Smiley's first start didn't play out the way Warriors hoped


With the Warriors' frontcourt ravaged by injuries, coach Steve Kerr threw Alen Smailagic into the fire.

The 2019 second-round draft pick made his first career NBA start Saturday in the Warriors' 111-103 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.

Smailagic was starting as a necessity, with rookie James Wiseman, Eric Paschall and Kevon Looney unavailable due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. Marquese Chriss has missed most of the season with ankle and leg injuries.

That left Smailagic and Draymond Green to log most of the minutes at center.

Smailagic didn't hold up his end of the bargain.

After opening the scoring with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, Smailagic's night snowballed.

Smailagic quickly picked up three fouls and was subbed out with 7:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Kerr didn't use Smailagic in the second quarter, but went back to the 20-year-old Serbian to start the third quarter. Somehow, things got worse.

Smailagic picked up two more quick fouls and was pulled less than four minutes into the period.

In all, Smailagic finished with three points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range. He didn't grab a rebound and picked up five fouls in eight minutes of action.

After the game, Kerr gave a subdued answer what asked to evaluate Smailagic's opening 3-pointer.


"It was great to see," Kerr told reporters on a video conference call. "Smiley's worked hard and he finally got an opportunity to play. He battled out there. It's a tough matchup with [Grizzlies center Jonas] Valanciunas and it's great to see Smiley knock down that first shot. Bench loved it. Good to see him out there."

While the Warriors have stuck by Smailagic since drafting him, there's a large portion of the fan base that wants them to pull the plug on this experiment and fill the roster spot with someone who can help the club.

Kerr told reporters before the game that Smailagic had worked hard and deserved an opportunity. But it's clear by his performance Saturday that the Warriors need to reassess this project.

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The Warriors weren't asking Smailagic to score 10-15 points against the Grizzlies, but they at least wanted him to give them 15-20 minutes and make life tough for Valanciunas. He accomplished neither of those things.

The Warriors have a couple days off before their next game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at Chase Center. They won't get Wiseman back, but Golden State has to hope the league clears Looney to return. Kerr said after the game that he wasn't sure if Smailagic would start Tuesday, but after what we saw Saturday, it's probably not wise to give him another start right now.

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