the live chat I think I swayed Dean to go all-in with me), but if it reveals weakness, then okay, just integrate him into Nemanja Bjelica’s minutes. I’m okay with that (btw Connor Letourneau of the SF Chronicle also agrees with this, per his article this morning).
But if JK does start, then the only guy he can replace is Looney because you absolutely cannot not start the other four. I really do think starting Kuminga is better because it assists Draymond in his quest to summon the energy and physicality to lead the team. As Dean said in the postgame talk, do you really think we won’t find JK cutting to the hoop for a dunk? Give Dray some help this time. Turbo boost the (aging) energy tonight. Start Kuminga.