Nico Mannion probably couldn’t have picked a better place to make his first NBA start. He got the nod for the Golden State Warriors on Thursday in Phoenix, where he spent much of his childhood.
“In a way it’s kind of storybook,” he said after the game. “My first 3-pointer happened in Utah where I grew up for the first 10 years of my life and then first start happens in Phoenix, where I grew up the last seven or eight, so it’s kind of storybook, it’s kind of surreal, but it felt good. I had my pops in the stands, had a couple friends that I saw, so it was awesome.”
Playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors were blasted by the Suns, but Mannion put up decent numbers for a rookie. The 19-year-old had nine points, six assists, five turnovers and four rebounds in 31 minutes while shooting 3 for 10 from the field and 3 for 5 from 3.
“I like Nico’s game,” said Warriors coach and fellow Arizona Wildcat Steve Kerr. “I mean, first start in his hometown and going against Chris Paul, and he did not look scared at all. And I think it looked to me like he belonged. He puts pressure on the opposing guard. He gets us organized. He’s a really good passer. He had a few turnovers that he’d like to have back, I’m sure, but he’s not normally a high turnover player. So I was excited about about Nico’s play.”
On a two-way contract, Mannion has spent most of his rookie season with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League bubble in Orlando, where he has been able to build up his confidence. In nine starts there, the second-round pick averaged 19.3 points and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 37 percent from 3.
Thursday was his first NBA action since Jan. 28. He appeared in five games that month but played fewer than 10 minutes in all of them.
“Like I said I think last week in an interview, just getting comfortable was the biggest thing for me,” Mannion said. “And once you’re comfortable, it’s really not about who’s on the other team because you’re comfortable with yourself. So I think that’s the biggest thing for me. I felt comfortable. I felt good. I still think I can, of course, do a lot better but I’ll take it for my first real minutes in the NBA.”