Criticizing the Warriors is tough these days.
After dealing with the fallout of Kevin Durant’s departure and two injury plagued seasons, the healthy, Stephen Curry-led Dubs silenced everybody last season by returning to the top of the mountain, winning the fourth NBA title of the Steve Kerr-era.
Still, the sports media news cycle runs 24 hours a day, and when there is a need for that much content, negativity is inevitable.
Last month, it was Stephen A. Smith who provided the fodder, reporting that he’s concerned about Warriors second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga due to what he’s hearing about a lack of maturity.
“I’m worried about Kuminga,” said Stephen A. on ‘First Take’. “I’m hearing too many things about him off the court in terms of his head. The level of discipline that he lacks. You understand?
“Some of the foolishness. I’m not getting in his personal business. I’m not saying nothing like that. I’m talking attitude, I’m not talking actions. I’m saying that attitude, the level of focus, commitment, determination, just putting your head down. doing the work.
“I’m hearing that he’s shortchanging the Warriors in that regard, and he gotta get his act together, because I’m a Jonathan Kuminga fan.”
It was a report that came out of left field, and led to both Steve Kerr and Andre Iguodala pushing back publicly.
So, where did it come from? Longtime Warriors reporter Marcus Thompson provided some context on Murph & Mac Wednesday morning, saying that while Kuminga might have some immaturity issues, they have nothing to do with his conduct off the court.
“I don’t think that’s anything unique,” Thompson said. “No. 1, the idea that a 19-year-old might have maturity issues…That’s the nature of being young in the NBA.
“I think you hear the immature part, and you think like he’s being a problem, you can’t coach him, listen to him, and I think that’s the difficulty. Once you start labeling someone as immature, there come these other connotations.
“I think the immaturity is him managing this immense talent he has with the limited role he has, and that’s a very natural and normal thing. He feels like ‘I can be great, I’m going to be great, I have all of this’, and they are just like ‘Hey, man, we just need you to run the floor hard and cut right now.’ This is not normal, right? Like you’re playing with legends. Everybody doesn’t walk in and play with Hall of Famers and play for a championship.”
Kuminga’s role fluctuated wildly in his first season. At times, he was featured in closing lineups, including guarding LeBron James down the stretch in an early-season game. As the playoffs came to a close, however, Kuminga’s minutes largely dried up. It’s the type of thing to be expected when you are the youngest player on a championship team.
“So, he’s watching other people around the league, who he probably feels like he’s better than, getting all the minutes and all the shots, and he’s trying to learn how to win,” Thompson continued. “So Andre’s saying ‘Don’t try to paint him as a bad guy. We’re teaching him how to win’, and that’s a difficult thing for any young guy. They’re all learning it.
“To me when you talk about immaturity, he’s just got to learn how to win. He’s just got to learn what to value on the court and what matters.”
Thompson believes that this type of immaturity is completely different from Kuminga being a problem off the court, or not taking basketball seriously. That’s not an issue for the youngster.
“I think they rejected the idea that he’s some kind of kuckle-head behind the scenes because you throw that label “immature” that’s what people kind of gravitate towards.”
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Catch Murph & Mac weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on KNBR 104.5 / 680 and streaming live on KNBR.com.