Pietrus may stay a Warrior
# Player who once asked for a trade says he'd sign the right free-agent deal
By Geoff Lepper
Article Launched: 04/14/2008 02:59:36 AM PDT
OAKLAND -- Two months ago, Warriors guard/forward Mickael Pietrus stated repeatedly that he wished to be traded, no longer desiring to be a member of a team that was giving him sporadic minutes and making him play out of position.
Now, he'd like to take those sentiments back.
When the Warriors, unmoved by Pietrus' pleas, held onto the fifth-year player as the non-waiver trade deadline came and went on Feb. 21, the widely-held consensus -- supported by one of Pietrus' own agents -- was that he would walk out of Oakland as unrestricted free agent at season's end and take up employment with any one of 29 other NBA teams before consenting to return to the Warriors.
But Pietrus made it clear in an exclusive interview with the Times that he's very much open to the idea of staying with the only NBA team he's ever known.
"I know everybody in the organization, I know every player, so for me, if they want me, I'll stay," Pietrus told the Times. "I think when you look at the team, I'm one of the fan favorites, and one of the team's franchise players, I hope, and then I would like to remain here if they are going to sacrifice for me."
Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin, who could see nine of his 14 current players become free agents this summer, is amenable to considering such a move.
"Yeah, I'm definitely open to that. Always have been," Mullin said. "I have great respect for him as a player and as a person."
You'd be willing to bring back a guy who said 20 times in the space of a seven-minute press briefing that he wants to be "moved" or "traded"?
"I never judge a guy when he's emotional," Mullin said. "What's more, Mickael's been here a long enough time to know him. So no, (the tirade) never swayed me, one way or the other, in my feelings about him."
What may sway potential suitors -- be they the Warriors or other teams -- is the 16-game stretch he's had since Feb. 26. Getting 27.3 minutes per game, Pietrus has averaged 11.8 points plus 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. He's shooting 50.3 percent from the floor and 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
There are still issues that would require some clearing up, however, beginning with salary. Last summer, Pietrus was looking for a deal starting at or near the mid-level exception of $5.36 million. The Warriors will likely consider that only if they think Pietrus is going to be a rotation player for all 82 games, something that wasn't the case this season.
But even more than that, there's the matter of how Pietrus would fit with the Warriors of the future. His run of success has come since Nelson began using him defensively on smaller players, allowing the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder to exploit an advantage in athleticism. Who's to say that's going to remain the case next season?
"Because I'll talk to coach," Pietrus said. "I'm going to take Coach to a nice steakhouse. I haven't talked to him yet. ... I was able to help the team in the second part of the season, and to average almost a double-double from a guard is rare. So I'm going to -- if I get this playing time next year at the beginning of the season -- try to average a double-double and try to help the team be in a better position than we are now."
Then there's positioning on offense. Right now, Pietrus is used primarily as a 3-point shooting power forward; the Warriors try to match him up against a bigger defender who will have trouble getting out to his favorite spots to launch treys in a timely manner.
He only sees a handful of minutes at the shooting guard and small forward spots because the Warriors already have three perimeter stars in Baron Davis, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. Nevertheless, Pietrus envisions himself taking on a larger role if he's a Warrior in 2008-09.
"Next year, I think that coach will allow me to do more things on the floor, and allow me to have more responsibility," Pietrus said. "Our main goal is ... to make the team better, and obviously the player is going to be better too."
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