Thompson: In the grand scheme of the Warriors, Donte DiVincenzo inhabits the perfect space

Thompson: In the grand scheme of the Warriors, Donte DiVincenzo inhabits the perfect space

SAN FRANCISCO — After lavishing praise Don DiVincenzo, Stephen Curry I had a request. Get DiVincenzo’s thoughts on what it feels like to “be a real vet.”

When DiVincenzo heard the question and later learned Curry had created it, he just shook his head.

“Steph is a …,” DiVincenzo said, sitting at his locker, with a smile, as if he could picture Curry bursting out of nowhere. “I’m not a vet.”

DiVincenzo is in his fifth season and about a month away from his 26th birthday. He does not agree with the idea that he is a veteran. Even on a roster where eight players are younger than him, he scoffs at that label.

“How old is Draymond (green)? Eleven?” explained DiVincenzo. “Steph is in what? fifteen? fourteen? Klay is 12 years old. These are the vets. That’s how I see it.”

Instead, DiVincenzo sees himself as a fulcrum on a roster split between two generations. The middle child Yes, that’s much better, he thinks. But firmly behind Kevon Looney i Andrew Wigginswho are one and two years older than him, respectively.

“Wiggs is at nine. Loon is at eight. This guy is—” DiVincenzo pauses, turns his chair so he can point Andre IguodalaThe name tag above the cabinet to his left reads, “I’m 35. I’m no vet.”

Unfortunately for his protest, DiVincenzo has established this presence in the warriors. Wednesday’s 112-107 win over the jazz at the Chase Center was Golden State’s third straight win. The trio of wins coincided with DiVincenzo’s return from an illness during the road trip. The Warriors have won four straight with him in the lineup.

On Wednesday, DiVincenzo played a game-high and career-high 38 minutes, 59 seconds. The Warriors needed every second from DiVincenzo because all three starters on the perimeter — Curry (left shoulder), Thompson (injury management) and Wiggins (non-COVID illness) — were out. He gave the Warriors a season-high 19 points, including the game-tying free throws with 19.3 seconds left. He played every second of the fourth quarter, spearheading a pick-and-roll defense that helped hold Utah to 13 points on 4-of-25 shooting in the fourth quarter.

This was only his 26th game with the Warriors, but he is already established as a stabilizer. He has the skills, basketball IQ and demeanor to do just about anything the Warriors need. On Wednesday, it was often about being the adult on the floor, as coach Steve Kerr calls it. The Warriors played a lot of two-way guard You Jeromeand in both directions forward Anthony Xaiand sophomore forwards Jonathan Kuminga i Moses Moody. Even rookie striker Patrick Baldwin Jr. they got some meaningful minutes, most of which came with DiVincenzo on the floor.

Jerome had 14 of his 17 points in the second half, playing mostly alongside DiVincenzo, who guarded the point guard on defense while Jerome ran the point guard on offense.

During the run when the Warriors took control, DiVincenzo and Looney were joined on the court by Jerome, Lamb and Kuminga. The line-up had not played together before. But it was workable because DiVincenzo does it that way. Jerome got a steal and drilled a transition 3-pointer to put the Warriors, who trailed by double digits for much of the game, ahead 104-101. After the defense forced Utah’s eighth straight fumble, DiVincenzo capped the 10-0 run with a 3-pointer on the next down. The warriors never followed again.

“It feels different to win this game depending on the circumstances,” Kerr said. “This was a game we wouldn’t have won a few weeks ago. I think our young people are growing up a lot. We have great performances every night from guys like JK and (Anthony) Lamb, Ty Jerome, and Donte has been great and not only knocking down shots, but defending and playing hard.”

In Tuesday’s win Charlotte, DiVincenzo didn’t even score. But his fingerprints on the game were nine rebounds, seven assists and one steal. It also stuck Terry Rozierwho had burned the Warriors before but needed 18 shots to get his 19 points.

This was both DiVincenzo’s type of game and one where his offense is clicking.

“He tells me the same thing every game,” DiVincenzo said of his father’s advice that shapes his basketball philosophy. “He said, ‘Hurry up and get some rebounds.’ That’s all he wants to see. Play hard and go get some rebounds. … That’s how I was raised. Do all the dirty work and go get some rebounds. Making and missing shots is one thing, but don’t have a donut in that rebounding column. And that’s my mentality. Track it, grab it and go.”

Against Memphis on Sunday, he eased into the rivalry, equalizing the intensity of the affair. It was a game for the usual smoke session between the Grizzlies and the Warriors, and all of his 19 points were timely, especially his five 3-pointers.

