With a couple ofweeks left in what would be the Warriors' 12th straight season without makingthe playoffs, a frustrated Jason Richardson requested a meeting with teampresident Robert Rowell--not to criticize his teammates or management, but tourge the organization to write a letter of apology to fans. He even offered tosplit the cost to run it in local papers.
"I had tocome up with something," says Richardson of the letter, which was signed byall the players and ran as a full-page ad last April 17. "[The fans have]been going through this with me and the team the past five years. In my heart Ifelt I had to let them know that this organization is serious about winninggames." Then on media day the 6'6" shooting guard, who had surgery onhis left knee in August, said that he would bring a pillow and sleep at thepractice facility if necessary to be ready for Golden State's opener.Fortunately his rehab has gone well; even if he sleeps in his own bed, he'slikely to be in the lineup on Nov. 1.
That sort ofcommitment is nothing new for Richardson, 25, who is bidding to become thefirst player to score at least 14 points per game as a rookie, then increasehis average each of the next five years. "I go into every off-season andwork on something I wasn't good at," he says, "or improve on somethingI could get better at." This off-season he focused on his free throwshooting. "I corrected and changed my shot, and I like it now," hesays. "I'm just waiting for people to point to something else I can't dobecause I'm going to prove them wrong again."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 34--48(T12 in West)
Points scored: 98.5 (11th in NBA)
Points allowed: 99.8 (22nd)
Coach: Don Nelson
(first season with Warriors)
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
BENCH 2005--06 STATS
KEITH MCLEOD *
Enemy Lines Anopposing team's scout sizes up the Warriors
A great pointguard, wing players who can score, not much size or defense--seems as if DonNelson's new team is just like his old Mavericks and Warriors teams. WhenNellie goes small and you match down to his size, he wins, because you're notaccustomed to playing that way and he is.... If Baron Davis buys into Nellie'sprogram, is in shape and stays healthy, they could be a surprise. A lot ofplayers who do all the fundamental things don't make the positive impact thatDavis does, even when he's not totally committed to playing the right way....Troy Murphy's biggest problem is that he's not willing to go down in the lowpost and fight it out. So his move to center makes sense because his outsideshooting will create mismatches against opposing centers. He also tends to stopbattling defensively as soon as things start to go south.... Nellie will makeMike Dunleavy a point forward and run a lot of the offense through him.Dunleavy has always been a poor defender; the first play that most teams run issomething going at him.
Troy Murphy, whowas injured for most of 2003--04, is one of three players (with Tim Duncan andKevin Garnett) to average double-digit points and rebounds in three of the lastfour seasons.
THE HOT SEAT
Find out where Baron Davis ranks on Kelly Dwyer's listof players who have to put up or shut up at SI.com/nba.
ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (RICHARDSON)
JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (DAVIS)
BARON BAITING Davis (5) can be a handful--as the Clippers' Sam Cassell found--but he'll be an even bigger threat under his new coach.