So he shipped out forwards Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and guard Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers in a dramatic overhaul of his roster.
In return, the Warriors received forward Al Harrington, whom Golden State had diligently pursued over the summer, swingman Stephen Jackson, whose mercurial talent has been counterbalanced by his off-the-floor problems, veteran point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius and young big man Josh Powell.
It's the Warriors' largest deal, in terms of total players, since a nine-man deal that netted them Nick Van Exel in August 2003 and by far the biggest move of Mullin's three-year career.
In one bold stroke, Mullin divested his team of three players he had either drafted in the topfrom Sports 1
10 (Diogu) or lavished with pricey contract extensions (Murphy and Dunleavy). In their place, he added an athletic, skilled pair of frontcourt players in the form of 6-foot-9 Harrington and 6-foot-8 Jackson, a solid backup point guard in Jasikevicius and a potential diamond in the rough in Powell.
"Chris and I have been talking about the change we need to make on the team for a long time," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "I've known for a long time that we probably need to do something."
Not just something, but something good. The Warriors may not be getting the Kevin Garnett-style star fans coveted, but they got out from under the onerous deals of Dunleavy and Murphy who are still due a combined $87.8 million on contracts that run through the 2010-11 season without giving up guard Jason Richardson or youngsters Monta Ellis or Andris Biedrins.
"We do feel good about it, retaining the guys we did and adding the players that we will," Mullin said. "I think with the players we acquired, style of play is a big consideration, and we feel they will flourish."
The Warriors will save at least $32.4 million over the next 51/2 seasons, assuming they were going to extend Diogu's rookie contract to its end. And that figure could climb to $46.4 million if Jasikevicius and Harrington opt out of the final seasons of their deals.
That means the Warriors are in much better shape with regards to keeping players such as Ellis and Biedrins, who are in line for big raises in the near future.
"I think we're making progress," Mullin said of his team's financial status. "Getting the team better, that's always the main focus, but there's always other elements to deals as well."
Stopped on his way to the airport from the team hotel in the morning, Murphy said he wasn't surprised at being packaged with Dunleavy despite their hefty contracts.
"I'm excited for the opportunity, and I wish the Warriors all the best," Murphy said. "I'm excited. I'm really excited."
By getting rid of the 6-11 Murphy, 6-9 Dunleavy and 6-8 Diogu, the Warriors would seem to be wedding themselves for the foreseeable future to the kind of small ball that Nelson prefers.
"Stature and production sometimes are different things," Mullin said. "I think we still maintain the ability (to go big) and maybe in some areas increased it by getting some points in the post. ... I don't think we've limited ourselves by the guys we've acquired."
Warriors point guard Baron Davis said he could sense change in the wind in recent days.
"You could feel it," Davis said. "There was a type of feeling that, the way we were playing, that unless we made it up in our minds to come together as a unit, something was going to happen."
Davis and Harrington both have offseason homes in Las Vegas, and Davis had been the Warriors' biggest champion as they pursued the forward over the summer. Harrington eventually wound up with Indiana via a sign-and-trade deal with his former team, the Atlanta Hawks.
"It's great," Davis said. "I mean, Al is like my brother. We're like brothers, for real. As well as Stephen Jackson. They're both like brothers to me, guys I work out with over the summer, guys I've been knowing since high school. They're very talented and versatile. I think it's something that we need. They're definitely going to make us a better team."
Davis said he had spoken to both Harrington and Jackson and that they were both planning to be at the Warriors' practice facility Thursday.
"I'm surprised, happy at the same time," Harrington told the Indianapolis Star. "Obviously if you want the whole truth, I wanted to play in Golden State in the summer. I was like, 'This was my 1A-1B options.' I'm looking forward to it."
Jackson brings considerable legal baggage. He's due in an Indianapolis court on Feb. 12 to face a felony charge of criminal recklessness and two other misdemeanor charges after an altercation outside a local strip club ended with Jackson firing at least five shots, according to police.
Additionally, Jackson must be in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Jan. 26 after pleading not guilty to violating his probation. He faces a maximum sentence of 93 days in jail.
Jackson was on probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a charge into the crowd during the Pacers' infamous brawl with the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 19, 2004. Jackson was also suspended 30 games by the NBA for his actions.
"We've got to feel strongly that a lot of those things are behind (Jackson), and he's looking to come here and get a new start and help us win games and focus on his basketball career," Mullin said. "That's something his lawyers obviously are going to handle, and something I can't really comment on right now, but of course we'll be in total support of him."
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