August 13, 2022

LAS VEGAS — Jama Mahlalela had plenty to smile about after Summer League practice on Thursday.

“The team played better today so it made me feel better, it’s more about that,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “But I feel great.”

Receiving a promotion after your first year on the job will do that to a person.

The Warriors didn’t have to look far for Mike Brown’s replacement as they plan to promote assistants Kenny Atkinson and Mahlalela for the upcoming season.

Atkinson, who recently lost his head coaching position with the Charlotte Hornets, will take Brown’s place as senior assistant following Brown’s departure to take up a head coaching position with the Kings. Meanwhile, Mahlalela, a development guru, will move past the bench as he takes on more responsibility in his second season with the Warriors.

The news, which was first reported Thursday morning by The Athletic, comes as no complete surprise as general manager Bob Myers hinted during his pre-draft press conference that he preferred to fill the void left by Brown’s departure with internal candidates.

Atkinson, 55, appeared to be on the doorstep after this season as the Hornets reportedly picked him to be their next head coach in the NBA Finals. But winning a title convinced him to return to the Warriors for another season.

He will replace the head coaching job if Steve Kerr, 56, needs a replacement for a game. Kerr missed three games in the Western Conference semifinals after testing positive for COVID and missed games in past seasons with a variety of physical health issues.

Meanwhile, Mahlalela will continue to lead the Warriors development team after earning praise for his work in helping Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, Moses Moody and others shine this season. He will also be more involved in roster, special teams and scouting conversations.

Prior to joining the Warriors last year, Mahlalela was the head coach of G League branch Toronto for two seasons and spent seven seasons with the Raptors, serving as an assistant coach and director of talent development. players.

Since winning the title last month, Mahlalela has spent the last few weeks reflecting on what went so well in his freshman year in the Bay Area. He came to the conclusion that the Warriors’ unique culture and chemistry are the key ingredients to the team’s success.

“All the pieces fit, from every coach and our inner workings to our performance group and they are amazing at what they do to each of our players,” Mahlalela said Thursday afternoon. “I felt like those three departments, including the front office, had all worked very effectively over the last league season and for me that’s largely because we have great people. in this organization and… I get to be part of that energy, part of that vibe and relationships with some really great people every day.

The latest on James Wiseman

Dripping with sweat, James Wiseman looked exhausted after a long scrum on Thursday afternoon.

That was the point, according to Mahlalela.

“Part of his growth, he has to catch his breath. You almost have to blow him out and make him super tired, that’s really the only way to push him to the next level,” Mahlalela said. “It was intentional today to put his hands in his lap and tire him out on purpose, that’s how you get better, that’s how you grow and so he fought for that and so that the makes it better the next day and makes it better the day after that.”

Mahlalela called Thursday “another big step” for Wiseman in his build-up process. The Warriors are still targeting him to make a later Summer League appearance, but he showed flashes of his protective and rim-rebounding abilities in Thursday’s scrimmage.

Wiseman missed all of last season with a knee injury. He’ll be out on Friday, but the Warriors will be watching how his body reacts to the extra workload.

“We are cautious but we are cautiously optimistic about his return,” Mahlalela said.