Golden State Warriors
One volunteer is eager -- and able -- to pick up the scoring slack
By Ian Thomsen
Team Page | Conference ranking: 11 | Overall ranking: 19
The players most responsible for last season's 38 wins -- Antawn Jamison (traded), Gilbert Arenas and Earl Boykins (free agents) -- are gone. "They were our clutch shooters," says coach Eric Musselman. "Who is going take those shots this year?"
Frantically waving his hand and calling for the ball is third-year shooting guard Jason Richardson. Though he started all 82 games and averaged 15.6 points last season, Richardson complained that Musselman was bypassing him in the offense in favor of Arenas, who averaged 18.3 points and then signed a six-year, $64 million contract with the Wizards over the summer. "A lot of people were trying to pit me and Gil against each other, but it wasn't his fault -- he wasn't the one who was calling maybe only one play a game for me," says the 6'6", 220-pound Richardson. "I was always getting the short end of the stick."
Musselman says it was nothing personal -- Jamison, Arenas and Boykins earned their leading offensive roles while helping Golden State become the league's most improved team last year. Musselman and Richardson cleared the air in meetings immediately after the season and again last month. Richardson, 22, also took stock of himself during the off-season, working hard to improve his defense and ball handling.
After losing so many key players, the Warriors need Richardson to play at a higher level, and they need newcomer Nick Van Exel, who helped the Mavericks reach the conference finals last season, to bring his A game. "I have to put the past aside and play the kind of basketball I know I can play," Richardson says. "I have to get mentally stronger than last year. I have to be accountable."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Warriors
"If you're trying to build with young guys like Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson, why would you expose them to a potentially negative influence like Nick Van Exel? Their decision to package Antawn Jamison as part of a nine-player trade to Dallas had to be purely financial. Now they'll either deal Van Exel's contract or let it expire after next season, when they'll have tons of cap space.... If Van Exel realizes they have no chance of winning, he'll try to force a trade by skipping practice and being unavailable to play in games. But if things are going well, he's a guy the other team has to fear because he's so talented and he wants so badly to beat you.... I don't think the season's going to go well, because they got rid of more talent than they added. They lost their two leading scorers in Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, and they'll be relying on three very young starters, though I feel that Dunleavy and Murphy are going to have good years. Dunleavy is an emerging star who has all the skills and knows how to use them.... Richardson has been a horrid ball handler, and teams have learned to exploit that. He's like their rookie from France, Mickael Pietrus -- those two can fly up and down the court, but they don't know how to play.... I don't like Erick Dampier or Adonal Foyle individually, but together their size and rebounding make them a fairly productive 48-minute duo at center.... The Warriors have excellent reserves in Clifford Robinson, Calbert Cheaney and Speedy Claxton, a fantastic backup point guard who thinks he's a starter.... I understand why they want to move Murphy out to the three-point line, to stretch the defense, but in doing so they take away his inside strengths -- and they are so hard to find. Once you invite guys out to the perimeter, it can be hard to get them back into the blocks."
Issue date: October 27, 2003