Ky Bowman entered American Airlines Center in Dallas on Wednesday afternoon knowing only that he was going to play. He’s healthy, he’s a Warrior and these days that ensures minutes.
Not before tipoff against the Mavericks, Bowman got a mild surprise. He would be in the starting lineup, the nominal replacement for three-time All-Star Draymond Green.
Just like that, the undrafted rookie point guard — operating on a two-way contract that signifies him as a fringe NBA player — was in charge of being the Warriors’ court general.
And lead, Bowman did.
His teammates, however, didn’t do much following. The Warriors were rolled by the Mavericks, 142-94, and there never was much doubt.
In the kind of game every Warrior might want to forget — blown out, lots of garbage time — Bowman showed well. He performed at least as well as the coaching staff could have wanted: 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 2-of-3 from deep. He was the only Warrior to shoot at least 50 percent, and one of two without a turnover.
“It’s just a blessing for me to be here, to get with this opportunity,” Bowman told reporters in Dallas. “Just being able to be here with these guys and just learn and pick up things every night is big for me.”
Bowman displayed the kind of characteristics associated with smallish, pugnacious players, such as Clippers guard Patrick Beverley and Lakers guard Avery Bradley. His game is all about tenacity.
“Ky’s really tough, and he’s very competitive,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s doesn’t ever back down from anything or anybody. He’s not ever afraid out there.”
That’s the only way Bowman knows how to play. He’s 6-foot-1 at most, a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s physique. He grew up in Havelock, N.C. thinking more about football than basketball. By the time he glimpsed his hoops future, football had become his mentality.
Not that it helped much against Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who is at least six inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than Bowman.
Luka owned this game, with 35 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. There wasn’t much Bowman or any other Warrior could do about it.
Which did not keep Bowman from trying.
“I mean it’s hard when someone is going like that, so just try to disrupt him in any way you can,” he said.
“I’m still going to pick up 94.”
The “pick up 94” reference relates to the 94-foot length of the court. It implies Bowman is willing, even eager, to defend every inch. It is, he says, his mindset.
That focus and intensity is what impressed the Warriors enough to offer the two-way contract. They could not have known they would lose superstar point guard Stephen Curry four games into the season, or that backup Jacob Evans III would play only three games before being sidelined for more than a month.
Or that combo guard D’Angelo Russell, who assumed Curry’s role once Stephen went town, would miss three games with a mild ankle sprain and then sustain a thumb sprain that has kept him off the court since last Friday.
This series of events shoved Bowman, who expected to spend most of the season with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, into heavier NBA minutes than anticipated. He played 32 minutes in Dallas in a game the Warriors would like to bury.
“Flush it down the toilet,” Kerr said. “Literally, you just move on. You don’t take anything from a game like this.”
Said Bowman: “I say we just learn from this. We play again, you know? That’s the good thing about the NBA, is that there are so many games ahead. So just learning from this one and moving on to the next one.”
Regardless of Green’s status against the Jazz on Friday, Bowman can expect a lot of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. He’ll be mentally ready for the challenge, no matter the outcome.