Eric Paschall used the word “excited” 10 times in his introductory news conference, so it appears safe to conclude he views his trade to the Utah Jazz as a positive development.
And for reasons beyond merely being reunited with childhood friend Donovan Mitchell, too.
After being surprisingly productive as a rookie second-round pick for a Warriors team decimated by injuries, then seemingly falling out of favor in his second season, he’s eager for a chance to hit the proverbial reset button and prove himself to his new team.
“In my career, I would say nothing has been easy. So I’m excited for a new start, and excited to compete with those guys,” Paschall said. “It’s a journey, and I’m pretty excited to just be a part of the Jazz organization.”
Of course, having a familiar face on his new team doesn’t hurt.
Mitchell and Paschall famously played together as Westchester County, N.Y., teens on “The City” AAU basketball team, but their shared history actually goes deeper than that.
Paschall said they’e known each other since they were 6 or 7 years old, that they grew up literally “500 feet” from one another on the same street, and attended the same church. Mitchell would often get rides to practices from Paschall’s dad, and Paschall would, in turn, get lifts from Mitchell’s parents.
“Our families put a lot into each other,” Paschall said. “… So we went through this together. And now that we’e both here, it’s a big blessing.”
And they’ve remained tight over the years, to the point that they both employ the same agent, Ty Sullivan of Creative Artists Agency.
After the Warriors agreed to terms with free agent forwards Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica, Paschall naturally started hearing rumors that he was on his way out. Soon enough, Sullivan confirmed the news, and let his client know that he was bound for Utah.
“He called me and said, ‘You’re getting traded to the Jazz.’ I was pretty happy,” Paschall recalled.
Yes, he was happy to be teammates with Mitchell again. But he was also happy to get a new opportunity to prove himself once more.
In 2019-20, he started 26 of the 60 games he appeared in for Golden State, averaging 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 27.6 minutes. In ‘20-21, however, his numbers tumbled to 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 17.4 minutes, as he started just two of 40 games played.
Some of his diminished activity may be attributed to a hip flexor injury that kept him out for more than a month late in the season. But there’s also no denying that coach Steve Kerr increasingly opted for other players this past season.
Still, when Paschall did play, he remained productive, with his scoring and rebounding per-36 numbers as an NBA sophomore actually surpassing what he did as a rookie. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old knows he has much room yet to grow.
“Nothing’s going to be easy, you’re going to have setbacks. You can’t just have a perfect career, and you’re going to go through obstacles,” Paschall said. “That’s something that I’ve learned from it, and that I’m going to continue to learn from.”
He said he’s already had a couple of “great conversations” with Jazz coach Quin Snyder, though they’ve been of the non-basketball, getting-to-know-you variety. Regardless, the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder believes he can help the team with the flexibility and versatility they’ve been seeking this offseason, claiming he’s comfortable playing “probably three positions, for sure,” but is up for “whatever puts me on the floor, to be real.”
To that end, he’s been working on improving his 3-point shooting. After hitting just 28.7% of his 2.2 attempts per game as a rookie and 33.3% of his 1.4 attempts per game last year, he recognizes that’s an area of his skill set he needs to improve. Not that it wouldn’t have become painfully obvious to him in Utah even if he lacked the self-awareness. Asked what advice his bestie had dispensed about Utah and the Jazz, Paschall answered, “Be ready to shoot a lot of 3s.”
“I already know they put ‘em up. I’ve been working on my 3 all summer. All I know is you have to be ready to shoot 3s,” he added. “It kind of reminds me of my college days at Villanova — coach [Jay] Wright used to teach us to catch to shoot. The year we won the championship, I think we set the record for the most 3s in an NCAA season. So I know what I’m getting into, and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”