OAKLAND, Calif. – Having tired of the near-daily disruption Stephen Jackson’s(notes) unresolved status has had on their young roster, the Golden State Warriors are more committed than ever to trading the veteran swingman and NBA sources said the team is optimistic a deal can be completed within the next few weeks.
Even on a night when the Warriors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 146-105 while scoring their most points in 15 years, two Golden State players told Yahoo! Sports on Monday that the team’s play – and overall morale – won’t truly improve until Jackson is gone. Jackson first declared in August he wanted the Warriors to trade him, and his impending departure has become one of a handful of issues hanging over the team.
“The Jax situation is a constant distraction,” one Warrior said.
“Once they trade him,” another player said, “it will clear up a lot of things.”
The Warriors no longer seem to have any desire to repair the damaged relationship with their former captain. Jackson’s agent, Mark Stevens, blasted Warriors coach Don Nelson in an interview with ESPN.com Sunday night, criticizing Nelson’s coaching ability and trustworthiness. Nelson wouldn’t respond to Stevens' comments, but he did say the Warriors are trying to accommodate Jackson’s trade wish.
“I’m aware the team needs a change,” Golden State general manager Larry Riley said. “I’m working hard toward that.”
Jackson said he has been told 10 teams have expressed interest in him. The seriousness of their level of interest remains questionable. Jackson has three years and $28 million remaining on his contract after this season, significantly tempering his trade value. The Cleveland Cavaliers have had talks with the Warriors, but don’t want to part with center Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes). Golden State, which doesn’t have a single player who weighs more than 250 pounds on its roster, would like a big man. The Warriors would be amenable to trading Jackson for expiring contracts, but most teams would prefer to save their cap space for the heralded 2010 free-agent market.
“If it’s soon, I’m ready,” Jackson told Yahoo! Sports after Monday’s game. “Can’t do nothing but be ready. I asked for it as long as it’s the right situation for me and it’s not done out of spite. I’ve done a lot for this team and this organization and I hope the respect stays the same way. If it does happen, I hope it’s somewhere where I want to be.”
Jackson said he’d actually prefer to stay with the Warriors if the team plans to trade him to another franchise going through a rebuilding project. That doesn’t appear likely. One of Jackson’s teammates said the Warriors have “serious chemistry issues,” and is hopeful Jackson is traded before the team’s upcoming five-game trip ends in Boston on Nov. 18. Jackson, sources said, told his teammates after a recent practice he didn’t feel like part of the team.
Jackson did his best to make the Warriors happy on Monday, handing out a career-high 15 assists in their runaway victory. He said he was surprised some of his teammates had begun to consider him a distraction, and said he had even held team barbecues to build camaraderie.
“It shouldn’t be [a distraction] because what’s going on with their contracts and their problems doesn’t affect my game,” Jackson said. “It shouldn’t bother them. But if it does I guess they need to grow in the game – it’s not going to be the last time somebody wants to be out and they’re a big part of their team.
“It’s a business. Whoever is saying that doesn’t know that this game is a business. They could be gone just as quick as I can.”
Jackson said he didn’t agree with his agent’s complaints about Nelson. “I can’t take any blame for that,” Jackson told reporters after the game. “He was upset with some things and he spoke his mind. We work good together because we both speak our minds. But I would never bash Coach in the paper like that. I never have. I got a lot of respect for Coach, and I’ll never do something like that.”
That said, Jackson was suspended for two preseason games just last month after he cursed Nelson during an incident on the sideline. Jackson’s big complaint then was that Nelson hadn’t done enough to support him with the game’s officials.
Despite the Warriors’ 2-4 start, the 69-year-old Nelson said he believes he’s still the right coach for the team. His hope is the Warriors begin to build some consistency once their injured big men, including center Andris Biedrins(notes), return to health.
“It’s hard when you don’t win,” Nelson said. “It’s hard for everybody. But you have to keep the morale up.”