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» Mon Apr 18, 2005 12:24 pm

OAKLAND - Warriors forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili played 12 minutes in a loss at Denver last Monday. Not even his 2-for-8 shooting performance could knock him off the high he was on just from being on the court.

"It was a long time since I played," said Tskitishvili, who has 16 DNPs in 26 games with the Warriors. "That 12 minutes was like 48 minutes. That was wonderful."

Tskitishvili and forward Rodney White -- both acquired from Denver on Feb. 24 for forward Eduardo Najera, point guard Luis Flores and a first-round draft pick -- have combined for 24 appearances and 162 minutes. Since they joined the team, rookie forward Andris Biedrins has appeared in 24 games and played 228 minutes.

White has gotten the most opportunities. He struggled shooting initially, going 9-for-35 from the floor his first 12 games. But he came on last week. He totaled 38 minutes at Denver and Minnesota and scored 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting.

"I've been comfortable," White said. "I mean obviously, I would feel more comfortable if I was playing consistently. I just stay ready. I know I can play. So when I get my opportunities I just try to take advantage of it."

Other than the Nuggets game, Tskitishvili played eight minutes at Sacramento on March 20 and less than five minutes in his other eight appearances.

But both have handled their bench-warming as well as anyone could have expected. They cheer on the sidelines. They listen in timeouts. They encourage their teammates.

Both go all out in practice, though there hasn't been much since they joined the team. The last two players to leave the court Sunday were White, who was working with assistant coach Terry Stotts, then Tskitishvili, who was working with assistant coach Keith Smart.

"Neither one was playing very much in Denver either," assistant coach Terry Stotts said. "So they were looking at this as a new opportunity. I'm sure its frustrating for both of them. But I think to both their credit, they're both out here working hard. They realize how this thing has gone, but their career is not over and they continue to work and be ready for their next opportunity."

Choosing to develop chemistry and build confidence for next season, Warriors coach Mike Montgomery has gone with a nine-man rotation. White logged just 23 minutes in two appearances during the eight-game win streak; Tskitishvili totaled 15 minutes in two appearances.

The lack of available minutes is unfortunate for both players considering the uncertainty of their immediate futures.

The Warriors hold the option for White next season and have until July 15 to decide if they want to pay him around $2 million next season or release him to free agency. Tskitishvili will become a free agent at season's end and is in need of a suitor.

"I know that talking to the assistants, they like me and I think that they would like me back next year," White said. "I spoke to Baron (Davis) and (Jason Richardson), I know those guys want me back. So whatever happens, happens."

"I'm still getting better," Tskitishvili said. I can tell the difference since I got here (that) my level (of play) is up. If any team wants me, cool. If not, I don't mind going overseas. That way I know I'm going to play more."

Both said they haven't heard from management whether they will be retained. Tskitishvili said a meeting is scheduled for the end of the week. Both players said they want to stay with the Warriors and believe they can contribute to next year's team. But they might be too expensive for the over-the-cap Warriors to keep on the end of the bench next season.

The top 10 players on the roster all could be back, at a combined $54 million in salary. That's not counting the lottery pick's salary they are expected to add. The Warriors, who still hold a $5.2 million trade exception, might be better off financially filling out the roster with their two second-round picks.

"They're both NBA players," Stotts said. "The thing about being an NBA player is being in the right place at the right time and finding your niche where you can help a certain team and having an opportunity with that team. Whether it's with us or with someone else, I think they're both NBA players and in the right situation they're going to help a team."

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