Kent Bazemore Takes His Game to Another Level

bazemoreKent Bazemore did everything he set out to do during NBA Summer League.

He showed strides in his offensive game and improved his grasp of team defense concepts. He all but locked up a roster spot on Golden State, emerging as a dominant player in Las Vegas. He led the Warriors’ summer league squad to the inauguaral championship, averaging 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 30 minutes.

Ian Clark, who dropped 33 on Phoenix on Monday, won the championship game MVP. And Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas won MVP of the Summer League. But Bazemore leaves Las Vegas with the respect he no doubt earned.

Now, he said, it’s time to get back to work.

“I’m not satisfied at all,” Bazemore said in a phone interview. “It would be easy to relax and feel like I’ve accomplished something – I’ve proven people wrong about me. But I’ve got to keep working. I really feel like I can be a good player in this league and have a great career.”

But before he embarks on more hard work, Bazemore gets to enjoy the benefits of the hard work he already put it.

Last year at this time, he was ranked by ESPN as No. 499 out of the top 500 NBA players. Now he’s the MVP of Summer League in Las Vegas. He gained his Bay Area fame by cheering enthusiastically for his teammates while glued to the end of the bench. Lately, he’s had people cheering his name.

“I’m impressed,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said. “He’s done enough to justify us keeping him on the roster, rspecially how hard he’s worked to get to this point. He really was turnover prone and couldn’t really shoot when we got him last year, and he was a little wild all over the floor. But you could see that length, that athleticism, and that fire.”

Even with the signing of veteran guard Toney Douglas and the drafting of Serbian guard Nemanja Nedovic, Bazemore would really have to blow it at this point to not be on Golden State’s roster. His contract is non-guaranteed, but the Warriors have hung on to him despite several opportunities to cut him, seduced by his 6-foot-11 wingspan and stand-out athleticism. Bazemore vindicated that decision with his play in summer league.

Already a special man-to-man defender, he showed significant strides in his once-non-existent offensive. After countless hours in the gym with now assistant coach Jim Boylan, Bazemore now has some weapons to work with on offense. He’s still not a shooter, but he’s gotten good at knocking down pull-up jumpers from specific spots on the floor (especially the elbow of the free throw line). His ball-handling has gotten secure enough to be effective in pick-and-roll situations. He can go right or left and make it to the rim and he is surprisingly good at setting up others. His interior passing and sense of when to deliver the ball was really good.

Bazemore’s handle is not yet crisp enough to take on NBA point guards, and he still turns it over too much for his own liking. But the Warriors don’t need him to be Stephen Curry. With his defensive ability and athleticism, the Warriors can use him in spots. And if he can give them something on offense, that makes it so much easier for coach Mark Jackson to put Bazemore on the court. His summer league performance shows they can probably stand to put him on the ball to make a play for a few minutes while unleashing him on defense.

“I don’t care if it’s two minutes, six minutes, 10 minutes,” Bazemore said, “I just want to be ready. I’m so happy I’m just still a Golden State Warrior.”

While Bazemore has been the talk of summer league, Jackson has stayed on him throughout. Even though he was out there dropping 25 points, providing highlight dunks and prompting Twitter fans to speculate on his minutes next season, Bazemore was being reminded by Jackson about the holes in his game.

“He keeps saying stuff like, ‘You need to cut down on turnovers,’ ” Bazemore said, repeating his coach. “And, ‘You’re still getting beat off the dribble.’ … He sees what I can be and he’s still pushing me.”

Pleasing Jackson is just one of many motivators Bazemore uses to keep working. Perhaps nothing drives him more than being counted out.

He went undrafted out of Old Dominion despite being a mid-major star and after what he thought was a good showing at NBA combine. Entering summer league, he said he remembers reading an article saying “remember these names because you won’t see them in the NBA” and Bazemore was on the list. Then, this summer, the Warriors added two guards who will no doubt stand in the way of his minutes.

