With two minutes and twenty seconds left in the Golden State Warriors’ 130-102 road victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, rookie big man Trayce Jackson-Davis scooped up the missed shot. It was a big moment, not only because it secured another possession for the Warriors, but because it was the 10th rebound for Jackson-Davis.
The Warriors’ bench erupted in celebration. It was the rookie’s first career double-double in just his second career game. More than that, it was the opportunity for Jackson-Davis to break free of one particular burden of the rookie experience. A few moments later, however, the joy was deflated by a single correction on the box score.
Trayce Jackson-Davis is off to a strong start for the Golden State Warriors
The son of longtime NBA starter Dale Davis was one of the best players in college basketball over the past few seasons at Indiana University, a double-double machine who was the linchpin of the Hoosiers on both offense and defense.
An evolving NBA didn’t value his skillset in the draft, which helped to push him down the draft board. When the Warriors saw him starting to fall, they contacted his agent and encouraged them to rebuff offers of two-way deals as the second-round moved on, promising a full roster spot if the Warriors could trade back into the draft to take him.
That is exactly what happened, and Jackson-Davis has hit the ground running, a rare feat not just in the NBA but for this Warriors team specifically. It’s rare that a title contender can rely on a rookie second-rounder from the very beginning, but Jackson-Davis has proven himself with his energy, his rebounding and his ability to go above the rim and stretch defenses while rolling to the rim.
His energy fits right into the early-season energy around this Warriors team, which is 4-1 on the year and just completed a 3-0 road trip. The interpersonal tension from the start of last year is gone, evaporated in a wave of good vibes.
Which brings us back to the Pelicans game. As reported on by The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, the Warriors’ veterans bestowed the nickname of “Baby T” on Trayce Jackson-Davis. It’s not a nickname he likes, so the vets have told him he can go back to “Trayce” when he gets his first career double-double.
When Jackson-Davis grabbed that rebound with two minutes to go, the small example of teammate razzing seemed overcome much earlier than expected. It took Kevon Looney until his fourth season to log his first double-double. It was Game 52 of Draymond Green’s second season when he got there. Jackson-Davis made it in Game 2 of his rookie year.
Until he didn’t. The NBA has backup scorekeepers watching a delayed feed double-checking all box score stats, and they ruled that prior to Jackson-Davis securing the rebound that Warriors two-way guard Jerome Robinson had made a controlled tap of the ball out to him. The rebound was instead credited to Robinson, and “Baby T” lost his double-double.
This change was relayed to Jackson-Davis in the locker room, and the Warriors’ locker room reportedly went wild at the revelation. “Yes!!” Thompson said, “Baby T!!” Trayce would have to wait for another day.
The bad news for Jackson-Davis is that he’s stuck with the unwanted moniker for a while longer. The worst news? It’s not immediately obvious when he might get the chance for another one. The rookie center is not a part of the regular rotation. He saw increased playing time due to the absence of Jonathan Kuminga against the Pelicans, then stayed in the game as it became a full-on blowout. In Wednesday’s tight game against the Sacramento Kings, with Kuminga back in the lineup, Jackson-Davis was a healthy scratch.
Bad news for Jackson-Davis, but an opportunity for the vets to build that locker room camaraderie with a rookie who is already a team favorite. It’s also motivation for him to stay hungry hunting rebounds, and he can only hope that his opportunity comes soon.