Never let it be said that the Warriors can't laugh at
themselves. Their new marketing campaign pokes fun at a team
that was bad and bland in 1996-97. According to one radio spot,
Golden State's theme song last season was the droning We're the
Warriors, kumbaya. We play basketball, kumbaya. We all get
along, kumbaya.... This year's motto is No More Mr. Nice Guy,
and just to make sure the fans get the point, a TV spot shows
new general manager Garry St. Jean, whose nickname is Saint,
throwing down his imaginary halo and stomping on it.
That's all very clever, but it doesn't solve the Warriors' many
on-court deficiencies, which is why they probably won't improve
on their 30-52 record of a year ago. Golden State not only has
too many point guards (B.J. Armstrong, Bimbo Coles and Brian
Shaw, acquired Oct. 27 in a trade with the Magic), but also too
many big men who are unimpressive (Felton Spencer and Todd
Fuller) or untested (Erick Dampier and first-round draft pick
Adonal Foyle). Further muddling the already chaotic lineup is
the fate of forward Joe Smith, the top pick in the 1995 draft,
who led the Warriors in rebounding (8.5 boards a game) and was
second in scoring (18.7 points) last year. Smith will become a
free agent after the season, and while he hasn't ruled out
re-signing with the Warriors, he has made it clear that he
prefers to play for a winner and for a team in the East. Golden
State falls far short on both counts. "I'm just keeping my
options open," says Smith. "I think the franchise is committed
to turning things around and becoming more competitive, and if
we can do that, it would definitely be a factor in my decision.
But not the only factor."
The 6'10" Smith won't be the only party weighing his options.
The Warriors have to determine whether they want to bestow on
him the kind of gargantuan contract that other prominent members
of the 1995 draft class, including Minnesota's Kevin Garnett
(six years, $125 million) and Portland's Rasheed Wallace (six
years, $80 million), received to re-sign with their teams.
Although Smith's numbers were fairly impressive last season,
Golden State's management believed his work habits left a lot to
be desired. One of the primary tasks for new coach P.J.
Carlesimo will be to evaluate Smith. If Carlesimo concludes he
is something less than a franchise player, don't be surprised if
Smith is unloaded before the trading deadline in February.
"We're not shopping Joe, but we would always listen to a deal
that's a no-brainer," says Carlesimo. "Do we want Joe?
Absolutely we want Joe. But I think that as this season evolves,
we're going to have a lot better idea as to how critical Joe is
To cover themselves in case Smith goes elsewhere, the Warriors
upgraded their front line by drafting Foyle from Colgate and
trading veteran small forward Chris Mullin to Indiana for
second-year center Dampier and forward Duane Ferrell. Dampier,
at 6'11" and 265 pounds, and Foyle (6'10", 250) should improve
Golden State's rebounding and woeful interior defense, but both
are limited offensively, which means the bulk of the Warriors'
point production will again come from Smith and off-guard
Latrell Sprewell. The basketball world will have to survive
without Sprewell's wit and wisdom, however. Apparently taking
the No More Mr. Nice Guy theme a bit too seriously, Sprewell has
announced that he will not give any interviews this season.
It's not a good sign for the Warriors that the moves they made
off the court are more notable than the ones they made with
their roster. They have a renovated building--The New Arena in
Oakland was expanded from 15,025 seats to 19,200--a new practice
facility, new uniforms and a new logo. They also have the upbeat
tandem of Carlesimo and St. Jean, along with top assistant Paul
Westhead, the fast-break guru brought in to energize the
Warriors' attack. Still, at season's end the Warriors will
probably go back to their old theme song, with slightly
different lyrics: "We're the Warriors, kumbaya. We dealt our
star, kumbaya. We missed the playoffs again, kumbaya...." --P.T.