On top of that, Bazemore said he still doesn’t feel like he’s completely back from breaking his foot in college. He said he is heading home to Virginia to work with a coach to help him get his elite athleticism back. The former high jumper and sprinter said he’s hoping to come back to Oakland for training camp even more speedy and explosive. That’s a scary thought for a guy with a 6-11 wing span and a 37.5 inch vertical leap.

And he can make a play. And he can hit a midrange jumper, or get to the rim and finish strong. And he’s gotten better at playing defense with his head and not just with his athleticism. And he’s a great locker room guy known for his relentless support of his teammates.

It seems Bazemore is now ready to take it to another level.

“Now he has to perform with expectations,” Kirk Lacob said. “He’s going to have to cope with that for the first time. That’s the next step for him. He’s put in the work. We wanted him to go out there and dominate the summer league, like he should if he is a legit NBA player. And he’s done that.”

Marcus Thompson

  • chris oshaben

    Nice article. I’ve been watching the summer league pretty enthusiastically and have always been impressed by Bazemore. I still remember the game last year where he posted 7 blocks with those giant wings. I can see Mark Jackson see’s a lot of potential yet to be extrapolated from Bazemore. In his interview tonight he acknowledged that Baze would probably see limited floor time due to the depth on the team.

  • Zak

    The intangible that’s so desirable with Bazemore is his clearly unquenchable thirst for the game. He is unafraid to live vicariously through Steph knocking down 3’s or Bogut slashing the lane. You can’t beat that enthusiasm once he starts to back it up with performance. There’s no better alternative than for Bazemore to handle while Steph sits or plays off the ball, he’s got the size to make shots happen, draw and kick, on smaller guards. He could be the passing facilitator, where Jack was the scorer, if he really works on it.

  • tonedeezy

    Iggy, Barnes, and Green can all handle too, so he’d be more for defending opposing PGs than handling. He went to the hole a lot and proved he can finish, so i’d rather see him as a slasher on offense. he did look good runnin the show in summer league though.

  • Thanks for this piece Marcus — Kent sure has a lot of folks rooting for him, including me. Also, there’s the fact that the loss of J. Jack means there are a lot of minutes as the backup point to be had. I hear that Iggy has a very good handle for a swingman, but he’s not a true point guard. Maybe Nedovic is the guy — but Bazemore is now the experienced veteran. I can’t wait until next season!

  • Whoops — I forgot about Toney Douglas. Obviously, you pencil him in as the backup 1. But I think there is still room for Bazemore if he forces the issue against real NBA players. Klay looked a bit worn down from playing so many minutes last year.

  • earl monroe

    The most impressive thing about Bazemore at the summer league was how he was able to catch up to guys from behind and block shots, long and athletic are good ways to describe him, hopefully they figure out a way to get him on the court, might just be a numbers game, Mark Jackson was very honest and upfront about Bazemore’s possible playing time. Ian Clark was very impressive as well, even looked good handling the ball and working the pick and roll.

  • David Barnes

    I want to second something Zak noted here and that is Bazemore’s thirst for the game. There is an appreciation for where he is and who he is and what he is able to do and I see that as something that’s going to keep him working hard on his craft. Given his unique physical attributes and the coach and the players on ‘our Dubs’ that translates (to me) into a guy that should be able to stay in the league for a while. And while it’s true that all of this happened in summer league, last year’s turn for the good started with a winning and defensive minded squad in July and I don’t ever see how winning basketball leads to anything negative.

  • Ron

    Can’t faze the Baze! How about that hustle block off the backboard on Morris last night. A guard rejecting a big like that. Awesome!! Should have been the summer league MVP.

  • Grey Warden

    Love Bazemore, but the reality is, assuming Curry and Douglas are healthy, that he’ll only play during blowouts, and the 1-5 seconds at the end of a quarter because Jackson doesn’t want Curry/Thompson to pick up another foul.

