A New Attitude in Golden State
By John Schuhmann
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
Jan. 5, 2006 - Jason Richardson will never forget Feb. 23, 2005. It was the day before the trade deadline and there was a rumor going around that the Warriors might acquire Baron Davis from the Hornets.
"The first thing I did was call Mully from the locker room," Richardson said. Mully is Chris Mullin, the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Warriors, and he didn't answer the phone when Richardson called. Richardson left a message and asked around if anyone knew where Mullin was. Later on, he found his boss in the hallway and asked him to do whatever he could to bring Davis to Oakland.
"He listened to me and actually called me back that night to tell me he was working on it," Richardson told us. "The next thing you know, it happens."
The Warriors have continued this season where they left off, winning 12 of their first 18 games and holding a 17-15 record heading into Thursday night's TNT matchup with the Pacers. For Richardson, it's uncharted territory. The Warriors haven't had a winning season or seen the playoffs since 1993-94 and the closest they've come to first in Richardson's four years in the league was 19 back games in 2003-04.
What's the difference this year? Attitude.
"In previous years, we've had guys that were selfish, guys that were going for personal goals, which made me kind of fit into that role too," Richardson said. "Right now, I'm not worried about anything except winning games and trying to get into the playoffs."
He knows that if the team is successful, the personal accolades will come along with it. Not that he hasn't had his share already. Richardson is the only player other than Michael Jordan (not bad company, huh?) to win the Slam Dunk Contest two years in a row. He was the MVP of the Rookie Challenge in his rookie year and then tied the scoring record for that game a year later, so he has enjoyed the hype and pageantry of All-Star Weekend. He's never stuck around through Sunday though.
He's making a good case for a trip to Houston in February. He's averaging 22.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.41 steals per game this year and he and Davis have teamed up for countless highlights in the first two months. His scoring average has gone up every season he has been in the league and this year, he's focusing on the other end of the court as well.
"This year, I'm trying to pick up my defensive intensity," Richardson said, noting that he now looks forward to matchups with elite shooting guards like Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter. "They're at a level I'm trying to get to. I just try to go out there and defend them as best as I can."
It helps that Davis' presence is making things a little easier for him on the offensive end.
"When you have two guys that can score, it takes some of the pressure off of you," Richardson said. "You don't have to go out there and score 40 points to win. You just do whatever it takes to help the team win."
And the Warriors are winning.