Warriors rookie Patrick McCaw learns surrounded by big stars
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Patrick McCaw flings a football across two courts and hits Ian Clark right in the basketball numbers, then jokingly jumps in front of Kevin Durant moments later as if to make an interception against a superstar teammate with a height advantage and remarkable wingspan on the rookie guard.
Several minutes later, McCaw blows an enormous bubble with his gum as shootaround winds down on game day.
The kid they call ''P Nice'' because his game is so good, so young, is getting comfortable in a hurry during his first NBA season, and it certainly helps playing alongside the star-studded cast of KD, two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green every day.
''When I figured out I was going to Golden State, that just made it even more of a dream,'' McCaw said. ''To be able to be on the same team as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, guys that made it to the Finals in back-to-back years and have won the Finals ... to be with such great players and to learn from them my first couple years in the NBA is exactly how I wanted it to go.''
Overshadowed during Thompson's 60-point, 11-dribble performance Monday night during which he touched the ball for all of 90 seconds in a rout of Indiana was McCaw's nine points on three 3-pointers and five assists in 15-plus minutes. He will get his first front-row glimpse at the Clippers-Warriors rivalry on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The Warriors don't expect McCaw to be polished this soon, though he is showing positive signs despite inconsistent playing time. And he flat-out works.
''Really a precocious rookie for a young guy,'' assistant coach Ron Adams said. ''He's got a pretty nuanced game for a rookie, in other words he does a lot of stuff that guys who have played for a couple of years start to do. He's got a gait to his dribbling and passing, a rhythm that's fairly advanced.''
Along with regular good-natured razzing from Green, McCaw has found another way to stay grounded: He communicates with his five siblings and parents every day. They share a group text message chain or do FaceTime on their phones to stay in touch.
Jeffery Jr., Celeste, Jayla, Camille and Trinity are his support system, along with mom and dad, Jeffery Sr. and Teresa, in St. Louis. They came to the season opener Oct. 25, which also happened to be McCaw's 21st birthday.
McCaw and his mom exchange messages and typically speak twice a week.
''Make sure you have fun tonight,'' she writes.
Or, she checks up on his housecleaning: ''Did you mop? Did you sweep?'' His chores improved during college, she notes.
Even though she was concerned at first about her third-youngest being on his own in Oakland, McCaw is thriving on a loaded roster. He showed up at Golden State and chose the unusual No. 0 for his uniform, explaining his choice as ''Zero worries, Zero doubts.''
''This is Patrick's first official job,'' his mother said. ''During the draft process we would tease him this will be his first job. Patrick's first job is one of his goals, one of his dreams. It's still surreal.''
For about 15 minutes on draft day, McCaw thought he was headed to Milwaukee. But then the Bucks dealt him to Golden State.
One thing Green points out is they're both second-round draft picks from nearly the same slot - Green was picked 35th overall out of Michigan State in 2012 and McCaw at No. 38 this year from UNLV.
''Something about them second-round picks, man,'' Green said with a grin. ''They do pretty well.''
''Those type of things fuel you,'' McCaw said. ''But I think me and Draymond are just humbled to be in the position that we are. To play with the Golden State Warriors and have this opportunity is truly a blessing. Our work ethic and our drive and our passion for the game, that never stopped us. That second-round pick didn't tell us that we weren't good enough to be first-rounders. That only made us want to work harder.''
That is evident if you watch McCaw on the practice floor or at Oracle Arena on game day.
''He's got a real spirit about him,'' teammate David West said.
More than 2 hours before tipoff, McCaw is among the first Warriors on the court putting up pregame jumpers or cutting without the ball to practice precise movement under the guidance of player development coach Willie Green. McCaw plants a foot toward the baseline, then sprints to the right wing for more mid-range shots, then moves to the other end of the court for a series of 3-pointers.
''That's what he does, that's what he knows,'' his mom said.
''A lot of what you see is God-given, just his ability to be able to come in and play basketball at a high level,'' Willie Green said. ''Even outside of basketball he has a humble confidence. We call it swag. His nickname is P Nice. We call him that just because his game is nice. The moment is never too big for him.''
During one pregame sequence, McCaw's first baseline 3-point attempt clanked off the rim and the rookie let out an ''Ahh!'' of frustration, then another ''Ahh!'' after another miss, then another. Finally, he swished two in a row and could relax, chomping his gum all the while.
McCaw's big plays send the excitable Curry into a ''McCawwwww!'' bird-chanting frenzy. Nothing new for the lanky 6-foot-7, 185-pound guard - ''I've heard that since middle school,'' he says.
''He's very savvy, so he always knows where to be,'' Draymond Green said. ''He brings a certain swag with him that you can feed off of as you feed off someone's energy. I think it's pretty unique. ... It's like, `I'm in the NBA, no big deal.' That's how he approaches everything. It's pretty cool. He doesn't say much but he listens, to everything. He's a sponge.''