Posted Feb 21 2012 10:58AM
OAKLAND -- As their season of promise (literally) quickly slips away, with their veteran roster unable to consistently win close games and their chance at recovery damaged by the possibility that their 2012 draft pick is ticketed for Utah, the Warriors are pursuing a deal before the March 15 trade deadline, general manager Larry Riley said.
"We're working day and night and we're hopeful," Riley told NBA.com on Monday night. "But what will not happen is, we won't do something that sets us back just to do a deal. We want to find the right deal, and if we get one of those we'll do it. I don't know what the odds of it are right now."
That Golden State is searching for a bold strike is nothing new -- they got deep into talks with the Suns for Amar'e Stoudemire in 2009 and acquired David Lee in the 2010 deal that included sending three players to the Knicks as a sign-and-trade. In 2011, they had serious conversations with the Hornets for Chris Paul and signed DeAndre Jordan to a $42.7 million offer sheet the Clippers predictably matched. Even before the current management team took over, the Warriors came close to acquiring Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves.
The difference now is the Warriors are 12-17 before hitting the toughest part of their schedule and sit 13th in the West as the All-Star break approaches. This is after new coach Mark Jackson on several occasions promised the playoffs in his rookie season.
Before, it looked like they were trying to build something. Now, at the midpoint of a letdown of a 2011-12 after one of the league's best fan bases was pep-rallied into getting their hopes up once more, the front office needs to head off the perception the team is going backward.
"I think it would have remained intense regardless of what's going on," Riley said of trade efforts, dismissing the idea that the bad start has pushed the Warriors into trade mode.
"We recognize we need to get better whatever our record is. Let's say we'd won half of those close games. We could be a .500 team. I think we'd be pushing real hard. I guess I would have to be honest with you and say that if we're 20-8, then things change. There's reason to stay the course at 20-8. But if we were a .500 team or one or two games above, I don't think it would change at all. We're wanting to get better."
Of the 17 losses, nine were after they were tied, led by a point or trailed by a point with 90 seconds left. Those close games.
Monday at Oracle Arena swung back to the encouraging, a 104-97 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Clippers with, of all things, fourth-quarter execution. Golden State shot 52.9 percent from the field, had just three turnovers and out-rebounded one of the league's best teams. It was a good last 12 minutes and a good night that may have earned Ekpe Udoh a promotion to starting center after the Warriors had spent the first half of the season trying to overcome the latest disappearing act from Andris Biedrins.
But it won't be enough to stop management from pushing for a trade.
"All we can keep doing is what we did tonight, which is go out and get wins and let the front office worry about that," Lee said. "If they think there's something we need to add, then that step needs to be taken. But as players all you can do is go out there and keep trying to win each game and let that take care of itself."
There is no indication a deal is imminent, with 3 ½ weeks left before the trade deadline, or which players have been discussed. The only message going out to the 29 other teams that the Warriors are open for business and anything is possible.
Stephen Curry is the closest to untouchable -- plugged-in beat writer Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group reported Golden State would not include Curry in a potential Hornets deal without assurance it could keep Paul beyond this season -- but the best assets are still in the backcourt. Monta Ellis has long been the focus of trade speculation, and now his backup, rookie Klay Thompson, is playing better by the week and drawing glowing reviews within the organization.
Interest would drop off dramatically beyond the guards. It's hard to imagine many teams wanting to take on Lee's contract. Biedrins has zero trade value and would only be in a deal for salary-cap purposes or if forced on another club as a condition of acceptance, which could also require the Warriors to take on bad money or a problem player in return. Udoh is considered a nice prospect, but wouldn't bring enough in return to be a centerpiece to a move.
As for that Golden State pick that could end up in the hands of the Jazz? Follow along: Utah acquired the pick from New Jersey as part of last season's Deron Williams trade, but it is top-seven protected for 2012. That means for the Jazz to land it, Golden State must finish ahead of seven teams in the league.
The Warriors have the league's ninth-worst record, but a tougher schedule coupled with more late-game woes could spell a fall in the standings -- a win for Golden State in the lottery and keeping the pick, but a loss when it comes to keeping spirits high now.
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