Eric Paschall showing he's very different kind of Warriors rookie

Eric Paschall showing he's very different kind of Warriors rookie

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s rare when an NBA coach, with his team 34 games below .500, breaks into a broad grin instead of a resigned sigh when discussing the maturation process of a rookie.

That was Steve Kerr’s response the other day when I asked about Eric Paschall.

What the Warriors coach said following the grin, however, raised eyebrows.

“Honestly, it’s like coaching Steph and Klay -- and that’s probably my highest compliment,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. “There’s zero maintenance with Eric. Zero maintenance. He’s obviously been parented and coached well throughout his life. We’re lucky to have him.”

For any rookie to be compared in any way to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson -- two three-time champions with a combined 11 All-Star game appearances -- is blasphemy. But, go ahead and ask around. In his ninth month as a Warrior, Paschall is drawing raves across the board.

Curry says Paschall carries “himself like he’s meant to be” in the NBA.

Draymond Green says Paschall, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound combo forward, has the potential to play all five positions.

At 23, with five years of college behind him, Paschall has the discernment of a 35-year-old.

“It’s so great just to know that a guy is that mature,” Kerr said. “You can look him in the eye and be very honest with him and he looks you back and nods his head and says, ‘Yes,’ and then he actually works at it and you see the results. And it’s all just a really natural progression. No wasted emotion. No angst. It’s just very matter-of-fact.

“You have no idea how much this helps me, and our staff, to do our jobs.”

Kerr smiles yet again because he is enjoying this feeling. This is his sixth season as Warriors coach, the first five passed without a rookie eliciting widespread praise; Patrick McCaw in 2016-17 came closest. Paschall is the first Kerr has seen walk through the door with so many boxes checked. For a franchise that has failed rather spectacularly with its recent draft choices, he has been as refreshing as he is necessary.

After back-to-back drafts produced players -- Jordan Bell in 2017 and Jacob Evans III in 2018 -- already pushed to the fringes of the NBA, the Warriors were desperate for at least one of their three 2019 selections to make an impact. It was imperative the Warriors find someone they could visualize being a franchise pillar for the next 10 years.

Paschall is trending hard in that direction. A reserve getting starting-caliber minutes (27.5 per game), he’s averaging 14.0 points, shooting 50.0 percent from the field, and pulling down 4.6 rebounds per game. He’s the most impressive Warriors rookie since Harrison Barnes cracked the starting lineup seven years ago.

So impressed are the Warriors with Paschall’s leadership abilities and quick conversion of advice to application, his list of responsibilities is growing by the week. That’s what happens to a youngster who handles everything thrown his way.

For his rapid transition to the NBA, Paschall credits his parents, Juan and Cecilia, Warriors coaches, with particular kudos to player-development coach Theo Robertson, as well as previous coaches. There was Tom Pecora at Fordham, where he spent his freshman year, and then Jay Wright at Villanova, where Paschall transferred and spent four years.

“My dad always told me to be coachable,” Paschall told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He said that I should always listen to my coaches, and then apply it in the games. That’s where it comes from. My parents. I know that goes a long way.”

The coaching staff is comfortable coming to Paschall from a direct, no-coddling point of view. Consider: With Robertson serving as point man, several Warriors coaches met with Paschall a couple weeks ago. They told him they loved his effort and dedication, his ability to impose his will. They also made it clear they didn’t love how at times, particularly on offense, he would neglect his teammates.

They then unveiled video proof. There’s the rookie being a rookie, with tunnel vision, forcing up contested shots, sometimes with 10 or 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock. There’s the rookie, holding the ball for six, seven or eight seconds, contemplating his next move, as teammates stand and watch.

“In typical Eric fashion, he nodded his head,” Kerr said. “And since that time the progression has come so naturally and so quickly. The assists he’s racking up. The good possessions for us where he doesn’t get an assist, but we score because he moves the ball on and generated penetration.”

