11

Looks Like MP2′s a Goner

It looks as if Mickael Pietrus has played his last game as a Warrior, not that it’s a surprise or anything. The Chronicle’s Janny Hu reported MP has interest from/in Miami, Cleveland and Dallas. Those are good options for Pietrus, and good options for the Warriors considering those teams are going to have to do a sign-and-trade to get him.
If it’s Cleveland, I would go after Shannon Brown. If it’s Dallas, I want Maurice Ager. If it’s Miami, I want Udonis Haslem.
Ager might be tough to pry, but Brown is expendable with the rise of Daniel Gibson and Haslem has been rumored to be on the block for a while. This could workout in the Warriors favor.
I was resigned to MP walking away for nothing. But if they can come away with more chips, better chips, that would be a win-win.

9

BLOG QUESTION

“Why so cheap? Why not sign Buki to more than two years with the second year being his option? Why no effort to get any of the free agents who slipped by from Wallace to Darko to Moore (to the Kings no less)? Why no movement getting Barnes signed and signing and trading MP. Marcus, what the heck is going on? Is this all about money and being really really cheap? Also, in your opinion, how much damage has occurred by this lack of action; or, do you think KG or even O’Neal is still on the radar as the big prize? Do you have any idea what is going on?” — commish

To give Kelenna more than that would’ve been too much. All he needed was guaranteed money. I think they are hurting themselves by waiting, but what choice do they have? They are not being cheap, they are keeping alive the opportunity of adding a Hall of Fame-caliber player. They are prepared to spend big dough to get KG and keep Baron, so it’s not about being cheap. It’s about being patient and waiting for Minnesota to blink. Sure, they are missing out on other options, but that’s a risk you take. No one out there would have been the answer to the Warriors problems anyway, save for KG. Darko was a nice plan B, Gerald Wallace a nice plan C, Mikki Moore a nice plan D. But you don’t go to those plans until Plan A is dead. It’s not. The Warriors still have a viable chance to nab KG. Getting any one of those guys would’ve killed the Warriors chance prematurely. It’s agonizing, I know. And there is a very real possibility they could go into next season with Chris Wilcox being the major frontline addition. But it’s a risk they have to take.

5

Warriors to Sign Azubuike

My CC Times colleague, Warriors beat writer Geoff Lepper, has informed me that guard Kelenna Azubuike has agreed to a two-year deal. He’ll get the league minimum guaranteed for both years (just shy of $1.5 million total), and he has a player option for the second year.
This is good news for the Warriors, if you ask me. I think Kelenna is a steal. That the Warriors were able to lock him up for cheap is a serious boost to the Warriors bench. Kelenna is a good young player, and he should be able to contribute more this season. I liked the minutes he gave last year. I like his attitude, his work ethic. He can end up being a Jason Richardson type of player. He won’t ever be Kobe, but he can be productive.
The Warriors’ are looking pretty set at shooting guard. They don’t have a feared proven scorer, but they have a committee of players who combined are more than capable of filling the void left by Jason Richardson. Belinelli gives them shooting, Monta Ellis (assuming he’s not shipped away) gives them explosiveness, and Kelenna gives them size and strength (along with a nice stroke), which will help on the defensive end and rebounding. Not to mention, Stephen Jackson can play shooting guard when necessary.
With the point guard spot set (the Warriors can still use a back-up, but those are easy to find), the Warriors’ backcourt has some potential.
Now, they can focus on their frontcourt, which is where the most help is needed. And if you believe my Merc colleague Tim Kawakami (which I do), Patrick O’Bryant isn’t going to be helping the Warriors — ever.
Note to Tim: How can you dog your guy like that? POB is your guy, your center of the future. Now he won’t be your guy when he becomes a formidable big man in the East. :o )

4

Marco’s Looking Good

I’m not in Las Vegas, so I haven’t seen him yet. But the praise coming out of Sin City is encouraging. I keep hearing that Marco Belinellie can ball. It wasn’t so much the 37 he dropped, but how he got it. Believe it or not people, the Warriors actually have a shooter now. Not someone who can get hot. Not someone with a nice spot-up stroke. But a real deal shooter. Someone who can shoot jump shots and set shots, off the screen and pulling up, after dribbling to his left and to his right, from midrage and from deep.
That’s going to be a welcome sight.

