College Basketball

How Warriors rookie Eric Paschall shook doubters, made his mark in NBA

How Warriors rookie Eric Paschall shook doubters, made his mark in NBA

Editor’s note: NBC Sports Bay Area’s first “Dub of the Day” this season is Eric Paschall. Stay with our digital and TV coverage all day long to learn everything about the Warriors rookie who has electrified the fan base.

As Eric Paschall steps into a third-floor room at a downtown Houston hotel, the Warriors rookie still is reconciling the week he's had.

Thumbing through two iPhones, he's figuring out a way to respond to the hundreds of inquiries at his fingertips.

"A lot of people hitting me up," Paschall softly admits. "Just randomly."

Those texters have good reason. In the three games prior, Paschall had averaged nearly 30 points and eight rebounds per game, including a career-high 34-point, 13-rebound performance in a home win over the Trail Blazers on his 23rd birthday.

The output garnered praise leaguewide, as the 41st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft -- expected to contribute more on defense than on the scoresheet -- single-handedly carried a Golden State squad without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to an upset of a predicted Western Conference power.

The ripple effects of that game immediately came. Instagram posts from Green and Curry soon followed, giving hundreds an excuse to dial Paschall’s number.

"Looking at your phone and seeing the [follower count] say 99.9 [thousand] and then you refresh, it says 100 [thousand], and then refresh, it says 101 [thousand]," Paschall marveled, "it's, wow."

A brotherhood built on basketball

For much of his life, through circumstance, Paschall has assumed an underdog role, using the chip on his shoulder to reach his basketball dream in an unconventional way.

Paschall’s journey started 1,600 miles east of that Houston hotel room, in Westchester County, New York, north of Manhattan. His father, Juan, worked in security, and gained the reputation as the one you didn't mess with, and his mother, Cecilla, was a Westchester County social worker. The future Warrior honed his game on the basketball court centered in his apartment complex, where he'd play Juan one-on-one.

Once when he was 11, he had a score to settle.

"Dad, let's go play one-on-one," the kid demanded.

Juan obliged, having never taken a loss to his boy.

Using seniority, Juan took the ball first. Then, Eric stripped him and scored, then scored again and two more times after that, handily winning the game to five -- much to Juan's chagrin.

“He was like, ‘All right, I'm done,’ “ Paschall remembers. “And then he went into the house and he was like, ‘I'm never playing that boy one-on-one ever again.’ ”

Paschall's game soon graduated to the Riverside church league in Harlem, alongside his neighbor, now-Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. The trip became a part of a double life for the two.

In Westchester County, the median income of $77,006 was the fifth highest in New York in 2011. The county also was predominantly white, with that group accounting for 57.4 percent of the population. The population of Harlem -- a rugged New York City borough -- was 63 percent black, leading Paschall to adjust.

"I've definitely learned how to code-switch," Paschall admits. "In Westchester, I couldn't talk the same way or use the same lingo that we used down when I was playing with Riverside."

His journey to the adjustment Harlem also came from the reputation of his hometown. While kids from “The City” received instant respect, Paschall and Mitchell found themselves as outsiders in a basketball hotbed.

“People will always rule us as soft,” Paschall said. “Everybody says the city is like gritty and everybody’s like so hard-nosed, but just because you’re from Westchester doesn't mean you can't do that.”

“No one really expected it to be us to make it,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We had talent. We were good.”

That chip manifested itself on the court. Paschall averaged 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior at Dobbs Ferry High School, and Mitchell became an All-American at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.

"It was the thing in New York, when you're in the city, even though we played in the city," Mitchell remembers. "For us, it was like trying to prove our point for years, upon years, upon years, and we finally were able to do that."

"That's one thing that we took on," Paschall said. "We're going to prove everybody wrong. Just because you guys are from the city doesn't mean we're not good basketball players."

All the while, the two built a bond. When Paschall wanted snacks, he'd head to the Mitchells, where Donovan had developed a habit of wolfing down a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Gatorade before each AAU game. By his senior year, Paschall -- then at St. Thomas More High in Oakdale, Conn. -- and Mitchell were division rivals playing for the national title.

