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11 Golden State Warriors When is it wise to use a gunner with no playmaking experience at the point? When you've tried everything else

Oct. 29, 2001
Oct. 29, 2001

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Oct. 29, 2001

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11 Golden State Warriors When is it wise to use a gunner with no playmaking experience at the point? When you've tried everything else

On the face of it, the Warriors' plan to shift shooting guard
Larry Hughes to the point seems like the kind of illogical move
that would illustrate why this team has a record of 76-220 over
the last four years. Hughes is undeniably talented, but he's been
something of a gunner during his three NBA seasons, and his lack
of restraint has been matched only by his lack of accuracy--his
career field goal percentage is 39.6. Even though he averaged 4.5
assists last year on a poor-shooting team, Hughes hardly fits the
playmaker profile.

This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2001 issue Original Layout

But the Warriors have usually made logical decisions, and where
has it gotten them? It seemed logical to acquire top-pick Chris
Webber in 1993 and to make Joe Smith the No. 1 choice in '95 and
to replace laid-back coach Rick Adelman with the harder-edged
P.J. Carlesimo in '97, all of which turned out to be worse
misfires than anything Hughes has launched. With that kind of
history it's hard to blame the team for abandoning the sensible
approach in favor of the something-so-crazy-it-just-might-work
route.

Still, when Golden State selected shooting guard Jason
Richardson of Michigan State with the fifth pick in June and
coach Dave Cowens announced that Hughes would be moving to the
point to make room for him, it was a surprise to nearly
everyone, including Hughes. Cowens and general manager Garry St.
Jean had talked to him at the end of last season about the
possibility of playing the point, but Hughes didn't come away
from that conversation thinking a move was imminent. "It was
kind of a shock," he says. "They never told me they were
planning this. I found out about it the same way everybody else
did."

The 6'5" Hughes spent the off-season working on his ball
handling and is now looking forward to his new role, though
Mookie Blaylock will at least start the season at the point. "I
think it's really my natural position," Hughes says. "I can get
into the lane and create, and on defense I can use my length
against smaller guys. I think this is going to work out O.K. for
everybody."

Even if the point guard experiment is successful, several other
things have to work out for the Warriors to improve
significantly over last season's disaster. They went 2-32 after
the All-Star break, lost their final 13 games and left their
fans with little to cheer about other than forward Antawn
Jamison. The league's ninth-leading scorer, Jamison did what no
other Warrior was able to do: appear in all 82 games. Golden
State players missed 414 games due to injury last season, the
most in the NBA and the third most in the 15 years that
statistic has been kept. Seven players had season-ending
injuries, including Hughes, who missed the last 22 games with a
sprained thumb and a strained shoulder, and power forward Danny
Fortson, who averaged 16.3 rebounds and 16.7 points in the first
six games before suffering a stress fracture in his right foot.

Fortson is healthy and will play alongside center Marc Jackson,
who's back--if not happy about it--after the Warriors matched
the Rockets' six-year, $24.4 million offer sheet. Cowens has
dreams of that pair and center Erick Dampier (an enduring
disappointment who missed 38 games with a left knee injury)
staying upright and supplying the interior scoring and defense
that the team desperately needs. "If we can keep our big men out
of the doctor's office, we'll be O.K. inside," Cowens says.
"This team is due for a run of good health."

The Warriors could even be a factor in the playoff race if
everything breaks right--if Hughes adapts to the point, if
Jackson doesn't mope, if Richardson makes a Rookie of the Year
run. It's more likely they'll have to settle for modest
improvement and win 25 to 30 games. Golden State is due for some
positive developments, but in the rugged West, a team needs
something more to depend on than the law of averages.

--P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER/NBA ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIMENTAL Hughes was surprised by the Warriors' plan to make him a point guard, but the season may ride on its success.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Warriors

"The primary concern is who's going to run the show. Mookie
Blaylock is established and solid, but at 34 he's getting old.
Larry Hughes is younger and more athletic, but he's got a
two-guard mentality. Teams are going to get in his face, make
him uncomfortable, make him demonstrate he can handle. They're
also going to make him prove he can beat them from outside. He
may not be able to.... A major factor is locating Danny Fortson
when a shot goes up. He's not a high-powered offensive player,
but he'll kill you if he starts eating up rebounds.... Troy
Murphy was a great pick for them. He's a lot tougher and a lot
more athletic than people give him credit for. He also gives
them a big man who, because of his shooting touch, can take
defenders away from the basket, which Fortson and Erick Dampier
don't do.... If you stop Antawn Jamison, you have a good chance
of beating them. Although he's gotten better from the perimeter,
you want him to stay outside.... The guy who will really make a
difference for them is Jason Richardson, who's already a good
finisher. You've got to keep him out of the middle, do what you
can to make him a half-court player.... One overlooked thing
about them: They have rebounders at every position. You have to
get your perimeter guys thinking about going to the boards, and
that's not always easy.... They have to execute better to get
more opportunities to score. They're going to be battling the
Clippers to see which good young team is going to make the
quantum leap."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 17-65 (seventh in Pacific)
Coach: Dave Cowens (second season with Warriors)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Antawn Jamison 24.9 ppg 8.7 rpg 2.0 apg 1.40 spg 44.2 FG%
14
PF Danny Fortson[2] 7.6 ppg 6.7 rpg 0.5 apg 52.8 FG% 73.5 FT%
136
C Erick Dampier 7.4 ppg 5.8 rpg 1.35 bpg 40.1 FG% 53.2 FT%
196
SG Jason
Richardson (R)[1] 14.7 ppg 2.2 apg 5.9 rpg 1.15 spg 50.3 FG%
99
PG Larry Hughes 16.5 ppg 4.5 apg 5.5 rpg 1.92 spg 38.3 FG%
77

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

C-F Marc Jackson 13.2 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.2 apg 0.71 spg 46.7 FG%
118
G Mookie Blaylock 11.0 ppg 6.7 apg 3.9 rpg 2.36 spg 39.6 FG%
121
F Chris Mills 12.0 ppg 6.2 rpg 1.2 apg 37.2 FG% 86.1 FT%
165
G Bobby Sura 11.1 ppg 4.6 apg 4.3 rpg 39.0 FG% 27.3 3FG%
173
F Troy Murphy (R)[1] 21.8 ppg 9.2 rpg 2.1 apg 1.67 bpg 47.1 FG%
246

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)
[2]1999-2000 statistics

"Murphy was a great pick for them; Richardson is already a good
finisher."