Warriors dwelling on future, not past

Updated: August 26, 2004, 4:23 PM ET
By Marc J. Spears | Special to ESPN.com

The past 10 years have been forgettable for the Golden State Warriors, and Chris Mullin wasn't willing to spend a bulk of his day reflecting upon them.

"I'll be here until dinnertime," said Mullin on Wednesday morning. "C'mon now. I am not going to talk about the past. That won't do you or me any good."

Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson was the Warriors' leading scorer last season, averaging 18.7 points a game.
During that 10-year span, the Warriors haven't been to the playoffs and have quietly been the NBA's most disappointing franchise. They've had nine head coaches, the Chris Webber trade to Washington, the Latrell Sprewell choking incident, the below-expectation performances of Billy Owens, Tom Gugliotta, Donyell Marshall and Joe Smith, and the departure of talented players such as Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and, this week, Erick Dampier.

But now with a solid, young nucleus and some potential salary cap room, Mullin hopes he can finally turn things around in his new role as the Warriors' executive vice president.

While he has only been in the executive seat for a few months, Mullin has had a very busy offseason.

  • The Warriors drafted a promising teenager in 6-foot-11, 240-pound forward-center Andris Biedrins. The Latvian had a solid summer league, averaging 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds at just 18 years old, but is probably two seasons away, at best, from being a solid contributor.

  • Guard Nick Van Exel was dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for center Dale Davis and guard Dan Dickau.

  • Fan favorite hustling forward Brian Cardinal surprisingly signed a long-term deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.

  • Veteran guard Avery Johnson agreed in principle to sign with the Dallas Mavericks.

  • The Warriors signed veteran Lakers guard Derek Fisher to a long-term deal, re-signed center Adonal Foyle to a reported five-year pact worth a jaw-dropping $41 million after averaging 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, and also re-signed veteran guard Calbert Cheaney.

  • And on Tuesday, the Warriors dealt Dampier (who signed a seven-year, $73 million contract), Dickau, the draft rights to guard Steve Logan, and center Evan Eschmeyer with his long and lucrative contract were dealt to Dallas for forwards Eduardo Najera and Christian Laettner, the draft rights to guards Luis Flores and Mladen Sekularac, two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick. One of the first-round picks and the second-round pick came from Philadelphia, and the two first-round picks could be available in 2007.

    While there has been strong talk about Laettner getting bought out of the final year of his deal, Mullin seemed open to having him on the roster next season. Despite rumors that Mullin didn't want to do a sign-and-trade with Dampier, who averaged 12.3 points and 12 rebounds last season, he said he considered several deals before choosing the one from Dallas.

    "All along, I had certain criteria that I felt was going to help the team," Mullin said. "I was always open to doing a deal that met our criteria, really. Probably the only thing I didn't have was a timeframe. I was kind of hoping to do anything as long as it met my criteria. When it came down the pipe, I was more than willing to do it.

    "There were a lot of talks. A lot of different scenarios. But I felt like this met my criteria, and it helps our team now and in the future.''

    Now that the summer dust has settled, the Warriors are left with a solid, young nucleus of players:

  • After dealing with foot and ankle problems last season, Troy Murphy, 24, is still one of league's best young power forwards, if healthy. While he will be a restricted free agent next summer, expect the Warriors to re-sign him possibly as early as before the season.

  • Shooting guard Jason Richardson, 23, returns after averaging a team-best 18.7 points last season. The Warriors are considering signing this restricted free agent before the season, too. But 2005 free agent shooting guards like All-Stars Tracy McGrady, Michael Redd and Ray Allen may cause Golden State to be more patient. The problem, however, for Golden State is Charlotte, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Cleveland, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers will have money, too, during free agency.

    The Warriors will likely have around $14 million in cap space next summer. However, they would have to use most of that money if they re-sign Murphy and Richardson, and they've given every indication that they want both players back.

  • Now that the Warriors' roster affords him the ability to play his natural small forward position, Mike Dunleavy Jr., 23, has a chance to finally show he is worthy of all his draft hype.

  • Second-year shooting guard Mickael Pietrus, 22, showed strong promise during the end of his rookie season. A separated shoulder, however, could cause him to miss training camp and the early part of the season.

    "The process has been started to take the next step,'' Mullin said. "The young talent we have needs to step up and have breakout years. We all feel confident about the veteran players, what they're going to do and what they're going to bring each night. When you combine that, it's now about getting on the court and making it happen.''

    The Western Conference is way too deep and strong for the Warriors to make a playoff push this season and possibly the next one. Expect the Warriors to be competitive, especially at home where they are 51-31 over the past two seasons, and to beat teams that take them granted. And if they get some luck in the draft and land a difference-making free agent, the 10-year curse may be cured quicker than expected.

    "What we're doing now is putting together a deep talented team that complements each other and is going to come together and win,'' Mullin said. "And we've also set our self up to retain players that can be part of our future and entertain free agents and do whatever we can to make this team better as we go along.''

    The Warriors do have promise to get better. But promise isn't a certainty. And until that long-awaited Warriors playoff day comes, their fans and followers can talk about their problems over the past 10 years all day until dinnertime.

    Marc J. Spears, who covers the NBA for The Denver Post, is a contributor to ESPN.com.

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