Monday , Nov , 17 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

Warriors searching for their identity

(Sports Network) – The Golden State Warriors have a new starting point guard,
have been hurt by injuries and traded away their leading scorer in the
offseason.

Who are the Warriors and what are the expectations of this team?

On Sunday, Golden State lost a tough game on the road to the Sacramento Kings,
106-104, and fell to 4-5 on the young season.

The Warriors had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter against
the Kings.

With 33 seconds left in the game and Sacramento leading by one, the Kings were
guilty of a 24-second violation and gave the ball back to the Warriors.
Jason Richardson missed a driving layup and the Kings walked out of ARCO Arena
with the win.

“That was real tough,” Richardson said after Sunday’s game. “I usually make
that shot. It was just so open. It was just one of those things where I just
didn’t pull it out. Down the road, I know I’m not going to miss a shot like
that.

Richardson scored a team-high 31 points to lead the Warriors against the
Kings, while Mike Dunleavy finished 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from
beyond the arc for 14 points.

“We just couldn’t pull it out,” said Dunleavy. “It was a game of runs. They
started one and we had the second one and had a nice little lead. They
finished it off. It was a close game. We were right there. Obviously, that’s
not good enough for us. But a few bounces here and a few bounces there, we
probably could have won this game.”

Prior to the season, the Warriors traded Antawn Jamison, who averaged a team-
best 22.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 82 games in 2002-03, and lost starting
point guard Gilbert Arenas, who was the winner of the NBA’s 2002-03 Most
Improved Player, to the Washington Wizards through free agency.

The 27-year-old Jamison was traded in August to the Dallas Mavericks along
with Danny Fortson, Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch in exchange for Evan
Eschmeyer, Nick Van Exel, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones and Antoine Rigaudeau.

The 31-year-old Van Exel, who missed the Sacramento game with a knee injury,
is in his 11th season in the NBA and is playing on his fourth team. He was the
key acquisition for Golden State in the offseason.

The explosive Van Exel is averaging 12.2 points and a team-high 8.0 assists in
five games for the Warriors this season. He seems to be working well with the
high-flying Richardson, who leads Golden State in scoring (21.8 ppg) and is
pulling down 8.8 rebounds per contest.

The success of the Warriors will depend on the guard tandem of Richardson and
Van Exel. However, they can’t do it alone.

So far this season, power forward Troy Murphy has not played a minute. The 23-
year-old Murphy is on the injured list with a plantar fascia tear in his right
foot. Murphy needs to be in the lineup if Golden State wants to make a run at
the playoffs.

The former Notre Dame standout, who is in his third year with Golden State,
had a breakout season in 2002-03. He averaged 11.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in
79 games.

The 23-year-old Dunleavy, who had a dismal rookie season in 2002-03, is
showing that he has the talent to play in the NBA. He averaged just 5.7 points
and 2.6 rebounds last year, while shooting 40.3 percent from the field.

Dunleavy, who was selected out of Duke in the first round (third overall) of
the 2002 NBA Draft by Golden State, is second on the team in scoring (14.6
ppg) and is averaging a respectable 6.4 rebounds per game thus far this
season.

Twenty-six-year-old Brian Cardinal, who played just five games for Washington
last season, has come out of nowhere to average 12.6 points and 4.2 rebounds
off the bench.

Don’t forget about starting center Erick Dampier and veteran Cliff Robinson,
who was acquired in the offseason from Detroit for guard Bob Sura. Dampier,
who has averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 14.7 rebounds, and Robinson have
combined with Dunleavy to form a respectable starting frontcourt with Dunleavy
until Murphy returns.

Swingman Calbert Cheaney, who signed as a free agent in the offseason after
spending last season with Utah, has been a pleasant surprise. He is third on
the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and has started four contests.

Second-year coach Eric Musselman, who guided the team to a 38-44 record in
2002-03, awaits the return of Murphy, who is expected to replace the 36-year-
old Robinson, who is averaging 11.0 points and 4.2 boards, in the starting
lineup. Then Musselman’s bench will become deeper and his job will become a
little bit easier.

When Murphy returns and players go back to their expected roles, the Warriors
should learn who they are and Golden State could become a squad that teams in
the NBA are going to get to know well.

GS