"He was the other kid in the neighborhood that played basketball," Mitchell said. "Then from there, being on the same AAU team allowed us to become really tight knit, being the two kids from Westchester, having to travel all the way down until the city. We carpooled a lot and shared car rides.

"He's like my brother," Mitchell added. "His dad, Juan, his mom, Cecelia, is like my mom, my aunts and uncles, they're really close. Where we've been that way for a very long time."

Long, winding road to pros

While Mitchell received top-tier offers and chose to attend Louisville, Paschall's options mostly were limited to mid-major schools. He considered Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Providence before enrolling at nearby Fordham.

Paschall averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his freshman season with the Rams, including a 31-point, 10-rebound performance in his debut. By the end of the year, he’d been named the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year. But the wins didn't follow, as Fordham finished last in the league.

Six days after the season, Paschall received a text from his mother, asking, "Did you see what happened?" An email confirmed the news: His coach, Tom Pecora, had been fired. The school's decision immediately put Paschall in basketball purgatory.

"It was just so much that went on during that time," he said. "I remember calling my dad and I was like, ‘What do you want to do? What are we going to do?’ ”

After a brief discussion, the decision became clear.

"I kind of want to transfer," he told his father. "Just because they're not here. I came here to play for these coaches."

By the end of the summer, Paschall had enrolled in Villanova, which had recruited him in high school, to play for coach Jay Wright. Pecora was an assistant under Wright at Hofstra and had put in a good word for Paschall.

"When Tom said [Eric] was thinking about leaving and Tom called us, we knew we had a potential pro there," Wright told NBC Sports Bay Area. "We just knew he had to work on some things, get his body in better shape."

Two years later, Paschall flourished with the Wildcats as a junior, averaging 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as they won the national championship. He averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior, finishing a career in which he set the example, according to Wright.

"Any time we needed him to step up and take over a game, he did,” the coach said. “The [2018] semifinal game against Kansas was a great example [Paschall had 24 points, three rebounds and three assists]. He'd been doing a lot of dirty work. We'd always put them on the best. We could put them on the best perimeter player.

“He was the face of the program,” Wright added. “A leader, a go-to guy, a guy that really put the program on his shoulders his senior year.”

As Paschall finished his college career, Mitchell was on his way to becoming one of the faces of the NBA's future. Through two seasons with the Jazz, he had averaged 22.2 points and nearly four assists, finishing second in 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year voting and helping Utah reach the playoffs.

In contrast, Paschall didn't receive much pre-draft acclaim, despite his college success. Most publications projected him as a late first-round/early second-round pick, citing his lack of size (6-foot-7) and his shooting as detriments, but one criticism irked him the most.

“My age,” Paschall said. “It was just like, ‘He's old.’ But I feel like that’s kind of an advantage in some type of way. Like just being mature, knowing how to take care of your body. I could just go play right now. So, that's one thing that I was like, why does my age really matter if I feel like I'm that good?”

On draft night, teams backed away from Paschall. Mitchell was right by his friend’s side at his draft party, as they watched 40 picks pass without Pascall’s name being called.

The Warriors ended the wait with pick No. 41, and Mitchell had a message for the soon-to-be-rookie.

"You worked your ass off to get here," Mitchell told Paschall in a video captured shortly after the Warriors made the pick. "Don't let that 41 get in your head. … You're one of 450 dudes in this world."

The video went viral after what Mitchell now calls "an emotional night."

"I think for the both of us, [with] Eric not knowing where he was going," Mitchell said. "Obviously, we had two different draft experiences [Mitchell was drafted 13th overall in 2017], but us really not knowing. ... That's scary. It was easy for me to give him insight and be like, "Look, you're going to be all right.' "

Proving ground


Warriors rookie Eric Paschall (right) had to guard LeBron James in his first NBA game, and it was quite the learning experience (Photo by The Associated Press)

Shortly after Paschall signed a three-year, $4.2 million contract, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was quick to throw his rookie forward into the fire. Paschall was tasked with guarding All-NBA big man Anthony Davis in his first preseason game.

In the second quarter, Lakers superstar LeBron James took a pass at half court, dribbled three times and barreled into Paschall's chest for an easy layup, emphasizing the rookie's steep learning curve.

