NBA

Donte DiVincenzo appears to be the Warriors’ latest health success story

ADVERTISEMENT

LAS VEGAS — When Donte DiVincenzo spoke on the phone with Steph Curry and Draymond Green before agreeing to a two-year contract with the Warriors in free agency, the focus was on culture and the environment. But his conversation with Curry contained a different element.

Health.

ADVERTISEMENT

If anyone knows what it’s like to recover from an ankle injury, or in Curry’s case multiple ankle injuries, it’s the Warriors superstar. DiVincenzo thinks being part of the Warriors is the best place for him to do just that.

During the 2020-21 season, the former Villanova first-round pick was enjoying his breakout season in third year as the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting shooter. In 66 regular season games, all starters, DiVincenzo reached several career highs, including points (10.4), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.1) and 3-point percentage ( 37.9%) while playing strong perimeter defense. In the first two games of the playoffs, he had 17 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, but was later ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a ligament tear in his left ankle he suffered in second quarter against the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Bucks’ first-round series.

After undergoing surgery in the offseason, DiVincenzo simply wasn’t the same player when he returned at the start of last season. He missed the first 30 games of the season and twisted his ankle during warm-ups after playing just three games. The stats haven’t done him any favors either. He knows it, but also knows the player he is and what he can bring to a championship team.

Just like Curry.

“It’s something that Steph and I talked about, just the injury,” DiVincenzo said on Saturday. “He’s like, ‘We know you can play. You know you can play. You just have to show everybody for a year that you can play.’

“After the injury, it’s not hidden – I started slowly. The percentages weren’t there, everything wasn’t there. I was still trying to get traction and everything. Then being traded , it just weighs on you .

“Now I have a full offseason to start developing more and getting acclimated to this system. I think once I get acclimated to the system and everything they do, everything will take off from the.”

On February 10 of this year, DiVincenzo was part of a four-team trade that sent him to the Sacramento Kings. In 17 games with the Bucks last season, he averaged 7.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 28.4 percent from deep. But in 25 games with the Kings, those numbers went up to 10.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and a 36.8 percent 3-point clip. He also averaged 1.5 steals per game for Sacramento.

More than anything, he felt he was running out of time in Sacramento and hitting his stride as the Kings’ season drew to a close.

DiVincenzo’s surgery is now 15 months behind him. He says he feels great, moves like he’s never had surgery and is already working out with the Warriors coaching staff.

“You can’t do anything on the court unless you’re healthy,” DiVincenzo said. “It’s a big priority for me. I’ve been there before with the performance team trying to acclimate to them to just take my body and take it to the next level.”

The Warriors have a long history of success with previously injured players. This is true for new names in the organization and those who have been in the building for years.

DiVincenzo, like everyone else, saw hard work pay off for Klay Thompson last season after missing the previous two and a half years with leg injuries. Curry missed the final two weeks of the regular season with a foot injury and came off the bench the first four games of the playoffs before earning Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals MVPs. Head coach Rick Celebrini spent All-Star Weekend in Cabo spending two days with Draymond Green to get him back on his feet, pushing to return from a back injury that kept him out of action for two months.

There were hugs and tears left and right on the TD Garden floor once the Warriors were able to celebrate their final championship. One of the biggest was between Thompson and Celebrini.

Now healthy, DiVincenzo can also join a long line of players whose careers took a turn for the better after becoming a warrior. He spoke about it with former warrior Eric Paschall, as well as with Jordan Poole. Just look at last season’s squad, and it’s clear that 25-year-old DiVincenzo, who has a player option for the second year of his contract, can prepare for the future.

“I know Jordan Poole has taken a big step forward in his career and you can see how much they care about that,” DiVincenzo said. “So what [Gary Payton II]. What Gary did last year. Likewise [Otto Porter Jr.]. Looking at how these guys have helped other players is what I think is best for me.”

RELATED: How Steph & Draymond Were Key to Warriors Signing DiVincenzo

Everything is aligned in favor of DiVincenzo to be a strong player, one that will be needed for the Warriors to try to repeat. He spoke with coach Steve Kerr and said he was ready to do whatever was asked of him, either side of the ball. DiVincenzo thinks he’s another perfect piece of the puzzle, as are all the good voices within the Warriors.

History, past and present, is on his side.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk podcast

ADVERTISEMENT