Nico Mannion will receive quite the welcome back to the NBA on Thursday night.
With Steph Curry resting for the Warriors' final game before the All-Star break, Mannion will start at point guard for Golden State against the Phoenix Suns. The 19-year-old, full of confidence after a successful stint in the G League bubble, will line up opposite 16-year-veteran -- and 11-time All-Star -- Chris Paul.
In Curry's absence, the Warriors felt the rookie checked all the boxes.
"Well Nico's a true point guard, and with Steph out, we need somebody to run the show and deliver the ball, get us organized, pick up full court defensively -- do all the things that Nico does," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday in a pregame video conference with reporters. "And it felt right to give him the start."
Mannion impressed while suiting up for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the Orlando, Fla. bubble. He averaged 19.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals in nine games. Mannion 40.6 percent from the field, and 36.5 percent on 3-pointers.
The Warriors recalled Mannion and Jordan Poole, Santa Cruz's leading scorer (22.4 points per game) in the bubble, earlier this week. Neither player touched the court in Golden State's last-second loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, but Curry and Draymond Green's absence from the Warriors' starting lineup created openings in the rotation Thursday.
The pair's minutes won't end there, according to Kerr.
"Both guys have really earned some playing time coming off their stints in Orlando," Kerr said.