OAKLAND — The Warriors’ newest addition, Jonas Jerebko, had an easy choice to make when the Utah Jazz released him nine days ago.
“My agent called and said the Warriors were interested and after that, it was a wrap,” Jerebko said Monday afternoon. “When the best team in the world calls, you answer.”
The 6-foot-10 forward agreed to a 1-year, $2.1 million deal with the Warriors.
Jerebko is a welcome addition for the Warriors’ bench, which finished 23rd in scoring last season. Last year with the Jazz, Jerebko averaged 5.3 points in 15 minutes, making 41 percent of his three-pointers. In addition, he nailed 53 percent of his corner threes.
Against the Warriors, he upped his output, averaging 8.3 points per game on 56 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three-point range. In the Warriors’ season finale against the Jazz, he scored 14 points in a 119-79 romp over the champs.
Jerebko, 31, even has familiarity with some of the Warriors’ staff and players off the court. While a member of the Detroit Pistons, the Swedish forward struck up a relationship with Draymond Green, who was playing at nearby Michigan State. Just before getting drafted in 2009, he frequently worked out with Kevin Durant at Georgetown University. Jerebko even had a pre-draft workout in front of Steve Kerr, who was then the general manager of the Phoenix Suns.
“He told me that he’s been keeping an eye on me,” Jerebko said of Kerr. “When the opportunity came, he was excited and happy and so was I.”
Jerebko’s signing, along with the re-signing of Kevon Looney, is the team’s latest attempt to surround its superstar core some help. Last summer, the team signed Nick Young and Omri Casspi in hopes of fortifying the bench.
Both additions failed, as Young struggled to find a role, and injuries to Casspi’s ankle forced his release just prior to the postseason.
Jerebko, however, wants to right that wrong.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “I’m going to play defense, get rebounds, set screens, get guys open, find the open man and I’ve been known to knock down an open shot lately, too.”
Jerebko’s multifaceted game was cultivated a half a world away in Sweden. Even though hockey, tennis and golf have bigger followings than basketball, Jerebko was drawn to the hardwood. His parents both played professionally, including his dad Chris, who played for Syracuse in the late 1970s.
As a kid, Jerebko routinely played against adults, developing a driving hook shot to combat their strength advantage. Now, as just the fourth Swedish-born player ever to play in the NBA, Jerebko hopes playing for the Warriors will help grow the game in his home country.
“The NBA is pretty big and obviously the biggest league in the world now. It’s growing. Basketball is international now and Sweden is catching up but they definitely have some catching up to do.”
“I want to show that its possible to come from Sweden and play for a team like Golden State,” Jerebko continued.
For now, though, Jerebko hopes to be in peak condition by the start of training camp in September.
“Work,” Jerebko said of his offseason plans. “I’m not going to travel much. I’ve done my vacationing and I’ve been waiting to sign somewhere and just get to work. I’m going to go back to Michigan, I’ve got a gym there and I’m going to start going and come back to the bay early and get ready.”