4

Who Will Choke P.J. Next?

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P.J. Carlesimo is easily one of my favorite interviews. He’s got great humor, he’s honest, he’s blunt and he’s open. Those are great qualities for dealing with the media, but they don’t fly over too well with spoiled athletes.
Carlesimo, hired as Seattle’s new head coach, is now on his third go-round. You would think he knows better by now. After five years under Gregg Popovich, he should’ve learned some things. But you can’t teach an old playa new pick-up lines.
P.J. is a great assistant, by all accounts. But if he hasn’t changed, he’s sure to wear out his welcome with his outspoken nature and unabashed delivery.
So, the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is (and obviously I’m poking fun) which Sonic will go Latrell Sprewell on P.J.?

Here are the candidates:

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Kevin Durant – He can’t bench 185 pounds, but those are some long fingers. My guess is P.J. is strong enough to break free from Durant’s grasp, though.

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Chris Wilcox – P.J. would be in some serious trouble if Wilcox snapped and went for the jugular. Dude is strong and quick, so P.J. wouldn’t stand a chance. Wilcox looks like he has some snap in him, too.

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Danny Fortson – He’s a free agent, and in all likelihood won’t be back with the Sonics. But it’s funny just thinking about Danny fighting through teammates to get to P.J. Can you imagine Kevin Durant holding Fortson back? Better yet, can you imagine Carlesimo’s face with only Durant standing between him and a charging Fortson?

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Luke Ridnour – Don’t sleep on Luke. Dude is tired of his fourth-quarter minutes going to Earl Watson. Those reserved unassuming types are the craziest. P.J.’s going to yank Ridnour on one too many occasions. He’s going to spew some sarcastic remark about Ridnour’s poor defense at the wrong time.

Seriously, I don’t understand the move of hiring Carlesimo, though I would rather him than Billy Donovan. Certainly, Carlesimo knows his hoop, and the now-young Sonics will need some teaching. But that’s what assistant coaches are for. Head coaches need to be motivators, managers of personalities, problem solvers as well as strategists. That’s a serious risk they’re taking. What if P.J. hasn’t changed his dart-throwing ways? What happens in February when Seattle is 10 games out, on a six game skid and they can’t take his riding anymore?
It seems P.J. is a better fit for a veteran team, one with players who won’t lose confidence when the coach chews them out, one that only needs him for his in-game adjustments, defensive principles and timely half-time tirades.
Putting the growth of Durant, Jeff Green, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mickael Gelabale, etc., under the watch of a reputed smart mouth may come back to haunt the Sonics. They better hope some of Pop rubbed off on P.J. Because if they mess around and ruin Durant, one of the most heralded rookies ever, turning him into some unhappy, unsure, underachiever, someone else we know will be doing the choking …










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11

Keep Yi Out of the Yay

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Earlier in the draft, I wouldn’t have minded the Warriors moving up to get Yi. He looks like he’s got some game. But I’ve always had my reservations.
Do the Warriors need another soft big man? How far is he away from making a significant contribution? Is he worth whatever they would have to give up to get high enough to get him?
Now that Yi is in Milwaukee trying like crazy to get out, many Warriors fans are wanting/expecting the Warriors to make the trade to get Yi to the Bay Area, or as my man E-40 says, the Yay Area.

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Nevermind his weak upper body strength, his perimeter-dwelling nature, or the patience he would require. What really turns me off about Yi is that the Warriors WERE NOT desperate to have him. He seems like just the kind of player this management has drooled over in the pass. Tall and can dribble. Skilled but soft. Athletic but not a spectacular athlete. Promising but a project. Then you add the major boost it would’ve meant to the gate, and the national attention it would’ve brought the franchise, Yi seemed like the perfect fit. But the fact that the Warriors don’t want him, in my eyes, is an indictment on him. Clearly there’s something about him they didn’t like, something they obviously saw in Wright. Add that fact with my aforementioned reservations, and I can’t help but think the Warriors are best with Yi residing elsewhere. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen him play, I am formulating my opinion totally based on scouting reports and highlight clips. But unless they can get him for cheap, my gut is telling me to keep Yi out of the Yay.

