Warriors' gamble on big man Marquese Chriss looks like it will pay off

Warriors' gamble on big man Marquese Chriss looks like it will pay off

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors gave up on Damian Jones, their 2016 first-round draft pick, after losing confidence in his evolution from 7-foot athlete into reliable NBA contributor. They traded him in July because, after three years, they’d exhausted their patience.

The Suns didn’t have as much patience with Marquese Chriss, even though they drafted him No. 8 overall -- 22 picks ahead of Jones -- as their power forward of the future. Chriss was traded to the Rockets after two years in Phoenix.

Five months later, Chriss was shuttled from Houston to Cleveland.

One month after that, the NBA slapped Chriss with a one-game suspension for exchanging blows with Raptors big man Serge Ibaka.

Six months later, Chriss was a free agent signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors, who, after evaluating him for two weeks, are falling in love with him.

“Marquese has been really, really impressive,” coach Steve Kerr said, adding that he plans to start Chriss at center Monday, when the Warriors face the Lakers at Staples Center.

Draymond Green echoed his coach's sentiments.

“Marquese has been great the whole training camp,” Green said.

Chriss' NBA career hasn't gone as planned, but the Warriors see he's locked in on his latest opportunity to become a mainstay in the league.

“Marquese, obviously with what he’s been through in his career, is trying to gain footing and be in the position to hopefully contribute,” Stephen Curry said. “Everyone just wants an opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of it.”

A man unwanted by two of the league’s sorriest franchises is passing the eye test of a Warriors team coming off five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and expected to make the playoffs this season. Sports can be strange that way, right?

“They told me they would give me a fair shot to make the team,” Chriss said. “They have done that.”

Like Jones, Chriss was drafted because scouts liked his size (6-10, 240 pounds), his length (7-1 wingspan) and his leaping ability (38.5-inch vertical, one inch higher than Jones). It all added up to immense upside. And there have been occasional flashes of that projected potential. Gorgeous spin moves. Fantastic shot rejections. Sweet footwork. And, of course, plenty of soaring above rims to jam lobs.

But, of course, there was another side to Chriss. There were displays of immaturity, particularly in the heat of competition. There has been scarlet-letter innuendo about his conditioning and attitude, which led to questions about his commitment.

The Warriors inspected the red flags, considered the integrity of their culture and concluded they can get the best of Chriss. If it fails, hey, they don’t lose a nickel.

“He’s been on three teams already in his brief career, so we’re probably getting him at a good time,” Kerr said. “He’s had some opportunities that haven’t gone his way, for whatever reason. Now, all of a sudden, he’s got a great opportunity because we’ve got guys hurt at that spot and he’s making the most of it.

“He’s making a strong case for himself.”

In 39 minutes over two games, Chriss had produced 16 points (7-of-12 from the field, 2-of-2 from the line), 17 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Moreover, his “feel” for the game is evident in how he approaches tasks at both ends. He routinely exhibits the basketball presence the Warriors were hoping Jones could develop.

Indeed, Chriss’ combination of athleticism and skill is as good or better than any of the nine actual centers that have started under Kerr.

“He’s picked everything up really quickly,” Kerr said. “He’s much more advanced as a screener than I knew. A dribble-handoff guy at the top, slipping screens, finding the right angles, screening without fouling. He’s shown a really good talent in that regard. And that’s a big part of our offense.”

Chriss doesn’t seem impressed by the glowing reviews. In his mind, he’s just playing basketball, as he did at Pleasant Grove High in Elk Grove and for one season at the University of Washington.

As he tried to do, without much success, in three NBA seasons before finding the Warriors.

“They’ve put me in position to succeed,” Chriss said. “And I felt coming here, it would fit the way that I like to play. I like to set screens. I like to roll to the basket. I like to pass. And that’s something they let their bigs do. They play off their bigs a lot, and I felt it was a good fit for me.”

[RELATED: Why Warriors should trade Evans to keep Chriss]

Chriss, 22, seems to understand that this is may not be his last chance to live his NBA dream, but it may be his best chance. That was part of the thinking behind joining the Warriors with no guaranteed money rather than accepting the relative security of a two-way contract elsewhere.

He’s betting on himself. And with one week remaining in the preseason, his hand is strong. After all the Warriors have seen and said, the smart money has them finding a way to keep him.

Klay Thompson's Game 6 vs. OKC belongs on Bay's Mount Rushmore, Steve Kerr says

Klay Thompson's Game 6 vs. OKC belongs on Bay's Mount Rushmore, Steve Kerr says

Every Warriors fan remembers exactly where they were when Klay Thompson saved Golden State's season in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City.

I was in Nashville, Tenn., for a cousin's wedding, unable to watch the thriller on TV. I had to follow along on Twitter.

With the 73-win Warriors on the verge of being eliminated by the Thunder, Thompson went thermonuclear with a single-game NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers. He finished with 41 points, and "Game 6 Klay" was born.

It's one of the most iconic performances in Bay Area sports history.

But does it belong on the Mount Rushmore of best Bay Area performances? Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes so, and he explained why Friday during an interview with 95.7 The Game.

"Just one of the most incredible, clutch performances in such a desperate moment," Kerr said on the "Damon, Ratto and Kolsky" show. "We were really dominated for most of those series, and we were just hanging on for dear life in that game, down eight or 10 for most of the game. I've watched that game several times since, and it's almost impossible to fathom what Klay did and what he was able to do individually in that game to pull the game for us. It was just an amazing performance."

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

Thompson's performance allowed the Warriors to return home for a Game 7, where they knocked off the Thunder to advance to a second straight NBA Finals.

In terms of best Bay Area performances or moments, I would lock in Thompson's Game 6 vs. OKC, Madison Bumgarner's Game 7 relief outing against the Kansas City Royals in 2014, and the Joe Montana-Dwight Clark "The Catch" from the 1981 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The fourth member of this list is open for debate. Could it be Travis Ishikawa's pennant-winning homer in 2014? Steph Curry's 37-point performance in Game 5 of the 2015 NBA Finals? Kevin Durant's dagger 3-pointer in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers? Montana's Super Bowl XXIII-winning pass to John Taylor? Montana's five-touchdown performance in the 49ers' Super Bowl XXIV win? Steve Young's six-touchdown effort in the 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX win over the San Diego Chargers? Edgar Renteria's two-run homer in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series? Cal-Stanford's "The Play" in 1982? Something else?

[RELATED: Dub Nation loves 'Game 6 Klay']

Bay Area sports fans, tell us which four individual postseason performances or moments you would carve into your Mount Rushmore.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Where Steph Curry's back-to-back MVPs rank among 2010s award winners

Where Steph Curry's back-to-back MVPs rank among 2010s award winners

The last decade was littered with some of the greatest MVP seasons in NBA history.

From Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to LeBron James taking his game to new heights during the 2012-13 season, there was no shortage of singular campaigns to remember. Of course, Warriors star Steph Curry was plenty unprecedented on his own, becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history in 2015-16 and the only player other than James to win the award multiple times in the 2010s.

[RELATED: Warriors' season reportedly over in NBA plan likely to pass]

Curry's MVP wins will stand the test of time, but where do those campaigns stand among his award-winning peers' in the last 10 years? Here's how I ranked the MVP-winning seasons of the 2010s, starting with arguably the biggest outlier among the bunch. 


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