PHOENIX, Ariz -- Kelenna Azubuike is a young, athletic, and potentially explosive offensive player for the Golden State Warriors. But his up and down play this season has made him somewhat of an enigma to his coach, Don Nelson.
Azubuike scored 25 points and made four of his six three-point attempts during the Warriors' win over the Suns earlier in the week, but completely disappeared in the rematch on Friday. After playing 27 minutes in the first meeting, he managed to stick around for just 15 minutes in the second, and finished with just five rebounds and three personal fouls -- but zero points.
When the game was over, I asked Nelson what he was seeing with Azubuike, considering the extreme change from game to game in his performances. With an unopened Bud Light in his right hand (hey, technically it wasn't a press conference), I got a sarcastic yet classic response from the veteran NBA head coach.
"I didn't see him, did you see him?," Nelson joked. "He was missing in action. I don't know how a guy could be so good one night and not find a way to get involved. You know, it's hard for me, but, again, he's a young player that I guess has to learn these things."
Nelson's post-game remarks were shorter than normal; he didn't bother with the customary opening remarks, and the entirety of his session lasted barely two minutes. But his comments about Azubuike were telling, especially considering that as a team the Warriors had allowed over 70 points in the paint, which was obviously more of a reason for their loss than the fact that one of their players was inconsistent from one game to the next.
Of course, any NBA head coach wants to see consistency from the players in his starting lineup. But Azubuike has been mostly solid, this one game in Phoenix excepted. As Matt Barnes said in the Suns' locker room afterwards, he simply "went from sugar to s--t."
It was just one game, and if Azubuike can get back on track, he'll just as quickly be able to find himself back in his coach's good graces.