That three-game homestand was a microcosm of how valuable DiVincenzo has become to the Warriors, who are 16-8 when he plays and 2-8 when he doesn’t. In the dual-timeline era, when players who can adapt to the Warriors’ style are at a premium, DiVincenzo has been the perfect fit. After winning a national championship in Vilanova, then getting his own N.B.A fix with it Milwaukee Bucks, where he won an NBA championship, DiVincenzo has no problem vibrating with Golden State’s culture and system. Because, at its core, it’s all about winning. It’s the same language that DiVincenzo speaks.

“A prototypical seasoned college player turned pro who has been winning and knows how to win,” Curry said. “He is committed to always influencing the game, whether it’s rebounding, defending or scoring. Here he has a chance to lead and establish himself as a guy that every team should want on their roster just because he can plug a lot of holes and do a lot of different things. It has given us a lot of presence. He can play with almost any formation.”

Everyone’s take on DiVincenzo is essentially the same. He cares more about winning. Play the game the right way. He does all the little things. disinterested It all points to the same thing: DiVincenzo’s mindset.

His approach to the game, his understanding of basketball principles and fundamental schemes speaks to his advanced pedigree. His instincts, his experience of when and how to use his voice, the confidence he carries despite being in a new space, it’s like he’s been there for years. Like a vet.

“I’m not a vet,” DiVincenzo repeats.

Jerome, the fourth-year guard from Virginia who was the 24th pick in 2019, isn’t buying DiVincenzo’s reasoning.

“He’s crazy. He’s definitely a vet. He’s got five years in the league and a ring. That makes you a vet. He’s a vet.”

DiVincenzo’s rejection of labeling is not out of vanity, though the crisp ginger discoloration is absent of grays and a testament to his youth. It’s more about their desire to achieve more.

He was the Milwaukee junior who was drafted No. 17 in 2018. But in his third season, he tore a ligament in his left ankle in Game 3 of the Bucks’ 2021 first-round series against Miami. He missed the rest of the playoffs and did not return to action until seven months later. He also didn’t get a new contract from the Bucks, who had already traded Grayson Allen to basically replace DiVincenzo. He was almost traded in Boston but landed with the kings. Four months later, the Kings declined to give him a qualifying offer and he became an unrestricted free agent.

DiVincenzo signed with the Warriors to restore his reputation and land with a team that values ​​what he does. Veterans are established. Veterans are proven. Veterans have a track record. The veterans have earned their value in the league. DiVincenzo is still building.

It took him a minute to acclimate, to feel that blue and gold in him. When he got here, it reminded him of Milwaukee, with some of the ways the Warriors operated and the standard of the culture. He had developed a routine in Wisconsin that served him well; changing it took some tweaking. But after he missed three weeks earlier this season with a hamstring injury, the Warriors had a tough game at home against Cleveland. It was his first game back. He played less than 16 minutes. But the way they competed, the way it had to stick Darius Garlandsync with Draymond Green, and running some time while Cleveland struggled to keep up with Curry, made DiVincenzo feel like he was truly a part of the team. It was November 11.

That’s why the jokes you get as a vet in this squad are a mountain of validation. A heavy compliment disguised as a joke. Curry and the team’s championship stars have declared DiVincenzo worthy of their quest for a fifth championship. They like it when he’s on the court. Not all newcomers get their approval.

Young players look up to DiVincenzo. They respect their advice and wisdom.

“Donte is an incredible part of our team,” Jordan Poole said “Just being able to play on the court with him, share minutes with him and trust that he’s going to make the right play, that he’s going to be aggressive, that he’s going to make big shots and that he’s going to make big plays. and make big saves — it’s huge. He’s a big part of reason we’ve won these last two games, and it’s going to be huge for us all season.”

One of DiVincenzo’s roles, and why he claims he’s not a veterinarian, is to serve as a mediator between the generations. He understands the old heads of the roster and is close enough in age to the young guns to translate. You can’t be a vet and a middleman.

DiVincenzo is an outside voice who can second the sentiments of stars and coaches as they prepare youngsters, specifically James Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody. DiVincenzo can echo how beneficial it is to be prepared in a winning environment. He can extol the virtues of patience as a young player while stressing the values ​​of mentorship.

“The grass isn’t always greener,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just because something isn’t going your way right now, during a stretch of games or whatever, you can’t just say, ‘I’m going somewhere else.’ Keep the course Keep moving especially when you have great vets around you I had great vets. George Hill. Eric Bledsoe. I fought for five, six games and they told me: ‘Relax. Everything will be fine. And that’s the same thing I’m trying to tell these guys.”

If you talk like a vet. And play like a vet…


Jonathan Kuminga is emerging as a defensive force for the Warriors

(Photo: Noah Graham / NBAE via Getty Images)

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