SAN FRANCISCO – Restricted to watching, listening and learning through most NBA preseason games and the first five games of the 2021-22 regular season, Jonathan Kuminga is ready and eager to play basketball.
Perhaps as soon as Saturday, when the Warriors play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Kuminga’s availability is a game-time decision, but the 19-year-old Congolese forward, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is looking forward to his debut for reasons that go beyond basketball.
“It’s not just for me, it’s for everybody that looks up to me. My family back home, my brothers, everybody,” Kuminga said Friday after practice. “It’s one of the biggest days for them, not just me. It’s going to be my first NBA game, and I feel like I’ve been working and preparing for this moment since I was a kid. And it’s going to happen tomorrow, so I’m really excited about it.”
No doubt Kuminga feels ready, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr was quick to pump the brakes just a bit regarding playing time on Saturday.
“He’s a possibility to go tomorrow,” Kerr said, indicating a final decision will be made after Kuminga’s pregame workout.
Kuminga is three weeks removed from sustaining a strain of the patellar tendon in his right knee late in the season preseason game, against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 7. He has spent the past couple weeks going through workouts of increasing intensity.
“I’m willing to go out there and play as hard as I can,” Kuminga said. “Especially, to help the team to win the way they want me to play, and just give it all I got on the court.”
Kerr’s reluctance to commit to Kuminga making his debut is partly because the 5:30 p.m. PT tipoff precludes a morning shootaround, which normally would result in a decision. Moreover, there is no guarantee Kuminga will get playing time even he is available.
In other news, guard Damion Lee sat out the Friday practice with a shoulder contusion sustained Thursday night in the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Kerr said Lee is “questionable” for the game Saturday.
If Lee is ruled out, it’s likely that Kuminga’s fellow rookie, Moses Moody, will be in Golden State’s rotation after a brief stay with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors. Moody is projected to play considerable minutes in a preseason game against Ciudad de Mexico at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.