By Marcus Thompson II, CONTRA COSTA TIMES
October 3, 2005
OAKLAND - Spirits were high. Hope was prevalent. Promises were made.
Throughout last season's strong closing run, Warriors players expressed sheer impatience for this coming season. They vowed to work their tails off in the offseason to prepare for a playoff run in 2005-06.
Well, it's audit time, as the team reconvenes Tuesday for training camp in Hawaii.
The Warriors' brain trust wants to see if Baron Davis is in shape, if Jason Richardson has improved his free-throw shooting, if Troy Murphy has gotten better around the basket, if Mike Dunleavy is indeed stronger.
There is an eagerness to see if the players put in the work they vowed to this offseason.
"I would sure hope so," Warriors coach Mike Montgomery said last month.
Warriors officials said they were encouraged by the number of players who worked out at the team's facility. Chris Mullin, the executive vice president of basketball operations, said every player showed up at some point.
Said Montgomery: "I would say the vast majority have been around and have been working out and are in pretty good shape. Some of the guys that haven't been around as much are veterans. They're pros and they know what they have to do. Derek (Fisher) hasn't been around, but Derek's a pro. He'll be in shape."
However encouraging, there is still some uncertainty. Teams can't force players to work out and don't really monitor the ones who do. The Warriors said they kept in contact with their players and felt good about the reports they received. But because of their lack of control, and especially with the number of younger players on the team, there is still a wait-and-see tone in management's voice.
"You feel good, but you have to (temper) that feeling until you see it," general manager Rod Higgins said. "It's all good to say you've been working out, handling your business. But actually doing it is another thing."
Said Mullin: "It's encouraging, but it's also a prerequisite. It's the way you should be."
From management's standpoint, the players' condition is the only real unknown.
The roster is all but set, though Mullin said he is "working on some things" when asked about getting veteran help off the bench. Still, it would appear no major roster changes are imminent.
Continuity is another point in the Warriors' favor. Higgins said he is expecting them to be ahead of the curve in the chemistry department because they have the same core players. And Montgomery, entering his second season, said training camp will be much more focused this year. He said the coaching staff knows exactly what it wants to accomplish based on its improved knowledge of the roster.
"I've learned the players and what they can do," Montgomery said. "I've learned how they react to me, to drills, to criticism, to structure.
"We know what it takes to win in this league. We're going there with a very specific idea of what we need to get done, and we'll really work hard to do that."
The remaining variable is whether the players followed through on their promises. It seems as if several did.
Dunleavy, Zarko Cabarkapa, Andris Biedrins and Adonal Foyle have been regulars at the facility most of the summer; Foyle also participated in a big-man camp in Orlando, Fla. The Warriors' three draft picks -- Ike Diogu, Monta Ellis and Chris Taft -- all were in Oakland by the beginning of September. Richardson has been going hard at the facility practically every day since late July, and Calbert Cheaney has been there regularly since Labor Day.
Murphy and Davis worked out on their own. Davis went through a rigorous regimen in Los Angeles beginning in July and reported to Oakland early last week to work out with teammates. Mickael Pietrus has been playing with the French national team in the European Basketball Championships, scoring 23 points during the win over Spain in the silver medal game on Sept. 25.
"Jason and Troy, with (big contracts that kick in this season), they know they have a lot to prove. They'll come back ready," said Fisher, who was busy with NBA players union business but said he managed to get some rest. "Mike D., it's a big year for him. He'll be ready. Myself and B.D., we'll be ready.
"My gut feeling, guys will be ready."
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