Warriors Thinking Guard for NBA Draft

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - If new Warriors general manager Larry Riley chooses a point guard with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's NBA draft, Monta Ellis might be looking for an explanation.

Or not, according to Riley.

Riley and coach Don Nelson recently flew to Memphis to meet with their star guard and reiterate how important he is to Golden State's success. They want the dynamic Ellis to be the key piece for the future and for him to assume a greater leadership role, too.

It's not every day that a GM and coach fly across the country to wine and dine a player for more than 1½ hours.

"I thought he was one of the most important ingredients on our team. I didn't want to leave it in question," Riley said Monday. "Our point was to put everybody on the same page. It's one of those situations where I thought it was important to sit down and look at Monta across the table and have us an open conversation."

Ellis, 23 and a new father, will go into training camp as the team's projected starting point guard, even if the Warriors draft someone such as Davidson star Stephen Curry come Thursday.

Ellis signed a lucrative $66 million, six-year deal after he averaged a career-best 20.2 points during the 2007-08 season. He then sustained a serious ankle injury last summer in a mo-ped mishap and missed most of the season. It cost him a 30-game suspension without pay from team president Robert Rowell.

He returned to average 19 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 25 games. Riley and Nelson are looking for improved passing and decision-making by Ellis, who tends to first look to score. The Warriors need to decrease turnovers, upgrade their up-tempo offense and make more free throws.

"Is he going to be John Stockton? No. We know that. It's not going to happen," Riley said of Ellis. "The reason you would take a point guard there would be that if his ability were to overshadow the other guy that might be there. I would go with talent. I think you stockpile talent."

Riley said Ellis hasn't directly requested a trade despite his frustrations at times with the franchise.

Nelson declined to specifically discuss the trip to see Ellis.

"I went down there privately to talk to Monta, like I do to a lot of my players," Nelson said during a brief visit with reporters Monday.

Yet Riley very well might wind up with a power forward such as 6-foot-10, 235-pound Jordan Hill out of Arizona - the trend for this team in recent drafts.

Either way, Riley is looking for someone who can contribute immediate minutes, probably more so in the season's second half.

"Jordan Hill is an NBA-ready guy in terms of his body and also in terms of his skills," Riley said. "I think he can play some (as a rookie), I do."

This choice could help define Riley's tenure - and he knows it. But he insists, "Unless something changes, I'm not going to be suicidal if things go badly."

The Warriors dismissed top basketball executive Chris Mullin last month and replaced him with the 64-year-old Riley - he'd been an assistant general manager since November and previously a former longtime assistant to Nelson.

Nelson acknowledges the Warriors remain committed to their youth
movement but didn't offer any input on what he thinks the draft will do for his roster.

"I'm not going to talk about the draft," Nelson said. "I want to go watch film. I'm telling you, I don't want to talk about anything. I try not to lie to you guys, but around the draft I will. ... I think we're going to get a good player."

The Warriors have reached the playoffs only once since 1994, ending a 12-year postseason drought in 2006-07 with a run to the second round. They missed the playoffs in 2008 despite 48 wins - the first 48-win NBA team not to make the playoffs.

So, will it be Curry or Hill?

"Those are two great names," Riley said. "But I don't want to discuss the ins and outs of both those guys."


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