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Q&A with Marcus

Editor’s note: This is the first of what should turn into a regularly scheduled online “chat” with Marcus Thompson II, the Bay Area News Group’s NBA writer and author of the “Inside the Warriors” blog.

Joe T.: What’s your opinion about the Warriors’ playoff chances this year?

Marcus Thompson II: They are much better than at the beginning of
the season. I just knew the Warriors were going to finish 10th in the West. Now, I’m
not so sure. They are better than Denver. They are better than Portland (despite
their 0-2 record against the Blazers). They are better than Houston. Usually, the
better teams prevail. Will it be a dog fight? Sure. Could they end up in the draft
lottery? Absolutely. But with the way they play on the road, I think they have as
good a chance as anyone.

Ron: What would it take to get Ron Artest from the Kings, and do you
think it would be a good move?

Marcus Thompson II: I would offer Mickael Pietrus and Patrick
O’Bryant, and one or two draft picks. But I would not be at all surprised if
Sacramento just decided they were not going to help a Pacific Division rival. Since
there will be other teams bidding for Artest’s services, such as Denver, they could
get something good for him without helping a foe. The Warriors would have to really
sweeten the deal, make it a no-brainer. The only way I see them doing that is with
picks. I don’t think they’ll give up Brandan Wright or Marco Belinelli or Kelenna
Azubuike for Artest, because he could opt out and be gone at season’s end. If they
did manage to get him, I like the move. Artest is usually pretty good the first few
months after a trade because he is focused and has something to prove. If that
pattern flies, he’ll be on good behavior for the stretch run and play good ball. That
will only motivate him to opt out, as he’s only scheduled to make $7.4 million next
season, pretty low for his production. The Warriors could end up signing him, if they
really like him, or just renting him. Even if Artest doesn’t opt out, it won’t be
costing the Warriors much. Either way, they’ve added another talented piece without
sacrificing the core..

Goldy Fan: Why did the Warriors sign Chris Webber when they could
have just let Brandan Wright play more?

Marcus Thompson II: Coach Don Nelson doesn’t believe Wright is ready
to contribute right now, especially not while the team is fighting for a playoff
spot. It’s hard to disagree with him. At best, Wright could give the Warriors spot
minutes, energy off the bench. That certainly would help his development. But the
Warriors need a playmaker. They need someone who can draw a double team and make
things happen. Wright isn’t there yet. Webber, they are hoping, is.

NateDogg: Did Nelson sign Webber just to repair some old wounds?

Marcus Thompson II: I don’t think so. Nellie is old, rich andaccomplished. He doesn’t care about that type of stuff. He could repair therelationship with Webber on his own time. Nellie is concerned about winning and
making money. Believe it.

Craig, Oakland: In your opinion, will the Warriors shop Mickael
Pietrus before the trade deadline?

Marcus Thompson II: Will they? They’ve been shopping him since the
offseason, probably before that. I’m not sure whether the Warriors want too much for
MP2, or if he just has no value on the trade market. For sure they’ve been shopping
him though, and will continue to shop him. Knowing Mullin, though, he won’t pull the
trigger unless it’s a deal he likes.

Stan, Walnut Creek: Will having the TPE (traded player exception) be
any help for the Warriors come deadline time or are too many teams scared of the
luxury tax?

Marcus Thompson II: It isn’t that other teams are afraid of the
luxury tax, as several are willing to pay it. It’s that the Warriors don’t want to
pay it. Team president Robert Rowell has said time again that the team will pay the
tax. But it has to be worth it. They would’ve paid the tax for Kevin Garnett. They’ll
probably pay the tax for another core piece if management was convinced that player
would push the Warriors to another level. They won’t do it, I don’t think, for a
quick fix. If I had to guess, I’d say that TPE expires on June 28 without the
Warriors using it.

Kory K.: In looking toward the playoffs, which team do the Warriors
match up with the best?

Marcus Thompson II: The obvious answer is Dallas. The Mavericks have
no answer for Baron Davis, while the Warriors have an answer for Dirk Nowitzki. But I
would be leery about seeing Dallas again, if I were the Warriors. Revenge is a great
motivator. So, with that said, I would go with Houston or Phoenix. Houston because
they can’t keep up with the Warriors. They don’t have the firepower to last in a
seven-game series. And Phoenix because the Warriors can run with them, even out run
them, because they don’t play any defense. It would be a high-scoring affair. I would
say the Warriors _ especially now that the Suns have replaced Shawn Marion with Shaq
_ have more firepower.

W’s4Ever: Will Monta Ellis ever become a big-time point guard?

Marcus Thompson II: No. He’ll become a big-time combo guard. Think
Allen Iverson or Gilbert Arenas, not Steve Nash or Chris Paul. Point guards are born.
They have intangibles you can’t learn, such as vision, a relationship with the ball
(in regards to dribbling), innovation and spontaneity. Monta doesn’t have that. He
has an innate ability to put the ball in the hole, though. And he can defend point
guards. That’ll make him a really good, if not great, player for years to come. But
not a big-time point guard.

BDiddy21: Are the Warriors REALLY trying to trade for Ron Artest?
Why! Wouldn’t he just create more trouble than he’s worth?

Marcus Thompson II: As I said before, it would more than likely be a
quick fix, which the Warriors prefer. They don’t want to bring in someone who will
eat up cap for the future, unless that guy is going to be part of the core. Artest
would come in and make the Warriors better immediately. Then he’ll likely opt out.
The Warriors would possibly talk to him about re-signing, but if the price is too
high, he walks, and both sides get what they want. Artest gets a chance to play for
something in March and April, and maybe even May and June. The Warriors get a good
playoff run before making some difficult roster decisions.

MagicMan: Will Chris Webber be happy playing limited minutes and a
limited role, or do you expect him to whine about not getting enough shots?

Marcus Thompson II: I don’t know Webber enough to answer that
question. But I know enough to know not to buy into what he’s saying. He’s saying all
the right things. But Webber is charming, very personable and smart. He understands
how to play the media game because he’s been around the block awhile. What was he
supposed to say? “If I don’t get 30 minutes, all hell will break loose.” Webber is
smarter than that. He said what he wanted us to hear. That doesn’t mean he’ll whine.
But it certainly doesn’t mean he won’t.

Oaktown510: Read your blog about going after Shawn Marion. I’m all
for it. Now, do you think it’s realistic?

Marcus Thompson II: The Lakers just got Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown.
Miami just unloaded $40 million worth of an out-of-shape, injured, aging man onto
Phoenix. It is realistic, more realistic than before as Phoenix wouldn’t want to help
the Warriors. Miami, on the other hand, should have no reservations and may want to
pick up a couple of players and some picks instead of letting Marion opt out and walk
for nothing.

Jon Becker