Oh boy, he is!
In a game that will be remembered for Draymond Green’s chokehold, it should go down in the Warriors folklore as Podziemski’s coming-out party.
“He’s a damn good player,” Kerr told reporters after the rookie guard’s career night.
Podziemski’s cockiness nearly lifted the Warriors to an improbable win without their three future Hall of Famers against the league’s best defense.
Already without their injured superstar Stephen Curry, the Warriors were further decimated when Green and Klay Thompson were ejected for their roles in the early-game melee.
The rookie out of Santa Clara rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of that fracas and spread his wings.
Only 20 years old, Podziemski played with the swagger of a veteran and he has the skill set to back it up.
Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves, still reeling from Green’s chokehold, could not contain Podziemski through the first three quarters.
The 6-foot-4 rookie lit them up with 20 points, including the remarkable buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the third quarter that gave the Warriors a seven-point edge.
Podziemski walked into Curry’s spot and made Kerr a believer.
“There’s something unique about him,” Kerr said of Podziemski. “That size to rebound the way he does? He had seven tonight. He’s always in the right spot. He’s fearless. And he connects the game. He plays the way we want to play. The ball moves when he’s out there. He’s attacking and hitting at the right times. He’s cutting at the right times. Defensively, he’s really good.”
Kerr almost ran out of superlatives to describe who could be this year’s steal of the draft.
Podziemski dazzled with a career-high 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Brandin Podziemski’s Baptism of Fire
After their first loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday night, November 12, Curry told the rookie to be ready.
Kerr let Podziemski know he would be part of the rotation Tuesday night. But the 19th overall pick had no inkling he’d end up being the team’s go-to guy.
“For me, just being thrown into the fire, it’s kind of whatever the game calls for,” Podziemski told reporters after his breakout game. “As a rookie, you just got to stay ready, and you don’t really know what it’s gonna be like. I knew I was gonna get minutes tonight, but I didn’t know it was gonna be 39 but credit to just my work ethic and the time I put in.”
Podziemski provided a jolt of energy that the Warriors lacked. He brought life into their sagging spirits after the brawl that cost them their remaining top stars.
“Obviously, you have to have talent [to win in the NBA], but you have to have energy,” Kerr said. “You have to bring something to the table life-wise like joy-wise, energy-wise, competitiveness-wise. And that’s what I watched tonight from the whole group, and clearly Brandin has that.”
Brandin Podziemski’s Cockiness
Podziemski’s path to the NBA was not straightforward.
After being named Wisconsin Mr. Basketball as a senior, averaging 35.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 4.0 steals per game, he was only a four-star recruit.
His freshman year as a Fighting Illini did not go the way he envisioned it. He entered the NCAA transfer portal and landed in Santa Clara, where he regained his swagger.
He blossomed into a WCC co-Player of the Year with Dre Timme of Gonzaga, which became his NBA Draft ticket.
“I think just the player I am and where I come from, you kind of need some of that [cockiness],” Podziemski said, “some of the extra juice and confidence. You could kind of view it as that but I think this helped me get here. And I think this was going to help me stay in the league.”
And on Tuesday night when everything was going dark for the Warriors, he became the shining light that could guide them to the future.
“Our fans have watched this team win four championships,” Kerr said. “And they weren’t won by a bunch of powders and wallflowers, they were won by gamers, competitors, guys who brought energy and joy and passion to everything, and that’s what it takes. So that’s what I’m looking for.”
Kerr found all of them in his cocky rookie.