How Warriors' Eric Paschall learned a rookie lesson from James Harden

How Warriors' Eric Paschall learned a rookie lesson from James Harden

HOUSTON -- Standing inside of San Francisco's Moscone Center, Warriors rookie Eric Paschall set a modest goal for himself entering his first season. 

"Just to be able to play, for me personally," he said. "But that's all it really is. Just being able to play and contribute."

That was two months ago, prior to a seminar to encourage kids to practice dental hygiene, before injuries to Golden State's core severely derailed its postseason chances. Now, with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and D'Angelo Russell out, Paschall has momentarily assumed the role of the team's emotional leader. 

His latest test came in the second quarter of Wednesday's 129-112 loss to Houston, when, after an and-1 on Rockets guard James Harden, the rookie forward walked to Golden State's bench and yelled, "He's food!" revealing his hype demeanor. 

"I've always been that type of way," Paschall admitted to NBC Sports Bay Area Wednesday evening. "Just talking. Not any type of way. Just talking trash or get myself going, get my teammates going." 

The sequenced capped an impressive week for the 23-year old. Entering Wednesday night, the rookie was averaging 29.5 points and eight rebounds over his last two games, temporarily offsetting injuries to Golden State's star-laden roster. 

"I would say he's one of the most mature rookies I've seen, to be honest," Former Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia said of Paschall on Warriors Postgame Live Wednesday evening.

Then, Harden and the Rockets responded with a 23-8 run to close the half, outscoring the Warriors 33-23 in the second quarter. By halftime, Harden had scored 20 of his game-high 36 points. Along the way, Paschall struggled for much of the night, finishing minus-11 for the night, a performance he doesn't attribute to his first-half actions.

"No, because I don't think he heard me," Paschall said. "So I don't think it changed anything."

"I don't know what happened," he added. "Just looked up and Harden was going off, so I can't really say much about that. He's a great player. Anything could have sparked it. He could have just sparked himself. He could have not heard it at all and just sparked himself. It is what it is."

Inquire about the last time Paschall's had to carry a similar load and he's quick to point to six months ago, when he was second on Villanova in scoring, averaging 16.5 points, adding six rebounds as the Wildcats went to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Dig further into Paschall's story back to Dobbs Ferry High School, when he averaged 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, leading the Eagles to the Section-1 Finals. Through it all, a consistent energetic play has followed. 

"If you don't feel like you're the best player on the court, you can't play like that," Paschall said. "You just have to have that mentality at all times. I feel like just talking in any type of way is really helpful. Just get yourself and your teammates going."

Now, Paschall is approaching a new challenge: Remaining great as teams are actively trying to take it away. In Wednesday's loss, the Rockets enlisted their best defender, P.J. Tucker, on the rookie and sent two extra players every time he drove to the lane, limiting Paschall to 19 points on just 6-of-15 shooting. The forward had his moments, including a baseline slam in the second quarter that put the Warriors up 46-42.

"I give him credit," Pachulia said, "but at the same time, understand that the better he plays, the more focus is going to be on him. He's going to face different challenges from game to game, and that's how it goes ... It's great for him to be dealing with this in his rookie year."

[RELATED: Warriors must bring life, energy to overcome]

Wednesday night was the latest example of Paschall's ascension. No longer the rookie simply fighting for minutes, a responsibility replaced by his new role as a team spokesman, which includes a plea for success going forward.  

"Keep the energy up. That's one thing I'm known for so I put responsibility on myself for that," he said. "So just keep the energy -- and keep having fun." 

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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