Murphy unable to find niche
By Geoff Lepper
ORLANDO, Fla. - At the start of fall training camp, the conventional wisdom was that Warriors forward Troy Murphy should be a key contributor for new coach Don Nelson. If anyone could extract the most value from the matchup problems presented by a 6-foot-11 player with three-point-shooting range, it would be Nelson.
Instead, Murphy -- who is being paid $8.3 million this season and stands to make an additional $42.35 million on a contract extension that runs through 2010-11 -- is averaging 28.2 minutes, 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 18 games.
Per minute, that represents Murphy's lowest scoring rate since 2002-03, his second season in the NBA. And it's the worst rebounding rate of his pro career.
``With Troy, we envisioned him doing certain things in this style of play, in this system,'' Warriors General Manager Rod Higgins said. ``It's still early on, so we don't want to become too alarmed.''
The easiest explanation as to this statistical decline is to list Murphy's physical ailments: a broken nose in preseason and two bouts of soreness in his left Achilles tendon, which will force him to miss today's game against the Orlando Magic.
Except Murphy said flatly this week before returning to California to see a foot specialist that the mask he wears to protect his nose is ``not an issue at all.'' Instead it appears that Murphy is floundering in an environment where players sometimes will get only a few minutes to earn Nelson's confidence or face a return to the bench.
When Murphy's shooting is on, Nelson will use him. Otherwise, Murphy has often been an afterthought down the stretch, a spectator during fourth quarters where he once played a key role.
Asked why he hadn't thrived in Nelson's system, Murphy shook his head and said, ``That's a very good question.''
Some parts of the equation are obvious. With the Warriors already forced to play zone defense a vast majority of the time, Nelson can more freely trade Murphy's size at power forward for the greater speed and quickness of Mickael Pietrus -- who has been surprisingly effective in that role -- or Matt Barnes.
``You have to factor in that Matt and Mike (Dunleavy) can also play that position,'' Higgins said. ``And in Nellie's style of ball, traditionally a (power forward) guy is just another perimeter guy.''
That might be a hard transition to make for a player like Murphy, who used to be a crucial piece of the Warriors offense.
But with 55 games to go, there's plenty of time for Murphy to recover.
``I think the day's coming when he can get some things accomplished for us,'' Warriors assistant coach Larry Riley said. ``You still have to believe he can make the shots that he's always made and that he can rebound more. He's shown those abilities.''
• Forward Zarko Cabarkapa, who sustained a lower-back injury in October and has not played in a regular-season game, has been diagnosed with a herniated disk and will undergo surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles. A team spokesman said the surgery is not expected to be season-ending, although that's not a certainty until Dr. Robert Watkins assesses the damage firsthand.
• Nelson was happy that guard Jason Richardson developed no swelling in his left knee after playing 42 minutes Wednesday. Nevertheless, Nelson said he would hold Richardson out of Saturday's game at Miami -- the second half of a back-to-back -- as a precaution.
• Guard Monta Ellis (sprained left foot) will be a game-time decision today.
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