SAN FRANCISCO – Suddenly, the traffic in Mychal Mulder’s neighborhood is so heavy that the Warriors guard will spend the next couple weeks trying to dodge speeding objects.
There is a reasonable chance he won’t succeed.
Mulder came to the Warriors in February 2020 in a case of mutual desperation. He was nearly three years out of college (Kentucky) and longing for a chance to play in the NBA, and they were in the midst of lost season seeking a shooter who would accept a 10-day contract. They liked him enough to commit to a two-year contract. He had earned a place on the roster.
Now, 18 months later, the space that belonged to him – reserve guard, athletic, capable of making shots – is overrun with players hoping to move him out.
“He went through this last training camp, too, having to work to make the team,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “So, he understands what this is about. He’s put himself in great position through his hard work and his production on the floor last season.”
Mulder, 27, appeared in 60 games (six starts) last season, shooting 39.7 percent beyond the arc. In a start against the Pelicans last May, he played a season-high 34 minutes, scoring a season-high 28 points, making 7-of-13 from deep. Speaks to his explosiveness.
This season is different simply because the talent pool is deeper than it was last season. There is one potential opening, the 15th and final roster spot. Competition is fierce.
There’s Gary Payton II, 28, who arrived late last season, signed consecutive 10-day contracts and made a positive impression, especially on defense, that continued in Summer League.
He has the hunger.
There’s Avery Bradley, a 30-year-old with defensive accolades on his resumé and considerable NBA experience, including eight postseason series. He arrived last weekend.
He knows the league at every level.
And there’s Langston Galloway, 29, who last played with the Suns, who reached the 2021 NBA Finals. He, too, was wedged onto the training-camp roster last weekend.
He has been with five different teams and is looking for a home.
“I’m glad to be in the position where I’m competing for a spot,” said Galloway, who shot a career-high 42.4 percent from deep in Phoenix.
“There’s a reason we’ve invited people to come in,” Kerr said. “I’m excited about Langston and Avery, excited about Gary Payton being under contract. We have to use training camp to see what we have and how the pieces fit together in this year’s puzzle.
“Whether we’ll use that spot or not, we’ll see. But that’s the whole point of camp, to get a feel for our team and then put our heads together over the next few weeks and figure that out.”
What Mulder has that the other three do not is a full season of experience with the Warriors, specifically 60-game teammate status with offensive hubs Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. They’re unique players that require new teammates to make an adjustment.
“Everybody is trying to make a name for themselves, trying to stay in and survive,” Mulder said. “I don’t think we’re treating this camp any differently. I know for myself, personally, I’m coming in to attack it like it’s my first day on the job.”
It will be an uphill battle for Mulder, but all four competitors have to view it as such. The final decision likely will be dictated by the team’s most urgent need. If it’s defense, Bradley and Payton have an edge. If it’s offense, that helps Galloway and Mulder.
It’s a narrow road and it’s crowded, just as it should be.