Warriors Entering Season with Issues

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Leading scorer Stephen Jackson wants out, tired of losing and seeing other star players leave town. Monta Ellis doesn't think he and rookie Stephen Curry can coexist in the same backcourt - at least that was his initial, gut reaction.

That's a lot of popping off by the top two players on the Golden State Warriors, all said before they had even hit the practice floor for the first time late last month. These days, the NFL's Raiders aren't the only Oakland team in disarray.

Neither Jackson nor Ellis was shy about sharing his thoughts and frustrations with this long-struggling franchise during media day Sept. 28, one day before kicking off training camp.

Coach Don Nelson and the Warriors brass believe Ellis and Curry will be just fine. Nelson, who prefers to go small in his up-tempo offense, hasn't ruled out Ellis and Curry playing together.

"I can't envision that," Ellis said. "Us together, no. I can't. I just can't. I just can't. They say we can, but we can't. I just want to win, and we're not going to win that way."

Ellis' comments - which he later backed off of following a conversation with Nellie and now insists there's no issue - and the trade demands from Jackson show the Warriors already have their share of distractions heading into the season with another young roster.

For what it's worth, Nelson has decades of NBA experience and has dealt with his share of hotheads and egomaniacs over the years. He swears he can handle a disgruntled Jackson and has no concerns that the emotional swingman and captain won't give it his best every minute he's on the floor.

Nelson and general manager Larry Riley have said they will explore a trade for Jackson if it's the right situation for the Warriors.

Even one high-profile acquisition this offseason would have made Jackson feel better about his team's chances this season in the powerful Western Conference. The Warriors were interested in a draft-night trade with the Suns that would have brought Amare Stoudemire to Golden State. It never happened.

What caught Jackson's bosses off guard is the way he went about
making his trade demand: publicly in New York with buddy and former
teammate Al Harrington at a function for their shoe company. The NBA fined Jackson $25,000 for the remarks.

All this after Jackson received a three-year contract extension worth $28 million in November - a deal that could make him tough to trade.

"Who's going to turn down that money? I'm not stupid. I didn't go to college but I've got a lot of common sense," Jackson said.

Jackson averaged 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 59 games last season. He insists he will continue to play hard as long as he's around, but has no idea what to expect.

Jackson was a key figure in the Warriors ending a 13-year playoff drought in 2007, just a few months after he arrived in the Bay Area in a trade with the Pacers.

"As you know," Jackson said, "this organization's unpredictable. Very unpredictable."

Case in point: the strangely timed departure of Chris Mullin this spring. Mullin, the beloved former player turned top executive, apparently had lost his authority months before the team parted ways with him in May.

The seemingly constant drama surrounding this club might cause other players to question whether they want to play for owner Chris Cohan.

Yet it certainly is an intriguing, entertaining team on the court with plenty of scorers.

Curry apparently is taking everything in stride as the former Davidson star adjusts to the demands of the next level. He called himself and Ellis a potentially "very explosive duo."

"I think we have a lot of talent," Curry said. "You just want to get everyone on the same page."

The Warriors are almost a different team this preseason with Ellis healthy. Riley traveled to Memphis during the offseason to meet with Ellis and reiterate that the Warriors consider him someone they think can help turn things around for good.

There may still be some hard feelings on Ellis' end. He was suspended 30 games and fined $3 million after seriously injuring his ankle in a mo-ped accident last summer and requiring surgery. He didn't return to action until January and appeared in only 25 games.

The high-scoring guard signed a six-year, $66-million contract in July 2008, about a month before the crash.

Nelson, Riley and team president Robert Rowell are eager to get the season started and, they hope, put some of these issues behind them. For now, at least.

The Warriors have shown positive signs. The 2008 squad barely missed the postseason despite winning 48 games, most by a non-playoff NBA team in a quarter-century.

Rowell said he's committed to fielding a competitive team. Nelson and Riley believe their young players will be all the better with a year's more experience.

"It'll work itself out," Nelson said. "I will say we've dedicated ourselves to building a team here. I feel very good about what we're doing and really like our young players. I think we're doing it the right way."


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