Alen Smailagic's layoff was longer than most of his Santa Cruz Warriors teammates'.
Smailagic was pulled from his last G League game last Feb. 26 with a quadriceps contusion, not suiting up for Santa Cruz nor the NBA's Warriors before both seasons were paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. He didn't play in any of Golden State's three preseason games ahead of this season, either, later undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.
Still, Warriors president of basketball operations and general manager Bob Myers is pleased with Smailagic's progress now that he's back on the court.
"It's been nice to see, and hearing from the coaches, [that] he's got a lot more confidence in that environment," Myers said of the 2019 second-round pick Monday at halftime of Santa Cruz's 129-90 win over the Agua Caliente Clippers during an interview with play-by-play broadcaster Kevin Danna.
"We need him to transfer that confidence to the NBA level, but he's spent much more time ... in the G League. For us, getting that confidence, bringing it back with him to our NBA team [is important.]"
Smailagic is averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game so far, playing a shade over 16 minutes per contest due to his post-surgery minutes restriction. The latter mark is right in line with what he averaged in nearly 26 minutes per game with Santa Cruz last season, while the former is almost five points fewer.
The 20-year-old also is averaging an additional turnover per game (3.0) over last year (1.9) despite playing fewer minutes so far, but Myers believes that's a positive reflection of Smailagic's mindset on offense.
"In the time he's been in there, he's made winning plays," Myers continued. "He's shown aggressiveness. Clearly, he loves to score, and the mistakes he makes are mostly aggressive mistakes."
When the Warriors' frontcourt is healthy, NBA minutes could be hard to come by for Smailagic. James Wiseman and Kevon Looney are ahead of him on the depth chart, while Golden State has succeeded using Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson as small-ball centers while Wiseman and Looney recuperated from injuries.
Still, Smailagic is signed for two more seasons beyond this one, and the Warriors view him as an important part of their future. From the sound of Myers' interview Monday, they're encouraged with Smailagic's play as he works back into game shape following a prolonged absence.