Golden State Warriors

Warriors’ young core rises in Christmas win vs. Grizzlies

The Warriors "second timeline" appeared to grow up before our very eyes on Christmas Day.

As I was enjoying the Warriors’ Christmas Day matchup against the Grizzlies, the game still in the first quarter, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

It wasn’t that the Warriors got off to a great start, one that would propel them to an eventual victory. It was coach Steve Kerr’s initial reserves off of the bench. Center James Wiseman and forward Moses Moody entered the fray first, despite being on the fringe of the rotation. Soon, they were joined by F Jonathan Kuminga.

Combined with guard Jordan Poole, these players represent the Warriors’ young core, sometimes called Golden State’s “second timeline.” The primary timeline, one that has won four championships and is led by superstar Steph Curry, still carries the torch, but Poole, Wiseman, Moody, and Kuminga are expected to extend the Warriors’ dominance as a franchise into the future.

But in the present, they have to play vital roles for the 2022-23 Warriors as they attempt to repeat as champions. For Poole, who scored 32 points in Sunday’s win, that’s not a concern. He’s established as a player. But for the rest of the young core, their performance against the Grizzlies appeared to be a step up for all of them, especially Wiseman and Moody.

Kerr went to a lineup that included Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman late in the first quarter and, over a five-minute stretch, the Warriors actually bumped the lead up two points against one of the league’s deepest teams.

Kerr peppered them into the rotation again in the second half, and all three lottery picks gave productive minutes. Moody scored 10 points and hit a big fourth-quarter 3 the possession after the Poole ejection. He was a plus-2. Kuminga muscled his way to eight free throws. He was a plus-21. Wiseman didn’t even attempt a shot in his eight minutes, but he probably delivered the best defensive stretch of his early career.

Anthony Slater/The Athletic

The competition was fierce against the upstart Grizzlies, and it seemed to me that Kerr gave his young core a test of sorts. He knows he’ll need them to produce as role players — save for Poole, who is a featured player — if they are to repeat as champs. They not only passed, but to me, it appeared they grew up before my very eyes on the largest NBA stage except for the payoffs.

Now the Warriors have to build on this win and improve their place in the Western Conference standings. I hope Kerr continues to trust Wiseman, Moody, and Kuminga moving forward. Their talent and athleticism should pair perfectly with the veteran savvy and precision of Curry, F Draymond Green, and G Klay Thompson.

If the two timelines can merge, as has been the plan, then this team could be unstoppable, even more than they have already proven to be. I’ve always expected the entire roster to click at some point, and ideally, we saw that happen on Christmas Day, in a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

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