- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Golden State Warriors will attempt to work unhappy forward Stephen Jackson back into their team fold starting Tuesday, when the Warriors are scheduled to hold their first home practice following four straight preseason games on the road.
Jackson is expected to meet with Warriors general manager Larry Riley and coach Don Nelson before that practice, after missing the last two of those exhibition games through a team-imposed suspension for a sideline blowup with Nelson on Friday night in Los Angeles that was deemed "conduct detrimental" to the club.
Reached Sunday by ESPN.com, Nelson said he is still unwilling to go into detail about the exchange and would not expound on his plans for Jackson beyond confirming Tuesday's planned sitdown.
"We will talk," Nelson said.
The Warriors, according to NBA front-office sources, remain open to granting Jackson's wish to be traded as long as they can find a palatable deal, which is what Nelson told local reporters at the Warriors' annual media day two weeks ago. Yet it appears unlikely that the latest blowup with Jackson -- who initially revealed his wish to be moved to Cleveland, New York or one of the three Texas teams at a Dime Magazine party in late August -- will push Golden State to pursue a trade more aggressively, because it is unlikely such an approach would speed the process.
Sources say that the Warriors have indeed made and fielded numerous trade calls regarding Jackson since his desire to leave was made public, but no deal appears close. Golden State knows that the main stumbling block to a trade won't change even if it ultimately decides that the 31-year-old can't be reconnected with his teammates after such a tumultuous start to the season and that he must be moved.
That stumbling block: Jackson's three-year, $27.8 million contract extension, which doesn't even kick in until the 2010-11 season, will likely continue to make it difficult for the Warriors to find a trade partner in the current NBA marketplace.
Jackson has championship experience after helping the San Antonio Spurs win their second of four titles in 2003 and last season ranked alongside LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade in the exclusive club of players to average at least 20 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. Yet the reality persists that very few teams in this economy are open to taking on players in their 30s with multiple years remaining on their contracts.
The Contra Costa Times reported late last week that the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers had discussed a trade headlined by Jackson and Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who possesses an attractive expiring contract that pays $11.5 million this season. But sources told ESPN.com that the talks were roughly a month old and unlikely to lead to a deal, with one source characterizing the discussions as "nothing substantive."
Attempts to reach Jackson over the weekend were unsuccessful. His clash with Nelson occurred Friday night after Jackson went to the bench having racked up five fouls and a technical foul in just over nine minutes of the first quarter of Golden State's road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson was hit Saturday with a two-game suspension that kept him out of the Warriors' outdoor game Saturday night against Phoenix in Indian Wells, Calif., and will also hold him out of Monday's visit to Staples Center for Golden State's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The suspension without pay will cost him $139,090, which takes Jackson's financial losses for the season to nearly $165,000 after factoring in a $25,000 fine he received from the NBA for publicly requesting a trade.
ESPN.com reported Sept. 15 that Nelson had no plans to strip Jackson of his captaincy in the wake of Jackson's trade demand, but it is not yet known whether the latest incident will lead to a re-think. As promised, Nelson re-established Jackson as a co-captain at the start of this season along with center Andris Biedrins, guard Monta Ellis and forward Ronny Turiaf.
On Sept. 25, Nelson told Bay Area-based reporters that he didn't think Jackson's discontent would be hard to manage, saying: "I legitimately love Jack. We're good friends. I understand him. I think I do. He's hard to understand all the time. But we get along fine. We have a good relationship. I'll be able to coach him, it's not a problem."
Jackson has been the Warriors' emotional leader almost from the time he arrived in a January 2007 trade with Indiana, leaving behind a controversial past with the Pacers marked by his participation in the melee in Detroit that spilled into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in November 2004.
Led by Baron Davis and Jackson, Golden State halted a 12-season playoff drought with its late surge into the No. 8 spot and subsequent first-round upset of the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in '07. The Warriors then finished as the most successful non-playoff team in the history of the NBA's 16-team playoff format with a record of 48-34 as the West's No. 9 seed in 2007-08.
But Jackson's discontent has been brewing since Davis left town to sign as a free agent with the Clippers in July 2008. Sources say that unhappiness spilled over this offseason after the Warriors' attempts to acquire Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns broke down in June after the NBA draft.
Yet sources close to the situation insist that the Stoudemire deal was never as close to fruition as some suggested, with Golden State unwilling to part with its lottery pick once Stephen Curry became available to the Warriors with the No. 7 overall selection and with Stoudemire believed to be unwilling to commit to a contract extension in Oakland.
Stoudemire can opt out of his Suns contract at season's end if he is willing to forfeit his $17.6 million salary for 2010-11, which would make him one of the league's prized free agents in the much-anticipated summer of 2010. On top of its concerns about Stoudemire's recovery from eye and knee problems, Golden State inevitably would have wanted assurances that it could have secured Stoudemire for the long term before parting with any prized assets.
Asked last week if he was ever worried that Phoenix was close to sending him to Golden State, Stoudemire told ESPN.com: "It was still up to me, but that's something I really don't discuss too much. I just want to focus on what we have at hand."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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