The difference is striking. In November, when his 18.1-points-per-game scoring (on 47.8-percent shooting) was attracting national attention, Paschall averaged 1.5 assists per game. Over his last five games, covering 10 days, he is averaging 19.6 points (59.2-percent shooting) and, no joke, 6.3 assists.

Is it unfair to expect Paschall to average 19 and six over the final 18 games? Absolutely. Just as it would have been unfair to believe he could quadruple his assists totals after a single counseling session.

Unfair, however, is a long way from impossible.

“Yeah,” Paschall said when asked if he can actually feel his leap in proficiency. “I feel like the game is slowing down for me. I feel like I can be a great decision-maker and playmaker. I’m trying to do all things on the court.”

Veteran assistant Ron Adams, who can be blunt in his assessments, is a believer. Paschall’s teammates, to a man, are confident that what he is doing is no mirage.

[RELATED: GR3, Burks praise growth, development of young Warriors]

There’s no doubt that Paschall, like others, is benefitting from the Warriors moving away from the slow-walk offense directed by D’Angelo Russell. But it’s still a rookie getting better at a time when the season is moving into the postseason-sprint phase.

“All those little nuances, he’s figured out now,” Kerr said. “And he didn’t have those early in the season, even though he was getting some big numbers. Now he’s a basketball player.”

NBA rumors: Warriors privately 'cool' on playing when season returns

NBA rumors: Warriors privately 'cool' on playing when season returns

To play or not to play?

That is the question facing the Warriors as the NBA nears a decision on how many teams will participate when the league resumes the 2019-20 season.

While coach Steve Kerr said the team is operating as if the season is over, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that owner Joe Lacob told his fellow owners that the team was "willing" to play if all 30 NBA teams were asked to play.

But ... Wojnarowski also reported, citing sources, that the Warriors have been "far more cool to the idea in private."

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Based on Wojnawowski's reporting from Friday, the NBA Board of Governors are expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver's proposal for a 22-team restart plan later this week, meaning the Warriors -- who hold the worst record in the league -- would not be asked to play any more games this season.

The Warriors don't have anything left to play for this season. They are the only team that has been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Does it make sense for the players to go through several weeks of training camp to play a handful of meaningless games?

"It's a hard thing to put your mind in that space, 'I'm gonna go out here and compete and bust my a-- and know in five games we're just gonna be back in the offseason again,' " Warriors star Steph Curry told former teammate Anthony Morrow recently on "The Life Podcast."

[RELATED: Warriors facility opens, players show up]

Would it be advantageous for the Warriors to get a brief look at Curry playing alongside Andrew Wiggins? Sure, but they don't need to risk injury to either player when the goal is making sure the team is ready to bounce back for the 2020-21 season.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Steph Curry reacts to Damian Lillard's comments on 'meaningless games'

Steph Curry reacts to Damian Lillard's comments on 'meaningless games'

Damian Lillard created headlines last week with his comments about the NBA's potential plans for resuming the 2019-20 season.

"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team," the Portland Trail Blazers star guard told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now.

"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs -- I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games."

What is Steph Curry's reaction to that?

"I feel what he's saying because it's hard mentally to go with this long of gap, and then prepare for games you know don't matter," the Warriors' superstar said on the "The Life Podcast" with Anthony Morrow and Justin Jack. "I get it.

"It's a hard thing to put your mind in that space, 'I'm gonna go out here and compete and bust my a-- and know in five games we're just gonna be back in the offseason again.'"

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Golden State did re-open Chase Center facilities Monday so players could work out again, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Logan Murdock. 

But all indications are that the Warriors won't be playing any additional games this season, and will not be included among the teams that eventually will take the court in Orlando.

[RELATED: Oakland's own Lillard rips Orlovsky for calling him spoiled]

"Between now and Thursday's vote of the board of governors on the plan to restart the season, the NBA is working to complete the details of a 22-team format," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe wrote Monday.

So for Lillard and the Blazers -- who currently sit in a three-way tie for ninth place in the Western Conference -- it appears they will get the opportunity to claw their way into the playoffs.

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