By Ann Killion
September 29, 2009

Stephen Curry is about as fresh-faced as a NBA rookie can be.

The 21-year old is soft-spoken and thoughtful. His lone tattoo, discreetly inked on the inside of his left wrist, is the motto of Davidson, the small college he guided to the Elite Eight in 2008. "T.C.C.": Trust, Commitment, Care.

Curry might want to look into laser tattoo removal because he's a Warrior now. And "Trust, Commitment, Care" is most certainly not in the Warriors' vocabulary.

At Curry's first NBA media day on Monday, the Warriors dysfunction -- their lack of trust, commitment void and utter carelessness as a franchise -- was on full display. It wouldn't be a new Warriors season without more drama from the NBA's most inept franchise. And, right on schedule, the Warriors are delivering.

Curry spoke with excitement about the potential of pairing in the Warriors backcourt with Monta Ellis. He described the possibility of a "very explosive duo."

But a few minutes later, Ellis appeared and dropped this gem: he can't play with Curry.

"Can't," Ellis said. "Just can't."

When told that the Warriors brass was contemplating exactly such a backcourt, Ellis said, "They say they can. But they can't. I just want to win. And you're not going to win that way."

The Warriors rarely win, of course. Last season derailed before it ever began when Ellis -- the player the Warriors had decided to build around -- went for a moped ride and ripped up his ankle. Ellis missed much of the season and the team threatened to void his $66 million contract.

That was last year's Warriors drama. But it's a new year, so a new installment of the soap opera is required. While Ellis, the franchise player, was announcing he couldn't play with the team's top draft pick, the Warriors team captain was reiterating his trade demands.

Stephen Jackson, who was fined $25,000 by the NBA for publicly requesting a trade last month, didn't say those exact words on Monday. But he did say, "What I said is how I feel. That's not going to change."

Jackson's unhappiness is with what he sees as the downward direction of the franchise. Most of the players who helped catapult the '07 Warriors to their only playoff berth in the past 15 years are gone.

"We've been taking steps back ever since that year we beat Dallas [in the first round of the '07 playoffs]," Jackson said. "I don't think we're making any progress. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion and that's my opinion."

Rather than build on the momentum of '07, the front office badly miscalculated, trading Jason Richardson, letting Baron Davis walk and cannibalizing itself with the ouster of general manager Chris Mullin and installing Larry Riley, whose first act as a G.M. was to declare that he wasn't coach Don Nelson's puppet.

Jackson, who reclaimed his damaged reputation while in a Warriors uniform, watched the devolution unfold and took advantage of it. He all but admitted that he played the organization -- and owner Chris Cohan's righthand man Robert Rowell -- by getting a three-year contract extension last fall. He has no remorse about what he sees as simply business.

"Who's going to turn down that money?" he asked. "I'm not stupid."

Jackson is right, of course. The Warriors did dismantle an exciting team, with no particular plan for improvement. And who can blame him for extracting whatever he could from the moribund franchise. That's the way the NBA works.

And Ellis is also right. His issue is the same concern others have raised; he needs to be paired with a larger guard in the backcourt. He believes that he (at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds) and Curry (6-3, 185) are too small to play together.

"Go back to when me and BD [Baron Davis] were playing, it's a different situation," Ellis said. "You've got a nine-year veteran who's been in the game, who understands the game, knows how to play the game, and he's a big body ...You can't put two small guys out there and try to play the 1 and the 2 when you've got big 2 guards in the league. You just can't do it."

But Ellis' hardcore stand -- the most adamant he's been on any topic in his career -- could hamstring Nelson's plan for running one of his famously creative lineups. If Ellis remains stubborn, team chemistry will suffer.

The disgruntled players seem to have a better sense of what it takes to win in the NBA than Warriors management does. While Cohan irrationally flings money around in ill-advised places and pretends the team has some direction, the men on the court can see the naked truth.

So now the Warriors are left with two options: try to play with players who don't really want to be on the team. Or try to trade their two best players. When the Warriors drafted Curry in June, there was speculation that he was a potential replacement for Ellis, whose relationship with the team became strained during Anklegate.

But teams often find it difficult to get value for disgruntled players. In particular, Jackson's $34 million contract will make him hard to move.

So welcome to a new Warriors season.

"I think we have a lot of talent," Curry said. "You just want to get everyone on the same page."

Spoken like a true rookie.

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