  • Otis

    Not true Grey Warden. Bazemore will play. He’ll play because he’s good and has shown he’s good. Even if he’s 12th man. Last year even RJ, who was well past his prime and on the bottom of our depth chart – got real minutes and would have gotten more if he could perform. If the talent runs deep, so will the minutes.
    Mostly it’ll depend on the matchups.
    But if he keeps getting better he’ll be out there.

  • Stephen Juan

    The nice thing about Kent is that you can plug him in either guard spot and he can relieve Klay on the defensive end. I’m sure Mjax will figure it out. Can’t wait for the season to start.

  • Harp’s Dubs

    Bottom line is that we’re getting excited about a player who will be at the end of our bench, meaning our depth is outstanding. A few years back, we’d be talking about someone with Bazemore’s skills and ability as our 7th man. Times are good, folks!

  • earl monroe

    Although I like Douglas as a person I think he was picked up as insurance, Douglas is as good as he’s going to get, very little upside, he is good defensively, may make some shots. and will be a good soldier if he doesn’t play much. Bazemore still has upside, he is very athletic, can be great defensively, and when he gets rolling can fill it up, both will have a role, one will play one night the other the next depending on match ups, Mark Jackson is good at figuring this out. My guess is the Warriors are kicking themselves for picking up Douglas now that they’ve seen Ian Clark up close, the guy can play, because of floor spacing he may be better in the NBA than in the NCAA, and if they are looking to get points off the bench he would be a guy worth looking at and cheap,and Jackson has no fear of playing rookies either

  • Mark

    Douglas is an elite PG defender, and a good-enough offensive player to play some minutes at the point. Like any Warriors fan, I like Bazemore, but c’mon… he can’t handle well enough to play the point, and he can’t shoot well enough to play the 2 (his real position), which makes him back of the bench guy on any good team. I’m rooting for him, and can see him earn some minutes in the second unit, but until he fixes that slingshot stroke, his athleticism will be wasted.

    It bothers me that Mark Jackson has bluntly stated that he doesn’t believe in shooting coaches or messing with a guy’s shot. If Bazemore could learn to hit the 3, he’d be a Kawhi Leonard-type player.

  • Mark

    For that matter, if DGreen could replace his push shot with a good stroke, he could be 6th man of the year. Maybe there are good and bad ways to teach shooting, but the idea that it can’t be taught, or teaching will do more harm than good is just stupid. Look at the Spurs…

  • Dave

    The tattoo fad is getting a little extreme.

  • pj

    i thought bazemore played great during summer league. but cmon. don’t you guys remember when you were raving about bellinelli’s summer league performance. how long did it take him to make an impact in the nba? im definitely rooting for the guy, but lets be realistic, he played against a bunch of guys trying to get into the NBA, he’s already in. he should dominate it.

  • supernashwan

    I’ve been saying all along this guy needs more minutes. Last season you could see in games where he got on the floor he was an impact guy and i think that now Jack is gone you can go with a Bazemore/Curry @ 2/Klay @ 3 lineup and let Bazemore drive and kick while locking down the PG at the other end.

    I haven’t see any comments on how well he played D at the summer league. I know much isn’t played there generally, but you’d hope he’d continue to reinforce his good habits.

  • DubsDuds

    Watching DGreen shoots the ball during Summer League was painful. Hopefully, we won’t shoot that often during reg season

  • DubsDuds


  • Steve in Oakland

    Steph Curry may be the most fundamentally sound shooter in the league and his stats back that up. Couldn’t he spend a few minutes of each practice working with the young guys refining their technique?He obviously reaped the benefits of his dad’s coaching (also a great shooter) so why not pass on what he learned so well?

  • marko

    Last year, Curry averaged 38.2 minutes per game (MGP), Klay put in 36.8, and Jack was 29.7. Iguodala played 34.7 with the Nuggets. They all probably played too much, and should cut back to 30 each this year, and maybe take off time on back-to-backs. Douglas has been playing around 18. 110 minutes total with 15-25 games off among them.

