LOS ANGELES — About 45 minutes before the Warriors‘ 109-100 loss to the LA Clippers, forward Omari Spellman is explaining his rationale behind packing two pairs of sneakers for the current two-game road trip.
The black Air Jordan 14s sitting atop his locker are described as his ‘shooting sneaker,’ used for his jab-step pull-up. Seven feet below sit his Nike Kyrie Vs, used for an extra boost when he attempts a poster dunk.
For much of the season, Spellman has been using symbols to find confidence in his game. Along the way, he’s found a path to revitalize his career. Over the last week, he’s shooting nearly 60 percent from beyond the arc. Now, after a solid performance Friday night, he’s continuing his path into Golden State’s future.
«I’m just playing free man,» Spellman told NBC Sports Bay Area. «I just believe in myself. I’m just hooping, bro.»
Spellman’s newfound faith showed against the Clippers. In 28 minutes, he finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists, providing versatile play in his first start of the season. Nine minutes into the second quarter, he received the ball off a screen, took a jab step on Clippers big man Ivica Zubac before sinking a 3-pointer at the top of the key. A minute later, he hit another 3-pointer from the wing, giving Golden State a 42-39 lead. When the Warriors squandered a 10-point lead, Spellman hit his fourth shot from beyond the arc, bringing his team within three points with four minutes to go.
Friday’s output has been commonplace in recent games. Over his last four outings, he’s averaging 16 points, five rebounds, while shooting 57 percent from 3-point range. Last week, he tallied a career 23-points in a loss to the Pistons, helping his ascension into the starting lineup.
Along the way, he’s used symbols to explain his rise in confidence. Following a 18-point performance in Utah, he claimed it was due to a badly needed haircut. However, the real cause could be seen along the sidelines Friday night, following each made jumper. As Spellman scored, his teammates, including injured guards Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell and Klay Thompson forcefully cheered, fueling his output.
«It’s different when you know that guys around you believe in you,» Spellman said. «Why wouldn’t I believe myself? Everybody around me is like ‘Go, go, go.’ »
Similar experiences weren’t as common a year ago when Spellman was a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Far from family, the southern metropolis took his spirit and a chunk of his cash. Lonely, he paid for experiences to keep friends around. Depressed, he’d stress eat, pushing his weight to more than 300 pounds. When the Hawks traded him to Golden State, he hit rock bottom, crying profusely at the news. Now, more than 50 pounds lighter, he’s finding new life with the Warriors, to the delight of his teammates.
«Just seeing his demeanor now and how much confidence he’s playing with, it means a lot to me,» said rookie Eric Paschall, who played with Spellman in college. «I’m very proud of him.»
At his current pace, Spellman could be a vital piece in Golden State’s future. A 6-foot-9 center, his ability would complement Curry and Thompson’s exploits next season, a future the 23-year old is already envisioning.
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«It’s going to be hard to guard,» he said. «I think personally it might be hard to guard but I don’t to get ahead of myself so just take it day by day. So when they get back I’m going to be ready.»
For now, he’s happy with his current progress, no matter what shoe is on his feet.
«Just finally having that breakthrough is a long time coming,» Spellman said. «And I’m just happy that I’m finally here.»
Warriors big man Omari Spellman has newfound belief, is ‘playing free’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area