SAN FRANCISCO -- One day after Omari Spellman expressed a desire to play more minutes, Warriors coach Steve Kerr offered a response that should please the second-year big man.
“Omari has absolutely earned more minutes,” Kerr said Sunday after practice. “He played great last night. Played well for us early in the season before things went against him.”
On Saturday night, when not many Warriors played well, Spellman did. He scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed five rebounds and had four steals in a 111-104 loss to the Pistons at Chase Center.
Insofar as the 6-foot-8, 255-pound Villanova product achieved those numbers in 20 minutes, it was pretty close to maximum offensive efficiency.
After the game, Spellman pointed out that he has no control over how often he plays or how much time he’ll get on a given night. He made it clear that he believes he can be a productive member of the rotation if given a chance.
“Honestly, I was just going out and trying to play aggressive and seize the opportunity,” Spellman said. “I don’t want to lie down and just accept losing minutes. ... I’m just going to stay ready, but I don’t want to take that lying down. No. I want to prove that I can play. I should be out there in my opinion, so that’s really it.”
The numbers seem to support Spellman’s assertion. Playing a total of 42 minutes over the last two games, he averaged 16.5 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-6 from deep. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Going further back, Spellman closed November with a six-game stretch during which his averages were 25.0 minutes, 11.7 points -- on 46.3-percent shooting, including 48.0 percent from deep -- and 6.1 rebounds per contest. He posted his only double-double of the season during that span, with a 13-point, 11-rebound game in 24 minutes against the Bulls.
Averaging 9.0 minutes in the last six games he played in December, Spellman’s totals were 16 points and 14 rebounds. To be fair, he was fighting off an illness that forced him to miss two games and surely impacted his statistics in the other six.
Spellman has been in the rotation for much of the season, but out of it for particular segments as Kerr continues to experiment.
“It’s harder when there’s no clear line of delineation between your top eight or nine and the rest of the group,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of different rotations, a lot of different starting lineups.”
There also is the fact that the coaching staff is trying to evaluate each of the team’s four big men: Willie Cauley-Stein, Marquese Chriss, Alen Smailagic and Spellman. Cauley-Stein is the starter, when healthy, with Chriss as the primary backup. That leaves Spellman and Smailagic -- who did not play Saturday night -- to be shuttled between backup center and backup power forward.
“Sometimes it’s just circumstantial,” Kerr said. “But circumstances turn, especially if you have the fortitude to keep working and remain patient, like [Spellman] has, and remain positive.
“That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of him for. As a young player, it’s easy to get frustrated. From the beginning of the season until now, he’s much more mature in the way he has handled disappointment. Rather than pouting, he has just stayed positive and continued to work. And it paid off last night.”
Do not consider this a promise that Spellman’s playing time will remain in the 20-minute range. But don’t be surprised if that’s the case. It seems to be the surest way to get the most out of him.