    Barnes, Green, and Jefferson together played 46 MPG. Lee and Landry were good for 60 minutes, but lots of that was Bogut relief. Biedrins/Bogut/Ezeli were 30 minutes per game. Sub O’Neal and Speights for Beans and Landry, cut Jefferson and trade Bogut missed games for Festus; these fellows probably fill 120 MPG, again with 40-50 games off for rest & injury among them.

    10 open minutes for 82 games. 20 guard games-off @ 30 MPG + 45 big games-off @ 15 MPG – this means about 2,100 minutes for Bazemore et.al. That’s as much as Green+Jefferson+Biedrins played last season…

  • Grey Warden

    Man, this new layout is terrible. Anybody know where to find Adam Laurisen’s blog or heck, even the dreaded Tim Kawakwame Brown’s blog?

  • Dave

    It’s the same layout as the others. Refresh your browser.

  • 703WIB

    Kent went to my alma mater (ODU). He’s a TRUE ROLE MODEL. He’s an example any high school basketball star with a NBA dream and a scholarship should follow. He redshirted the first year to get a feel for school. Played and worked hard for 4 years afterwards. By his redshirt Jr. Year earned National Defensive Player of the year, and was noticed by NBA Scouts by his redshirt Sr. Year. He even managed to get TWO Bachelor’s degrees over 5 years (knowing BBall is never guaranteed).

    Last Summer he earned his way on the Warriors Roster with an impressive performance in the 2012 Summer League, worked hard the entire year to stay on a roster DOING WORK in Games with the little minutes he got. He was even almost a hero in round 2 against San Antonio with that reverse layup until Ginobli delivered him a facial and every time he went to the D-League (to be tested) he was MVP of that game and would be pulled back up to the Warriors Roster. And his attitude is PHENOMENAL. He supports his teammates more than any player that I have ever seen. He takes nothing for granted.

    Kent is and will always be a blue colored worker who wants again would be tested and had to prove himself in the 2013 Summer League and he did it. He made the 5 Player all NBA Summer League Team( Really MVP), Was FIRST on the Best Dunks of Summer League and lead his team to a 7-0 record, and too humbled to be satisfied.

    One thing for sure, that #499 o 500 ranking has been changed!! Keep that KOBE BRYANT work ethic going BAZE!! It’s just a matter of time and patience…..

  • Grey Warden

    Dave, they changed the entire look/format of the Merc website.


    Can’t find their blogs with this new look.

  • Juan

    Can someone tell me two things:

    (1) How does one get on to the old Merc News Forum, since the Merc News discontinued hosting it?

    (2) What about Adam Lauridsen’s blog on Merc News? I don’t find it listed anywhere in the new format.

    thanks to anyone who can help with these points.

  • Dave

    I usually don’t go to that site. I go straight to MT’s twitter page and get the link to the blog from there.


    I just use google/google news for the other blogs.

  • Grey Warden

    How to tell if a website re-design is terrible:

    When a merc writer can’t even find his own blog on the website:

    TK tweet: For those looking for my blog on the re-designed Merc website… if you find it, let me know. I can’t find it, either.

  • Dave

    TK is an idiot.

  • The City

    Just google: tim kawakami blog

    Boom, it’s the first hit.

  • Keep this guy. Even though (Urkle)(Cury is the main guy, he still has brittle ankles and playing him for extensive periods places the team at a disadvantage.I thinks the Warriors have never had this much talent. We should be looking at challenging for the Western conference championship.
    Go Warriors.

  • Stan

    If your into local media happenings:http://stan55chevy.blogspot.com/2013/08/radnich-loves-leiberman-now.html
    My blog has adult language- forewarned.

  • Stan

    Bazemore? Radnich tried to get him to putdown Obama. Raddy is a master manipulator…but Bazemore held his ground.

  • Stan

    Tk was somebody. 5 years ago.

  • Stan

    Or is it ten now?