A lifetime of preparation for an NBA career has boiled down to a 10-day contract for former Stony Brook star Jameel Warney to prove himself and extend his stay at the top level. Day 7 was Saturday night at Barclays Center, where Warney did not enter the game for the Mavericks against the Nets.
Through his first three games, Warney made a maximum impact in minimum time, averaging 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game, including eight points and three rebounds in a win over the Knicks on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“The cool thing is that, in my three games, we played the two best teams in the league [Houston and Toronto], so I kind of got the nerves out against the Rockets and I’m just playing now,” Warney said after working out before the Nets game. “I’m just playing hard and trying to have the coaching staff believe in me and hoping something will come out of this.
“I’ve been doing a pretty good job of trying to win every day so I can hopefully get another 10-day and hopefully something more out of it. I’m trying to show the team that, just because I’m 6-8 on a good day, I can play.”
Warney was a three-time America East MVP at Stony Brook but went undrafted and spent the past two seasons in the G League because he’s considered undersized for a big man and his low-post skills don’t necessarily fit the modern game. That’s why the majority of his pregame workout was devoted to practicing the three-point shots he must hit to space the floor.
But Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle likes what he has seen. He especially took note of Warney’s strength when he muscled Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn to the floor.
“He makes things happen,” Carlisle said. “He’s got a nose for the ball, he’s got very good basketball senses, he has great hands, and he plays bigger than his size. He’s got a very long wingspan. He plays above the rim a little more than you think. He’s what I call a resourceful player, very underrated, underappreciated, but he’s done good things so far.”
Carlisle said “analytic geeks” might focus on limitations and envision less upside for a 24-year-old player, but the Mavs’ coach is just old- school enough to appreciate Warney’s intangibles.
“He makes doubters into believers,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes it takes a while for a guy like him that appears to be undersized to get a shot and show what he can do, but he’s our kind of guy. He doesn’t say nothing. He just goes out and kicks people’s [expletives]. That’s what you like.”
As a Long Island native, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he was familiar with Warney when he played for Steve Pikiell, the current Rutgers coach, who reserved a box for the Nets-Mavs game. “I watched Stony Brook when they won the championship,” Atkinson said of the Seawolves’ 2016 America East title win over Vermont for their first NCAA berth. “He was just destroying everybody and awesome. It’s great. I’m thrilled for the kid. I don’t know him personally, but I know people around him. It’s a great Long Island story.”
Atkinson expressed the belief that Warney can have an NBA career because of his high basketball IQ if he lands in the right circumstances. Warney just might have that situation with Dallas.
“The coaching staff has done an amazing job going over the plays and putting me in the right position and also the players on the team have been helping me out,” Warney said. “They’re letting me be myself and show what I can do best. I’m pretty happy with my performance, and I’ve just got to keep on going.”