"It was kind of like, wow," Paschall said. "This is my first assignment. But you're supposed to feel like you're supposed to belong in the NBA, so go prove it."

He’s staying true to those words in the first month of his NBA career. Last week, Paschall averaged 29.5 points and eight rebounds over a three-game span, inciting some MVP chants during free-throw attempts late in the win over Portland. While MVP might be a stretch, Rookie of the Year could be an option.

One day later in Houston, Paschall sheepishly dismissed the notion of MVP honors.

“Oh my God," he relented. "Super early. There's still like over 70 games left. So, I still got to take it game by game and keep trying to play the right way.”

Paschall’s performances have come with Golden State's season in peril. Four months after their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, the Warriors are 2-8, tied with the Knicks for the league’s worst record through 10 games.

Five nights before Paschall's offensive outburst, Curry broke his hand, which will keep him out until at least February. One night later, Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. In Sunday's loss to the Thunder, Paschall himself sat out with a hip pointer. All those injuries have made Golden State more likely a lottery team than a contender -- a notion to which the rookie takes offense.

"We're here for a reason," Paschall proclaimed. "It's not like we're on a team where we won a contract. Put a little respect on our name just a little bit. We're still NBA players. We still get paid to do this. This is our job, too."

Injuries aside, Paschall still has the rookie's highest seasonal honor within his grasp. At the start of the week, he ranks second among first-year NBA players in efficiency, second in points per game and eighth in rebounds. That's only going to keep his phones buzzing.

“I just continue to get better, honestly, and just learn more and keep playing," Paschall said. "The more minutes I get, the better, and I feel like I could help the team a lot. Just bring your energy in here, doing whatever the team needs.”

That continues Monday, when Paschall’s Warriors will meet Mitchell’s Jazz at Chase Center. Mitchell believes it’s the first time he and Paschall will have played against each other -- and with it will come some friendly banter between the longtime pals.

“I’m going to talk a lot of trash, that’s for sure,” Mitchell said. “But I’m going to be excited.”

If this past month is any indication, Paschall will rise to the challenge, and then some.

Click to watch NBCS Bay Area's entire Paschall interview

Special thanks to James Ham and Dave Bernstein for their contributions to this story.

Skip Bayless trolls LeBron James after Virginia wins NCAA title

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Skip Bayless trolls LeBron James after Virginia wins NCAA title

Skip Bayless just can't let it go.

Even after LeBron James and the Lakers had a massively disappointing season, forcing the superstar forward to miss the playoffs for the first time since his second season in the league, the FOX Sports analyst stills finds ways to drag the three-time NBA champion.

And he found a clever way to do so Tuesday morning during the open of "Undisputed."

After the Virginia Cavaliers outlasted Texas Tech in overtime to win the national championship Monday night, Bayless felt it was the proper time to take a shot at James. You know, now that the "Cavaliers" had won a title without him.

Nice one, Skip.

Bayless, of course, is referring to the Cavs' 2016 championship where they defeated the Warriors in seven games. Draymond Green infamously was suspended for Game 5, which turned the series in the Cavaliers' favor.

[RELATED: Kevin Durant won't mum on details of hushed conversation with LeBron]

Bayless will continue to torment James all summer, especially if the Lakers strike out in free agency as many expect them to.

Of course, it's doubtful LeBron even watches Bayless and Sharpe debate his greatness almost every day. Although, he might tune in after an especially transcendent performance just to see Sharpe wear that ridiculous goat mask

Vlade Divac's incredible journey leads him to Basketball Hall of Fame

Vlade Divac's incredible journey leads him to Basketball Hall of Fame

SACRAMENTO -- Vlade Divac sauntered into the media room at Golden 1 Center on Sunday night through the main double doors. No need to take the back hallway to avoid the crowds. After so many years as both a player and now executive in Sacramento, Divac is a man of the people.

Known for his sheepish grin and quick wit, Divac took the mic to field questions about his induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, not the current state of his Kings' roster.

Sacramento would go on to lose its home finale a few hours later, but that’s nothing more than a side note in an otherwise successful season.

Divac’ basketball journey is unique. Like many, it started at a young age, but his path to the league required incredible sacrifice and a leap of faith by not only him, but his family as a well.

