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Friday, August 3, 2001
Updated: August 6, 5:10 PM ET
If healthy, maybe the talent can show through

By Eric Karabell
ESPN.com

The Golden State Warriors wanted Antawn Jamison, not his college pal Vince Carter. Let's just get that out of the way up front.
Larry Hughes
Injured and reckless with the ball, Hughes is a big key for Golden State.

Sure, technically they were traded on draft day for each other, but the Warriors would have just selected Jamison if they had a choice. So don't question "the trade." Both teams are pleased with their guys. However, you can question just about everything else with this Warriors franchise, which made it seven straight non-playoff years with the recent 17-win disaster. Unless Nellie can bring back the TMC gang circa 1992, don't look for this streak to end soon. And it wouldn't be any different if Vince was here instead.

So as we continue our 2001 Summer Spotlight Series, here's the deal with the Warriors.

The good: Not a whole lot. Jamison, for all his detractors, had a breakout season, and might still get better. But while nobody questions whether Carter or Paul Pierce or Dirk Nowitzki are max-contract players, Jamison wants his extension and observers are mixed about whether he deserves it. Remember, Jamison was not good his first year, and injured half of his second. Is he a superstar? Maybe we need to see more. Maybe the Warriors need to as well.

It would help if the players around him were better. You can see glimpses of a quality team here if you look closely and squint. Danny Fortson might've led the league in rebounding last year -- had he not missed 76 of the team's 82 games. But if that broken foot can stay unbroken, he's a top-notch boardman.

But why would we expect health from this team? Overall, there were 414 total games missed due to injury or illness, easily the league's most and the third-highest total ever since the league has kept the stat (1986). We're feeling queasy just writing about the Warriors. The team's best athlete is probably guard Larry Hughes, thought to be stolen in the three-way deal with Philly and Chicago involving Toni Kukoc. But Hughes can't shoot a lick (frightening .383 shooting percentage) and turns the ball over a lot. He's wild. And the Warriors are threatening to make him the point guard. Duck! Incoming!

The only other good we can find is with rookie Marc Jackson, a '97 draftee who competed in Turkey and got his chance only because all other big men got hurt. Jackson probably would have won Rookie of the Year honors if he hadn't strained his groin and played in only 48 games. He obviously picked up on the Warrior sick-bay theme fast. Of course, he's a free agent and not likely to return.

But led by Jamison, Jackson and good boardwork by offensively challenged Adonal Foyle, the Warriors did lead the league in offensive rebounding. But then again, no other NBA team missed more shots, so don't get carried away.

THE FACTS
  • 2000-01 record: 17-65, 7th in Midwest, last in West
  • Playoffs: none
  • Team leaders: Jamison, 24.9 ppg; Jamison, 8.7 rpg; Blaylock, 6.7 apg
  • Team stats (NBA rank): Points, 92.5 (20th); Rebs, 45.5 (T-1st); FG %, .409 (Last-29th)
  • Current rotation: Dampier/Jackson C; Fortson PF; Jamison SF; Richardson SG; Hughes PG; Blaylock 6th man
  • Spot in Summer Power Rankings: No. 27
  • The bad: We could write War and Peace in this section, but we'll condense it. Unless Jackson comes back, it's up to perennial underachiever Erick Dampier to man the middle. Dampier has a big contract and a game that often disappoints, when he manages to be healthy. After that it's Foyle. If you need a blocked shot, Adonal's your man. If you need someone to post up and hit a key shot, Calvin Booth is 10 times better. What does that tell you?

    Mookie Blaylock, who last shot as high as 40 percent five seasons ago, is the natural point guard here, but likely comes off the bench when Hughes starts. Rookie Jason Richardson, the fifth pick in the draft, is viewed as a future star by some. Bob Sura's still here. So is Vonteego Cummings and rookie Gilbert Arenas. You decide if that's a good thing.

    The Warriors got Richardson, Arenas and Troy Murphy in what could be a strong draft, but where these guys fit in is unknown. Based on the team's recent injury history, we'd recommend these guys stick around, though, and see what happens. All three kids can score points. If the big men hit the boards and Hughes can play point, who knows?

    The ugly: After Jamison, who started all 82 games, the Warrior with the next most starts and games was Blaylock, with 59 and 69, respectively. That's not good. The team shooting percentage was .409. To put that number in perspective, note that the next worst shooting team hit at .424. That's a huge difference. Meanwhile, opponents shot .472. That's horrible. The Warriors were 2-42 when the other team scored 100 points or more, so it's an understatement to recommend that this group avoid shootouts. But then again, this is far from a strong defensive squad. Coach Dave Cowens is 52. You could make a case he'd improve the team's frontcourt by suiting up.

    If healthy, the Warriors do have talent. To think that the Bulls, a team largely devoid of talent, won only two fewer games last year, is sad. The Warriors have a 25-ppg scorer and still won only 17 games! Playing in the West doesn't help. The Warriors won more games against the Central division than they did the Pacific. Guess what? The Pacific might be strong again, guys.

    The most ugly stat in a story filled with them: Golden State was 3-34 after the Super Bowl. Ouch.

    The future: Hughes is really the key to this team. Still just a kid at 22, but entering his fourth NBA season, if Hughes can play the point well and put up Nick Van Exel numbers (17 points and 8 assists, a .420 FG percentage?), it would be reason to rejoice. We know Jamison can play. We think Richardson can, and in fewer minutes Blaylock would be more effective. Fortson could lead everyone in rebounding if his tender feet can hack it. And getting Jackson back -- which remains possible since the offers aren't really flowing in and Golden State can match a reasonable offer -- would help. Dampier has played 64 games in two years and barely shot 40 percent. If the Warriors continue to wait for him, it could get more ugly.

    Basketball is, however, mighty safe by the bay. No other NBA team posted a larger increase in attendance from the year before, though that doesn't mean attendance was particularly good. It was just horrid two years ago. But people care, ownership seems to care and the talent and coaching is here. Now they have to stay healthy and prove it.

    So we asked you this question about the Warriors: Can Jamison and Hughes become one of the top tandems in the league?

    Check out the file to the right and read some of the better comments.

    Eric Karabell is ESPN.com's NBA editor.