DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Point guard Baron Davis says the Golden State Warriors won't be able to sneak up on anybody this season.
Golden State wears target this year
Golden State's upset over Dallas in the first round of last year's NBA playoffs has only one significant bearing on this year's squad.
"Everybody is going to be gunning for us," point guard Baron Davis said. "We're going to be in a different position than last year."
The Warriors held their first day of training camp yesterday at the Cannon Activities Center on the BYU-Hawaii campus in Laie. They will practice every day for a week before squaring off with the Los Angeles Lakers in preseason games next Tuesday and Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Golden State is coming off a season in which it not only ended a 12-year playoff drought, but became just the third eighth-seed in NBA history to knock off a No. 1 seed.
The Warriors finished the year by winning nine of its final 10 games just to make the postseason. Once there, they became the first team in any of the three major professional sports leagues (NHL, MLB) that play over 80 games a season to defeat a team that had at least 25 more wins than them in the regular season.
Most of the core group is back, with the exception of guard Jason Richardson, who was traded to Charlotte on draft day.
They also have five rookies in camp, including forward Brandan Wright, who was acquired in the Richardson deal, and guard Marco Belinelli, whom the Warriors drafted 18th overall.
"It's a whole new season," Davis said. "We are a new ballclub with new people in new positions."
Until just over two weeks ago, the Warriors were also without a head coach. Don Nelson wasn't going to return for his 29th season as a head coach in the NBA unless a new deal was worked out with team.
He eventually got it signed and is now back focusing on the aspects of coaching he enjoys the most.
"I love the scenario now of training camp," Nelson said. "You can do your talking and most of your teaching in the morning session. Then you can do your physical work in the evening session. It's a perfect scenario."
Nelson, who spent six weeks in the offseason at his multiple homes on Maui, will spend a lot of camp figuring out how to replace the 16 points a game he got out of Richardson at the two-guard spot.
"I want to stay big at that position," Nelson said.
The 6-foot-5 Belinelli caught his attention after scoring 37 points and averaging nearly 23 a contest in four summer league games.
The Warriors also have 6-8 Stephen Jackson that can play the position, or move Monta Ellis, last year's Most Improved Player in the NBA, into that role.
Fourth-year man Mickael Pietrus will also get a chance at the starting spot after re-signing with the team on Monday.
It helps that the Warriors have put together a roster of guys that have the ability to be interchanged at multiple positions.
"We go after guys that can play more than one position," Nelson said. "Everybody has got at least two positions that they can play -- some guys three."
That's part of the justification the Warriors had in trading an established scorer like Richardson for an unproven rookie in Wright.
The 6-9 forward played just one year at North Carolina before turning pro.
He averaged nearly 15 points and six rebounds a game as a freshman and his versatility should allow him to fit right in with the Warriors up-tempo style of basketball.
"Being able to play in a wide-open style where you can showcase your talents and do the things you do best is definitely a plus," Wright said.
Golden State finished second in the NBA to Phoenix last year in scoring by averaging more than 106 points a game.