The 7-footer spoke about sitting at a table with his parents and his brother as a teenager, telling them he was leaving home to tryout for a professional basketball team. With his parents blessing, he began an incredible voyage that took him all around the world.

“When those things happen, you go back in your career and where you came from, and I remember the detail when I made a big decision for myself and for my family basically,” Divac said. “I was just 14 years, and I had to leave my parents to pursue basketball.”

[RELATED: Why Vlade's Hall of Fame enshrinement is long overdue]

The Serbia-born big mentioned his European coaches, who had to take over parental roles while developing the young center. He also spoke on the journey of being the first European player to be drafted in the first round and go directly to the NBA.

“I really commit to go there and try to make it and I kind of opened the door for everybody else,” Divac said.

Divac made the Yugoslavian national team as a young man and played alongside some of the greatest names to ever come out of Europe. That team -- which included Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Raja and Zarko Paspalj -- would go on to take home the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.

All five of those players would go onto play in the NBA. Both Petrovic and Raja already have made the Hall of Fame. Kukoc, who won three NBA championships with the Bulls, it likely headed for enshrinement as well.

“My early years with my youth, we won World Championship games,” DIvac said. “From that team, basically you’re going to end up with three or four Hall of Famers.”

The group would go on to win EuroBasket gold medals in 1989 and 1991 and a FIBA world championship in 1990. Eventually, the team was torn apart by the Balkan wars, but as a squad, they helped transform the game of basketball and trigger the massive influx of European players into the NBA.  

“He is one of our first icebreakers that come over from Europe,” Serbian-born wing Bogdan Bogdanovic told NBC Sports California. “He led the way for a lot of European athletes to come overseas and play in the NBA. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play.”

According to Bogdanovic, he would wake up in the middle of the night to watch Divac and the Kings play. Being part of the Kings’ franchise and working under Divac has been a dream come true.

“I have so many questions for him, because I watched him play, I heard a lot of stories about him,” Bogdanovic added. “I’m so happy that I have a chance to have him here next to me.”

For Divac, his desire to play in the NBA started early. Every step of the way he found success, both internationally and in the NBA.

“My dream when I made the national team was to be part of the NBA,” Divac said. “When I made the NBA, I wanted to do more. I’m 50 now, I’m tired, I don’t want to do anything. I think I reached all of my goals in terms of a player.”

In his rookie season, Divac was named to the first team All-Rookie squad. He made an All-Star team as a member of the Kings and he is one of just seven players in NBA history to record more than 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocks.

While his playing days are over, Divac’s venture into management is just beginning. He’s helped revitalize the franchise that embraced him, putting together the team that has posted the highest win total since the 2005-06 season.

[RELATED: What loss in home finale says about this Kings team]

“This phase, that started four or five years ago with the Kings is a new chapter in my life and hopefully I can achieve, at least close to that,” Divac added.

While Divac got the call, another former Kings player was snubbed again. Five-time All-Star, Chris Webber was a finalist, but was left out when the final decision was made on the Class of 2019.

“I’m always surprised when he’s not there,” Divac said of Webber. “I wouldn’t be surprised when that happens and it will happen.”

Divac said Webber was one of the first to reach out and congratulate him on the honor. Divac said he hoped that Webber would have been in the same Hall of Fame Class.

With his playing days long gone, Divac still has the rare ability to own a room. He was known as the glue that kept a talented Kings squad together during the early 2000s, and he is doing the same in his shift to management in Sacramento.

“It’s just a testament to a guy who has handled himself as a player and of course, going forward from there as an executive, in a very classy way,” coach Dave Joerger said Sunday. “He’s a guy that everyone wants to be around.”

Later this year, Divac will travel to Springfield, Mass., for the enshrinement ceremony, which is set for Sept. 5-7. He joins a large class, including coach Bill Fitch, NBA stars Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief, Paul Westphal and Jack Sikma, WNBA star Teresa Weatherspoon, Al Attles from the Contributor Committee, Charles “Chuck” Cooper from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Carl Braun from the Veterans Committee and the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens of 1948-1982 from the newly instated Women’s Veterans Committee, and the Tennessee A&I Teams of 1957-1959, who were the first team to win back-to-back collegiate championships.