Ex-Warrior Details ‘Simplified Role’ for Returning Young Big Man

Festus Ezeli

Getty Festus Ezeli shared his thoughts about the return of James Wiseman to the Warriors.

Former Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli was an important piece for the team during the height of their run. He was on the team from 2012 to 2016, playing on the championship team in 2014-15 and the record-setting 73-win team in 2015-16.

With that experience, Ezeli knows the Warriors organization well. He appeared on the January 17 episode of NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Dubs Talk” podcast with Grant Liffman to talk about several things going on with the team. Early in the episode Ezeli discussed how the Draymond Green injury could help the team later in the season, and second-year big man James Wiseman especially.

“I’ll go back to the 2015 team that won an NBA championship, cause there’s this comparison because we have a lot of talent similar to that team. Here’s the deal,” said Ezeli. “When you talk about the playoffs, you don’t win it with your star players. The key players are the ones that make the difference. Every team has star players, Lebron, Kevin Durant, James Harden, like every team has their guys. The people who come off the bench … strength in numbers that was what our motto was because … when the stuff hit the fan was when the guys came to play.

“You need the guys who are on the bench to play at the same level as the starters … you need moments like this where those guys off the bench get their chance to shine.”


Opportunity for Young Players

The Warriors being shorthanded is certainly a big opportunity for younger players to step up. The eventual return of Wiseman, will be important for the team going forward. During the podcast, Ezeli discussed what his role could look like.

“With James Wiseman coming back, it changes a little bit of the style that the Warriors play,” Ezeli said. “Now they have a lob threat, but they also have to play defense differently because now you have dropping and all these different things, but he is a very skilled big man. A simplified role for him would be running the floor, setting great screens to get Steph and Klay open, because they always need that … and just playing defense, protecting the rim.”

Another young player the Warriors have been turning to in the absence of Green is rookie Jonathan Kuminga. Over his last four games, Kuminga has averaged 24.5 minutes and scored 18 points per game. Ezeli also gave his thoughts on the Warriors rookie.

“A few things have surprised me about Jonathan Kuminga” said Ezeli. “His defensive agility, like he’s very nimble on his feet. When you put the ball in his hands his first step is kind of crazy.

“Watching the way he’s learning, his growth so far with not getting a lot of playing time up to this point, it’s been very impressive. Usually people go through a little bit of a confidence hit when they first come into the NBA, because they aren’t playing as much … but nah I don’t see that from him. … I love the aggressiveness I think that we’re going to need that especially the defensive prowess. … His ceiling, wow he’s a freak of nature…under the tutelage of Draymond and Andre Iguodala I think that honestly the sky’s the limit, I can see him being on the all-defensive team.”


Warriors Going Forward

With the Warriors going through their current struggles, it’s certainly encouraging to hear Ezeli speak so highly of the team. They still have a long way to go in terms of figuring out their rotations with the current loss of Green.

The Warriors will certainly have some opportunities during this seven game home stand to figure things out. Even with the absence of Green, they’ll be favored heavily in the first three games of this stand.

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