Warriors

Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- An expression of resignation appeared across Eric Paschall's face about an hour after the Warriors' Christmas win over the Houston Rockets

His current state is not the result of his play, but rather a freshly diagnosed hip contusion that has the rookie forward out for Friday's matchup against the Phoenix Suns. In the last week, Paschall's rookie season scoring and rebounding averages have dropped from 16.0 and 5.0 per game, respectively, to 14.7 and 4.7 per contest.

Paschall appears to be hitting the "rookie wall," a phenomenon in which high minutes and more games affect a first-year pro's performance. Still, the Warriors' best rookie doesn't seem to be concerned with his recent play.  

"It's no big deal," he recently told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I'm not really worried about it."

While Paschall's words invoke resolution, his recent play tells a different story. Over his past four games, he's averaging 5.5 points, 2.5 rebounds.

The output comes as the Warriors have now played 32 games before the new year. Last year at Villanova, he'd played just 13 times by Dec. 31. 

"If you want to be technical, last year I played 30 games and my college season was over," Paschall admitted. "And I'm still playing now, and we still have 50 more games." 

Over Paschall's first 32 games, opposing teams have adjusted how they're defending the rookie. Through his first month of the season, 95 of his attempts were within five feet of the basket, according to NBA.com. From Nov. 27 onward, he has only attempted 39 as his opponents have adapted. 

 

"I thought he looked a little fatigued," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said earlier this week. "It's also a little bit like in baseball, you know the second time around when you face a pitcher, you know and they've got a rapport on you and they pitch you differently."

Coinciding with changing scouting reports have been Paschall's health obstacles. In the Warriors' last six games, he has sat out twice with hip contusions on both hips. Two other appearances were cut short due to injury, including a knee injury after New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick fell into his leg. Those injuries are hindering Paschall's progress. 

"I can't really play as many minutes as I want to," he said. "I feel like I played a lot of big minutes early, so I feel like its still good for my body in terms of recovering."

Paschall's current play bears little resemblance to the start of the season. During his first 14 games, he averaged 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. His first month included a 30-point, seven-rebound performance against the Pelicans on Nov. 17 and 17 points in a head-to-head matchup against Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant -- the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Paschall outplayed his fellow rookie, fueling NBA Rookie of the Year buzz that he's actively trying to avoid. 

"I'm not thinking about the rookie of the year," he declared. "Because no one expected me to be in the talks for the rookie of the year in the first place. I wasn't playing for it then and I'm not playing for it now. 

"It's cool to hear it but I don't think about that. All I care about is keep bringing energy and bring whatever the team needs from me."

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Individual accolades aside, Paschall's goals remain team-oriented. Next year, the Warriors expected to have a star-studded core back in the lineup with a healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Those returns will carry postseason expectations, and that's future Paschall would like to a part of.  

"I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "Hopefully, I'm on the court next year, playing a lot of minutes and hopefully, I can play for the Warriors for a little while."