Stephen Jackson(notes) has openly talked about his desire to be traded to a contending team, but a day before the Golden State Warriors opened their 2009-10 season, the outspoken swingman was saying all the right things.
Jackson and the Warriors look to bounce back from a disappointing 2008-09 campaign and a summer of discontent when they host the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
“This is the first camp in the last four years that I didn’t miss a practice,” Jackson said Tuesday. “My body feels great, I’m stronger than ever.
“I’m excited … I know I don’t have to make every play down court. I have Monta (Ellis) and (Stephen) Curry down there to do most of the ball handling, so all I have to do is score and play defense. And I would rather have that than making plays, scoring and having to defend. It’s more energy for me.”
Jackson, however, wasn’t this energetic about the upcoming season—or even staying with the team—during the summer. In a magazine article published in August, Jackson voiced his frustrations with the organization that signed him to a three-year, $28 million extension in November.
“It’s just things are in the air right now,” said Jackson, who averaged 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists last season. “I really can’t get too much into it right now, but I’m just looking to go somewhere where I can go and win a championship.”
Jackson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for those remarks and suspended for two exhibition games for “conduct detrimental to the team” after leaving the bench and not returning during a 110-91 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 9.
“In my 30-some-odd years in coaching, I never suspended a player before,” said the Warriors’ Don Nelson, who two weeks ago accepted Jackson’s offer to surrender his role as team captain. “Maybe I should have a couple of times, but I never have. I try to stay away from doing anything costing players a lot of money.”
Ellis lost approximately $3 million last season after team president Robert Rowell suspended him 30 games for violating his contract. Ellis signed a six-year, $66 million deal in July 2008, but after severely spraining his ankle in a moped accident in August, he initially lied to the team by explaining the injury was suffered in a pickup game.
Ellis, who missed 57 games last season, voiced his concern during media day about the Warriors selecting Curry seventh overall in this summer’s draft.
“I can’t envision that,” Ellis said of playing in an undersized backcourt with Curry, who is also 6-foot-3. “Us together, no. I can’t. I just can’t. I just can’t. They say we can, but we can’t. I just want to win, and we’re not going to win that way.”
Nelson, though, has squashed any speculation that Curry, who led the nation with 28.6 points per game last season while with Davidson, will be traded.
Prior to the draft, the Warriors parted ways with Jamal Crawford(notes), who was dealt to Atlanta for Speedy Claxton(notes) and Acie Law(notes). Golden State also re-signed C.J. Watson(notes) and acquired veteran Devean George(notes) during the offseason to bolster the backcourt.
Corey Maggette(notes) is back from offseason wrist surgery, but the Warriors will be without third-year forward Brandan Wright(notes) for several weeks after he underwent surgery earlier this month to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Golden State, which has lost six straight to Houston, faces an undersized Rockets team that was forced to start 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes(notes) at center in Tuesday’s season-opening 96-87 loss at Portland.
With Yao Ming(notes) sidelined until next season following foot surgery and Ron Artest(notes) signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, Houston was outrebounded 51-33 and had 12 shots blocked.
The Rockets benefited from 26 Portland turnovers, but they shot 37.0 percent from the field.
“We had a pretty good combination out there (during a 21-9 fourth-quarter run) that attacked them a little bit,” coach Rick Adelman said. “But they really helped us by turning it over like they did.”
Aaron Brooks(notes) had 19 points to lead Houston, but he missed all six 3-point attempts. In Houston’s last visit to Oracle Arena, Brooks hit three 3s and scored 20 points in a 113-109 victory on April 10.