On March 21, 2012, the Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Hornets on the road to end a four-game losing streak. It was not a precursor of things to come, as the Warriors would go on to lose 18 of their final 22 games of the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season. The Warriors were on the road to nowhere, or so it seemed.
On March 21, 2012, Kent Bazemore was taken into custody just minutes before Old Dominion faced Mercer in the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Bazemore was in uniform, but that didn’t matter to the law enforcement officials who took him away for failing to fulfill his alcohol-education requirements after a DUI arrest the previous summer.
Since that time, a lot has changed. The Warriors gelled in ways most never could’ve imagined during the 2012/13 campaign, advancing to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and giving the eventual Western Conference champions a scare in the process. Bazemore’s career enjoyed a similar trajectory.
“Last year at this time, I was dealing with some off the court issues. Everything wasn’t going my way,” said Bazemore, a swingman known for his energy, enthusiasm and 6′ 11.5″ wingspan — pretty remarkable considering he stands only 6′ 3.75″ without shoes.
“My future in the NBA was kind of shaky. Even for an optimistic guy like myself, I was kind of like, ‘Man, what does my future hold?'”
Having his name called during the 2012 NBA Draft wasn’t in the cards, and Bazemore wasn’t happy with his performance in the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where his measurables stood out more than his game. Yet he still landed a workout with the Warriors that led to an invite to play with their Summer League team, where in four games he averaged 20.5 mpg and 8.5 ppg on 47% shooting. Bazemore has always been known more for his activity on the defensive end, and that’s where he thrived in Las Vegas, averaging 1.6 steals per contest and 1.8 blocks — that last number placed him ninth among Summer Leaguers and just a shade under the 2 bpg averaged by Festus Ezeli.
“Ever since then, I just took off as a person and as a player,” said Bazemore, who made the Warriors’ opening night roster and played in 70 games, including anywhere from one second to four minutes of playing time in nine postseason contests. Bazemore brought the energy and physical gifts, but he was by no means a finished product when he entered the NBA. Luckily, the veterans in the Warriors’ locker room set him straight.
“I can’t ask for a better group of guys to help me with the growing process. My first few checks weren’t going like they should. Guys helped me out, told me I got to take care of this,” said Bazemore, who also credited Warriors video scout Joe Boylan with helping develop his shooting, confidence and court vision.
Bazemore was easy to spot all season long, even though he spent the year as a reserve. He became one of the most well-known cheerleaders in the league, which spawned a new name for his particular brand of celebrating: Bazemoring. But Bazemore says he’s been this way ever since his days at Old Dominion.
“My freshman year of college, I redshirted. And we were playing Georgetown, the team with Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, Vernon Macklin. They were loaded. We were at home, and I used to wear these loud-colored shoes. I’ll never forget, I had these orange shoes and I used to sit right beside the coaches and jump up and down and whatnot. The referee makes this bad call and I’m jumping up and down, like, ‘Oh man, c’mon!’ He walks over to the bench and says, ‘If you don’t sit down, I’m going to throw you out.’ Ever since then, I’ve just been that type of guy,” Bazemore said.
“But the Bay Area took it and ran with it. I would’ve never came up with the term ‘Bazemoring.’ It’s this area, they love their sports and they love their players.”
Bay Area fans quickly took to the rookie, who added a little flair and personality to a team that didn’t have much of an identity during Mark Jackson’s first year as head coach. However, Jackson and the Warriors are probably more interested in seeing improvement from Bazemore on the offensive end next season. One of Bazemore’s main goals this offseason is to work on “getting in the lane, finishing above the seven-footers of the league,” as well as improving his jumper.
“He’s one of the hardest working players on the team,” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers. “We have high hopes for him. He’s shown flashes of being a very good NBA player.”
Golden State jettisoned Charles Jenkins during the middle of last season. They did so in part to avoid the luxury tax, but it showed that Bazemore was a part of their future plans. The move left relatively few guards on the roster, too. One of the Warriors’ most important players last season, Jarrett Jack, is an unrestricted free agent. Even if Jack does return, the Warriors (who currently do not have a draft pick) need viable backcourt players. Enter Bazemore, who wants to use his exuberance and long arms to annoy opponents from an area other than the bench.
“A guy whose motor I admire is Russell Westbrook. I like watching guys like Avery Bradley, guys who make 94 feet seem like four feet, the way they get up and down the floor,” said Bazemore. “That’s one thing I want to do, bring energy, just play as hard as I can. That’s how I got in this league, that’s how I’m going to try to stick around.”
It’s that attitude that has made Bazemore a popular player in the Warriors’ locker room. However, a strong work ethic and all the cheering in the world couldn’t shield Bazemore from becoming the target of the team’s most elaborate prank of the season.
“There were these kids in this Bazemoring contest, and they got a chance to meet me at practice. So it’s before practice. I’m like the only one in the gym. I come in early, so I’m like, ‘No one’s in here. What’s going on?’ I think the whole organization was in on it, because they were like, “Alright, let’s go outside and take some pictures,'” Bazemore recalled.
“I go outside, and my car was parked right in front of the door. And there was a tarp under my car. I opened the door and ‘SHOOOOO,’ popcorn everywhere. It was frustrating at first, but it was just the love the guys have for me to pull a prank on a guy like me. Because they knew I would laugh it off.”
Even though the popcorn smell lingered in his car for two weeks, that was nothing compared to the mess he had gotten himself into a year before. Bazemore appears to have learned from the mistakes he made in college, and now he has a chance to earn a larger role next year with Golden State. He’ll work on refining his game during the offseason and in next month’s Summer League, but don’t expect him to tone down his personality or to stop “Bazemoring” anytime soon.
“I just like to be the light in the room, just shine,” he said. “A lot of guys at first thought I was kind of aggravating, but they couldn’t get rid of me.”