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8

J-Rich Speaks

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I had a long conversation with Jason Richardson on Tuesday. I talked to him on Thursday, but he said he needed time to get his head together. I’ll tell you what, he was shaken up by this trade, totally blindsided. We’ve talked about trade rumors involving him before, and in the past he’d acknowledged that he might be the odd man out. Still, this came as a total stunner. He was pretty broken up about leaving the Bay. He kept saying the fans deserved more and he wanted to give it to them.
You can read all about it in today’s Times. (http://www.contracostatimes.com/sports/ci_6293697) But here are some quotes and topics I didn’t get in:

*He said he wanted the Bobcats to re-sign Gerald Wallace, who is a free agent. Though they somewhat share positions, Richardson said he thinks Charlotte will be better if they lock down the SG and SF positions. That would mean Adam Morrison is coming off the bench. If Wallace signs elsewhere, I think Morrison starts at SF.
“I hope we get Gerald back,” Richardson said. “Two athletic guys from the wing who play hard, that’s going to be crazy.”

*Richardson loves the underdog role. And he heard everyone who said the Warriors did good by getting rid of him. He especially heard Stephen A. Smith, who, let’s just say, has an adversary from Saginaw, Mich. with his criticism of Charlotte in making the deal.
“All that is another opportunity to silence my critics. I’ve always been a critic buster,” Richardson said. “When they came into the league, they said I couldn’t shoot. I learned to shoot. Then they said I couldn’t play defense. I worked on my defense and learned to play defense. They said I couldn’t dribble. I improved my dribbling.”

*At first, he did not want to go to Charlotte. Seriously. After getting a taste of winning last season, he wanted to go to a contender. Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, San Antonio, Cleveland — any playoff team that needed a shooting guard. I don’t think Charlotte is that bad. They regularly have one of the worst records in the East, which is pretty bad. But they aren’t that far off. They have some nice young pieces. Richardson’s one gripe is that he didn’t want to start over and try to take a young team into the playoffs. He wanted to help a veteran team get go deeper into the playoffs. But the one saving grace to him, he said, was that he has some guys who are going to play with him. One of Richardson’s problems in the past was that some of his teammates didn’t play hard. He doesn’t expect to have that problem in Charlotte.
“I play hard just like the rest of them on both ends of the floor. My thing is do whatever it takes to get this team to the playoffs. This team is just a piece away. It can happen fast. They were only five games outside of the playoffs. They’re young, but they have some guys who can play. All they need is some leadership and experience. I hope I can bring both.”

*Another bright spot is that he has a much better chance of getting the All-Star nod out East. With the Warriors, he wasn’t going to beat out Baron for the last remaining guard spot behind Kobe, Nash, Tracy McGrady and Tony Parker. In the East, Dwyane Wade is the obvious starter. For the second two-guard spot, Richardson just has Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, and now Ray Allen as his competition for the second two-guard spot. Vince and Rip made it this year because there was no one else to consider. If Richardson has a year like he did in 2005-06, he’s almost a lock.
“There’s a chance,” Richardson said. “There’s always a chance. With the West, it was always loaded with guards. It’s a tough conference. Not that the East is a pushover conference, but this is another opportunity for me to prove myself — again.”

Anyway, I certainly am going to miss JR, though I think it was a smart move by Mullin. J-Rich was my guy, as the other media members liked to say. I was the butt of so many of his practical jokes. He never got too big headed. He was always down to earth. He never shunned us, no matter how bad he played or the team played. He was there to talk to us, win or lose. Plus, you could always go to him and just chop it up about anything. You can’t do that with Baron, or most stars in the league.
I’ll certainly miss JR’s locker room presence. With J-Rich and Troy Murphy gone, the Warriors locker room just won’t be the same. Thankfully, we still have Stephen Jackson.

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