Jackson, Warriors play losing game

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» Tue Sep 01, 2009 5:55 pm
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/w ... index.html

When Stephen Jackson laughed in the Golden State Warriors' face with a megaphone last Friday -- about 2,500 miles away from team headquarters, in New York at a promotional event for his sneaker company that became more about self-promotion -- the ineptitude of a management team was crystallized like never before.

That was the real Jackson announcement: The Golden State power structure of owner Chris Cohan and president Robert Rowell can be toyed with. The message just happened to be delivered via an unexpected trade request.

Relocation demands happen to most every team. Venting in a moment of frustration over wanting a championship that's in the squinting distance happens to most every team. And bad contracts happen to most every team. But this was different because it was Jackson and because it was the Warriors.

First, Jackson. He owed them more. Golden State -- the people and coach Don Nelson's system -- helped rehabilitate an image that seemed in disrepair when he arrived from Indiana in January 2007 as part of a trade for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. The Pacers were ready to dump him by a road side, but the Warriors made him a captain and promoted him for community-service awards. The Nets, Spurs, Hawks and Pacers kept him two full seasons max, and the Suns and Grizzlies cut him before a single appearance, but the Warriors unnecessarily handed over an extension in November 2008, two seasons before he would become a free agent.

Some payback, his Friday in New York. Jackson was asked by an emcee at the shoe event whether Golden State would make the playoffs, the sort of underhand-softball question common at such gatherings to get the celebs chatting with fans without having to break a sweat. According to Dime Magazine, Jackson replied, "Um ... I don't think I'll be a Warrior next season. I'm looking to leave."

But thanks for the three-year extension on the books for $8.45 million in '10-11, $9.26 million in '11-12 and $10.06 million in '12-13. Suckers.

The Warriors had previously spent foolishly for Adonal Foyle, Derek Fisher, Murphy, Dunleavy and Corey Maggette, especially Foyle, Fisher and Maggette. They didn't spend to keep Baron Davis last summer, understandable given the price tag and injury history, except it led to his surprising departure for the Clippers and to Golden State's losing its point guard and emotional leader for nothing.

All of which would have been bad enough if former personnel boss Chris Mullin was not in the unemployment line in large part because of Cohan's and Rowell's frustration at the string of bad contracts. There were other reasons. They considered Mullin too player friendly, particularly when he stuck up for Monta Ellis a year ago as Rowell wanted to dispense some hard discipline once it was learned Ellis suffered a serious ankle injury riding a moped in violation of his contract. They would have liked Mullin to be more accessible to the media and, by extension, the public. Largely, though, it was the bloated contracts on Mullin's watch that prompted the big bosses to take a greater role in personnel decisions.

Next thing you know, they extended Jackson's contract. That was Rowell's move while Mullin was relegated to a figurehead in '08-09. In the press release announcing the deal, Jackson was quoted as saying, "This organization has put me in a position to succeed and, for that, I will be forever grateful."

Forever, nine months. Same thing.

Bad decision on top of bad decision on top of bad decision. With the Jackson deal, though, the blame couldn't be assigned to Mullin or successor Larry Riley. It was Rowell, who wrongly felt Jackson was a foundation piece, and Cohan, who has been the common thread through all the losing and roster turnover.

Rowell declined an interview request. The Warriors instead released a statement Monday from Riley.

"Stephen Jackson has been a true professional since arriving here three seasons ago, and our expectations of him have not changed despite his recent comments," Riley said. "He's been one of our most consistent and productive players during that time. We expect that same display of professionalism as we begin to prepare for training camp and the start of the upcoming regular season.

"As far as his remarks on playing for a championship ... that's not the first time we've heard it because that's the goal that he sets for himself and his teammates every season. That's the type of confidence that he exudes as a player and the reason that he has endeared himself to our fans. That's who Stephen Jackson is.

"We have always understood his desire to contend with the NBA's best; that's an aspiration that is shared by our entire organization. We will continue in our quest to achieve that goal, and to be aggressive in pursuit of those results."

The best the Warriors can do now is hope Jackson walks his comments back at some point in the very near future, but even that will be too late. Desperate for a drama-free year, they just lost it before the season even started. Training camp will open with questions about his future in Oakland, if he's still there then, to be followed by more questions when the first four-game losing streak comes, to be followed by more questions the first sign that Captain Jack, turnover-prone in his focused moments, has really checked out. If a player is doing a slow burn in late August, imagine the places his mind can go in the heat of the season.

He just took Rowell and the Warriors to the hole. Jackson flirted enough to get the extension, then came clean that he doesn't think they can win. It's not an original thought, but it is an original approach: Just come right out and announce management is to be toyed with.

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