Golden State Warriors 2004-05 Season Preview
=== Golden State Warriors 2004-05 Season Preview ===
By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor
2003-04 FINISH: 37-45
OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Dale Davis (C/F) - Trade with Portland; Derek Fisher (G) - Free Agent; Luis Flores (G) - Trade with Dallas; Eduardo Najera (G) - Trade with Dallas; Mladen Sekularac (G) - Trade with Dallas.
OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: J.R. Bremer (G) - Selected by Charlotte in Expansion Draft; Brian Cardinal (F) - Signed with Memphis; Erick Dampier (C) - Traded to Dallas; Evan Eschmeyer - Traded to Dallas; Popeye Jones (F) - Waived; Nick Van Exel - Traded to Portland.
2004 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (11) Andris Biedrins (F, Latvia).
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Derek Fisher, SG Jason Richardson, SF Mike Dunleavy, PF Troy Murphy, C Adonal Foyle
COACH: Mike Montgomery
(Sports Network) - Golden State's executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin has decided to turn the Warriors upside down during the offseason. He fired head coach Eric Musselman, who won 38 and 37 games the last two years, which were Golden State's most victories since 1993-94 (50), overpaid to keep a marginal center in Adonal Foyle, and made some trades that left people around the league scratching their heads.
Mullin lured Stanford's Mike Montgomery away from his cushy college job to take over for the departed Musselman. While he has no experience at the NBA level, Montgomery had been one of the most successful college coaches, as he guided Stanford to a 30-2 record last season on the way to Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. Montgomery, who had spent the last 18 years with the Cardinal, was 393-167 during his tenure with Stanford.
"We're thrilled to bring a coach the caliber of Mike Montgomery into the fold," said Mullin. "He's had a tremendous amount of success throughout his career and we think he'll be a very good fit for our organization."
Taking a chance on a Montgomery was not the only risk that Mullin decided to take in the offseason. He re-signed Foyle to a reported five-year deal worth over $40 million. The 29-year-old Foyle, an eight-year veteran out of Colgate, played just 44 games last season due to knee problems and averaged 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. He has averaged 4.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 438 career games, all with Golden State.
The Warriors did sign veteran point guard Derek Fisher, who was an unrestricted free agent, to a lucrative, multi-year contract. Fisher had spent the first eight seasons of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and was a key contributor to the Lakers squad that won three straight NBA titles beginning in 1999-2000. The 30-year-old Fisher averaged only 7.1 points and 2.3 assists per game last season while primarily serving as a backup to Gary Payton.
"We feel very fortunate to add a player and person the caliber of Derek Fisher to our team," said Mullin. "The fact that he chose the Warriors over several other attractive suitors is certainly a good feeling."
The losses that Golden State has endured could be too great for it to overcome in the coming season. Mullin dealt point guard Nick Van Exel, who averaged 12.6 points and 5.3 assists for the Warriors in 39 games last season, to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for aging center/forward Dale Davis and guard Dan Dickau. The Warriors also traded centers Erick Dampier, who was an unrestricted free agent and is coming off the best season of his eight-year career with averages of 12.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in 74 games for the Warriors in 2003-04, and Evan Eschmeyer, Dickau, and the draft rights to Steve Logan to the Dallas Mavericks for forwards Christian Laettner, who was waived and then signed with the Miami Heat, and Eduardo Najera, two future first round picks, the draft rights to guards Luis Flores and Mladen Sekularac along with cash consideration. Golden State allowed free agent forward Brian Cardinal to sign a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Golden State still has a young nucleus to build around with shooting guard Jason Richardson and forwards Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy still in the fold. With Van Exel gone, Fisher should prove to be a solid signing. However, with Montgomery as the new general on the bench and with what Mullin received in return in his two major trades, the signs point to the Warriors as a club that is trying to prepare for the re-building process.
The high-flying Richardson is an exciting, explosive guard and should be considered the cornerstone for the Golden State franchise. The 23-year-old Richardson had the best season of his three-year career in 2003-04, as he led the Warriors in scoring (18.7 ppg) and shot a career-best 43.8 percent. Richardson will take up the majority of the minutes at shooting guard.
Speedy Claxton and Fisher will battle for time at the point. The 26-year-old Claxton, who will be entering his fourth season in the league, played 60 games for the Warriors last season and averaged career-highs in points (10.6 ppg), rebounds (2.6 rpg), assists (4.5 apg) and steals (1.62 spg). Fisher gives Golden State valuable leadership and big-game experience. The two lead guards should be able to hold down the fort at the point.
Mickael Pietrus and Calbert Cheaney, who re-signed with the Warriors in the offseason, will backup Richardson. The 6-6 Pietrus, who averaged 5.3 points in 53 games during his rookie campaign for the Warriors in 2003-04, is solid defensively and is still trying to prove that he belongs in the league, while Cheaney, who will be entering his 12th season in the NBA, can give Montgomery an offensive spark off the bench.
Golden State hopes that Dunleavy and Murphy can prove that they can be a formidable forward combination. The 24-year-old Dunleavy, who had a dismal rookie season in 2002-03, improved in his sophomore year as he averaged 11.7 points and 5.9 boards in 75 contests. Dunleavy, who was selected out of Duke in the first round (third overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft by Golden State, has the ability to knockdown a jumper from anywhere on the court and should continue to improve this season.
The 24-year-old Murphy played just 28 games in 2003-04 because of injuries. The 6-11 power forward showed in 2002-03 when he averaged a double-double (11.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg) that he can hold his own in the low post. A healthy Murphy is a big key if the Warriors want to compete every game.
Veteran Cliff Robinson will be the first reserve off the bench to spell Murphy or Dunleavy. The 37-year-old Robinson averaged 11.8 points and 3.9 boards in just under 35 minutes per game for Golden State last season. He started all 82 regular-season contests for the Warriors and will be even more effective in a backup role. The 6-10 Robinson, who could also see time at center, should prove to be a good tutor for the younger players on the squad.
Davis and Foyle will patrol the middle for the Warriors. Both players lack any kind of offensive game, and Montgomery will have to get the most out of the skills of Davis and Foyle on the defensive end of the court. Robinson will help add some scoring at center when he fills in for the duo.
Rookie center/forward Andris Biedrins, who was selected 11th overall by Golden State in the 2004 NBA Draft, is considered a project and will learn about the NBA game from the bench in his rookie season. His playing time will be extremely limited, but the Warriors feel it will be well worth the wait for this talented foreign player.
Montgomery should have a rude awakening in his first season as a head coach in the NBA. Mullin has a lot of work left to do with the roster if the Warriors hope to become a playoff squad once again. The last time Golden State appeared in the postseason was in 1993-94, when Mullin was a player on a club that won 50 games and had Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell and Tim Hardaway on it. At least there are some pieces in place, as Dunleavy, Murphy and Richardson are young and talented, and they do give Montgomery some talent to work with.
With so many changes, some of which are very questionable, it looks like Golden State will be watching the playoffs from the sidelines for an 11th straight season.GSW