NBA Free Agency

How Jonas Jerebko earned the nickname 'the Swedish Larry Bird'

How Jonas Jerebko earned the nickname 'the Swedish Larry Bird'

The newest member of the Golden State Warriors is known for his shooting stroke.

Jonas Jerebko is a career 36.3 percent 3-point shooter, and the 31-year-old shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc with the Utah Jazz last season. That ability earned him a very flattering nickname from his former bosses: Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge and owner Steve Pagliuca. 

Ainge acquired the Swedish sharpshooter from the Detroit Pistons in February 2015. When he was asked if Boston would re-sign the Swedish sharpshooter at his end-of-season press conference that year, Ainge compared him to a longtime teammate.

"The Swedish Larry Bird, you mean?" Ainge jokingly replied, according to ESPN's Chris Forsberg. 

Ainge and Bird played together for parts of eight seasons, winning NBA championships together in 1984 and 1986. Bird, of course, is a Basketball Hall of Famer who led the NBA in made 3-pointers in the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons, and finished in the top 10 in four other seasons. Bird finished his career as a 37.6 percent shooter from deep. 

Jerebko played with the Celtics for parts of three seasons, and he took the tongue-in-cheek comparisons to a Boston legend in stride. 

“I laugh about it,” Jerebko told the Providence Journal in February 2016, “like everybody else. I don’t dislike, I don’t like it. People can say whatever they want. It’s not like I’m going to go home and tell them I’m the Swedish Larry Bird. If people think it’s funny and they like to say it, go ahead, but it’s not like I’m going to call myself that or use that nickname in any manner.”

On a team that features Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Jerebko probably won't draw comparisons to any Warriors legends. Plus, DeMarcus Cousins already has the title of third Splash Brother locked up. 

Jonas Jerebko gives Warriors the 'stretch-4' they've really needed

Jonas Jerebko gives Warriors the 'stretch-4' they've really needed

OAKLAND -- Though Jonas Jerebko might not be the answer to everything the Warriors need, he has the credentials to provide something they’ve never had.

As a legitimate “stretch-4” coming off the bench, the 31-year-old Swede gives the Warriors an option they’ve never really known.

“I’ve been knocking down the 3 consistently for a few years now,” Jerebko said Monday in his introductory media session. “And I’m going to keep working this summer on getting the percentage even higher. I’m feeling really, really confident in my shot. Hopefully, I’ll get some open ones and knock them down.”

Jerebko shot 41.4 percent beyond the arc last season in Utah, his most accurate mark from deep since 2013-14, when he shot 41.9 percent for the Pistons. His career percentage is a respectable 36.3.

That’s enough to give Jerebko a role on a Warriors team that had abysmal 3-point production off the bench (No. 30 last season, 29th the previous season) and generally struggles with bench scoring (No. 22 in the NBA last season, 21st the previous season).

The Warriors addressed that issue last season by bringing in wing Nick Young and combo forward Omri Casspi. The problem persisted. The closest thing to a stretch-4 they’ve had in recent years was Matt Barnes, who at 6-foot-7 played the position in small lineups over the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season.

At 6-10, Jerebko is as tall as Marreese Speights, who over his final two Warriors seasons made a name for himself -- “Mo Buckets” -- as a reserve stretch-5. It’s conceivable, against certain opponents, that Jerebko could fill that role.

He’s willing, he says, to do whatever is needed.

“My main goal, my lifelong dream, is to get a ring and to win an NBA championship,” said Jerebko, who signed for $2.18 million veteran’s minimum. “Money is secondary to all of that. I don’t really care. I’ve played in this league for 10 years. A kid from Sweden, I could never dream of that.”

Aside from occasional minutes from 6-11 Kevin Durant, the Warriors in four seasons under Steve Kerr have lacked a stretch-4 whom opponents fear. Jerebko addressed the need for bombs off the bench.

“He obviously brought it up,” Jerebko said of Kerr. “I told him I’m not going to pass up open shots. I’m going to shoot the ball with confidence. I’m going to go out there and hustle and grab rebounds and whatever he wants me to do.”

The Warriors want him to, above all, make shots, preferably from beyond the arc.

Steph Curry calls out Warriors haters, sends loud message to the rest of the NBA

Steph Curry calls out Warriors haters, sends loud message to the rest of the NBA

A mere five hours after wife Ayesha gave birth to their third child, Steph Curry found out the Warriors had a shot at adding another superstar to his basketball family. 

Warriors GM Bob Myers called Steph's father Dell to congratulate the Curry family before telling him about the reality of the Warriors possibly signing DeMarcus Cousins. And of course, Myers wanted to make sure his face of the franchise would invite the move. 

"He was like, ‘Hey if we can sign him would you like to play with him?’ And I said, ‘Obviously, hell yeah. That would be amazing,'" Curry told Sam Amick of USA Today

The rest of the NBA, however, wasn't so excited about the Warriors adding a fifth All-Star to their team. Once again, fans raged on how the Warriors ruined the NBA. 

"So everybody says how we’re ruining the NBA – I love that phrasing; it’s the dumbest phrase ever," Curry said. "We are always trying to find a way to get better. If we were just happy with winning a championship and staying stagnant, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice. Obviously with KD (Kevin Durant signing in 2016), with DeMarcus this summer, with the bench guys that we’ve been able to sign, everybody is trying to get better and we just happen to be the ones who set the pace and set the narrative around how you need to structure your team to beat us.

"That’s great. I love that vibe, because it keeps us on edge seeing the ripple effect around the NBA and where guys are going and that type of stuff."

In the Warriors' recent run of dominance -- winning three out of the last four championships -- they have never had a player like Cousins. The Warriors' one weak spot was always considered their center. That's no longer the case. 

"We have an opportunity to play a different style than we ever have, which is a low post scorer, a playmaker like DeMarcus, and the versatility we could have in the lineup with him (will be great)," Curry said. "I know he has talked about the potential being scary, and coach (Steve) Kerr has talked about the challenge and the bright spots of being able to infuse DeMarcus’ talent and skill-set into what we do. All that stuff is just exciting." 

Cousins was just one move in a wave of free agents changing homes. The biggest was no doubt LeBron James heading West and joining the Lakers. As far as the new-look West goes with LeBron in Hollywood, Curry is ready for the challenge, sending a loud message to the rest of the league. 

"There’s a lot that’s been made about the competition in the West and his [LeBron] eight straight Finals appearances and all that, but that just makes everybody raise the antenna up a little bit – including us," Curry said. "It’s going to be fun for fans, playing (more) in the regular season and who knows in the playoffs. So the West obviously got stronger with LeBron but you’ve still got to beat us."