Young Warriors try to turn it around
All Jason Richardson and the youthful Warriors ask from their fans is a little patience.
Hey, we're trying.
That's what Jason Richardson tells fans when they walk up to him and complain that these are the same old Golden State Warriors. The fact the Warriors are putting forth a consistent effort speaks volumes about the job first-year head coach Eric Musselman has done so far in Oakland.
"People are starting to realize we're working hard," Richardson said going into Wednesday night's 104-93 loss to the Kings. "Even though we're not getting any wins, we're giving it 100 percent every game. We go out and play hard."
All of that sweat has yet to produce positive results in the win column or stats -- the 2-7 Warriors rank 27th in points allowed (103.4 per game) and defensive field-goal percentage (.460). But boxing out and diving for loose balls can't compensate for Golden State's biggest problem: a lack of experience.
Eight players have no more than one NBA season on their résumé; three of them are rookies, most notably No. 3 overall pick Mike Dunleavy. Only Denver (24.1 years old), Cleveland (24.3), Memphis (24.4) and Chicago (24.8) have rosters with an average age younger than Golden State (25.3).
"We have a lot of growing up to do," Richardson admitted. "We're still a young team. We just have to be as prepared as we can for games."
This figures to be a breakout season for Richardson. The shooting guard is getting five more shots per game (18.6) than he did last year as a rookie and ranks among the league leaders in scoring at 20.0 points a game.
Richardson is being asked -- behind the prodding of Musselman -- to step forward as one of the team's leaders. Only 21, Richardson finds it odd that he's being placed in such a prominent role, but he realizes it's all part of the growing process.
"The way I look at it is that I'm just playing ball," Richardson said. "I like the fact he (Musselman) has put a lot of pressure on me. I just want to show my individual game, and I want to be someone that the guys can talk to."
The creation of a Big Three with Richardson, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas shows that the Warriors are sticking to their master plan. They've had the blueprints for a while. After the Run TMC days of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, there was the We Need A Big Man period (the Warriors got one in Chris Webber, but the egos of Webber and Don Nelson didn't mesh) that was shortly followed by the ultra-conservative times of Dave Twardzik and Rick Adelman (who found Todd Fuller a more appealing pick than some hot shot named Kobe Bryant).
How this Musselman era differentiates from the past will ultimately be determined by the number of Ws. And the wins will come, Richardson reassures. The Warriors just need time -- and the fans' patience.
"We might not win the game," Richardson said. "But we'll try."
Steve Francis continues to prove that his Rockets were a playoff team before they got Yao Ming. Francis, who missed 25 games last season battling an inner-ear disorder, overcame an aching back to score Houston's final 14 points in an 86-83 win over Portland on Tuesday. Apologies to Seattle's Rashard Lewis and Toronto's Alvin Williams, who both registered career highs in leading their teams to victory.
With all of the horrid shooting displays around the league, entire teams could be singled-out in this space -- the Knicks and Lakers come to mind -- but Rasheed Wallace's 2-for-14 night in Houston earned him the, um, honors. The Blazers forward scored just nine points and missed a tying 3-pointer at game's end. His best shot of the night was one he gave Francis on a dunk attempt, knocking Stevie Franchise down.
Joe Lago, NBA editor for ESPN.com, writes Morning Shootaround every Wednesday and Friday.