Warriors’ Trayce Jackson-Davis Holds Down Team USA Big Men – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

LAS VEGAS – There was a scene during Team USA’s second and final exhibition game against the USA Select Team on Monday that underscored the many valuable lessons Trayce Jackson-Davis can take with her back to San Francisco.

The sophomore Warriors center set a high screen on Steph Curry above the 3-point line for USA Select teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr., rolled to the basket and the left-hander finished with an offhand over Joel Embiid. Jackson-Davis then dropped deep into the paint on defense because of LeBron James’ driving ability, leaving Embiid open at the top of the arc.

And so Jackson-Davis returned just a little too late.

His hand went up, but Embiid wasn’t bothered by it, as he was given ample space and drilled a three-pointer over Jackson-Davis, a teachable moment that was surely discussed on film later that same day.

“This is the best we can get,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who is currently coaching Team USA for the final time, told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Earlier in the scrimmage, Jackson-Davis began setting a screen for Brandon Miller to his left near the halfway line, adjusted his body to his right, rolled and came down with a high pass over Embiid. The Warriors’ steal of a second-round pick a year ago then settled in, jumped off two feet and was fouled by Anthony Edwards on his way back up.

In the same scrimmage, Jackson-Davis was pushed all the way to the hoop by Embiid, only for the 2022-23 NBA MVP to make a spinning layup over him. Jackson-Davis lost Curry on a backdoor cut, but was lucky that Steph missed his reverse layup attempt.

Another mental note, another lesson to be learned.

Finding value in the highs and lows was evident all day. The hustle and agility of Golden State’s late-season starting center that forced Kevon Looney to the bench also allowed Jayson Tatum to get the ball out when Jackson-Davis swung down and exposed Tatum.

But Jackson-Davis’ best play of Monday may have come on a missed shot.

After guarding Curry at the 3-point line and using his length to get him to pass the ball to Anthony Edwards, Jackson-Davis sprinted back to the other side after a miss from the Minnesota Timberwolves star and saw a mismatch from Curry, who had to defend him in the post. Jackson-Davis took a strong dribble that left Edwards’ Brandon Miller wide open in the left corner.

Then Jackson-Davis found Miller without hesitation, but the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft hit the corner three. The result didn’t matter. It was Warriors basketball on the UNLV practice court.

“I just think my gut feeling,” Jackson-Davis says when I ask him where his game has grown the most since the beginning of his rookie year. “I’ve grown a little bit this year. Starting the year in the G League and then getting some playing time here and there, spot minutes, and then starting to get to the end of the year — I just feel like my growth, I just got to keep improving, keep improving on what I need to do as a player to get my guys open shots and then finish.”

Sunday’s first practice match should have shown more nerves and butterflies in the stomach of the young Select Team. Flashes of Jackson-Davis finding success with some of the game’s biggest and best giants, like Davis and Bam Adebayo, were hard to miss. And so was their will on Jackson-Davis.

The valuable lessons are piling up day after day.

Embiid didn’t name a specific Select Team player who stood out to him, but after a day of competing against Jackson-Davis, he emphasized how they’ve prepared them for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“They’ve given us a challenge,” Embiid said. “It’s been pretty good for us. They play hard, they play fast. They make a lot of plays that we can see, especially at the level of some of those Olympic teams. They’ve done a great job.”

A legendary four-year college career at Indiana wasn’t enough to make Jackson-Davis a top draft pick. His first NBA start wouldn’t come until the Warriors’ final game of the 2023 calendar year, when he scored 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting against the Dallas Mavericks.

Now, just over a year after being drafted in the second round, Jackson-Davis and his Warriors teammate Brandin Podziemski find themselves in a similar situation to the one that began Curry’s road to fame.

“I wasn’t on the Select Team, but my rookie year I was on the 2010 World Championship team,” Curry said. “You get a chance to develop your game, get tested a little bit, work on some things and make the most of your summers. It’s pretty cool to see them go through the same process.”

Each step of Jackson-Davis’ journey has seen him blossom and gain greater opportunities. Brick by brick, step by step, the big man with a fresh buzz cut and a clean-shaven chin knows he’ll come out better after battling the likes of Embiid, Davis, Adebayo and others for back-to-back exhibition games.

“Ultimately, it was a blessing to be on the field with these guys,” Jackson-Davis said.

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