Eric Musselman: "No one thought Troy Murphy would develop this much"
One of the first things you did when taking over the Warriors coaching reigns was to hang a huge banner at your practice site that reads: “Golden State Warriors: NBA World Champions 1974-75.” Did you want to remind the players that this was once a great franchise and home to some of the all-time great s like Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond?
Eric Musselman: No question. There’s no reason to hide what we were in the past because what we were in the past is something really great. Maybe not the past 7-8 years, but we can win here they’ve done in the past.
The emergence of young players like point guard Gilbert Arenas and power forward Troy Murphy has resulted in several veteran players (Danny Fortson, Chris Mills) being planted on the bench. How have you determined who plays?
EM: I don’t don’t think anyone thought Troy Murphy would develop this much as a player. But you can’t develop a full roster without impacting other players. And Troy’s development has come at Danny’s expense. Danny was fourth leading rebounder last year, but we’ve elected to develop Troy based on his work ethic this past summer. Danny missed part of camp and Troy ceased the opportunity. Coming in people talked about him not being a great rebounder and you know what we did was spend a lot of time watching the summer league.
Dunleavy has not seen much playing time so far. Are you concerned that may effect his pro development?
EM: No, I don’t believe so. How many guys can you develop at once? Jermaine O’Neal is a pretty good basketball player right now. But for whatever reason, his development hit at a certain peak in his career. Then there’s Kwame Brown – where’s Washington going with him. When you have a roster, you gotta play the guys that you can play. We’re throwing Mike in there in the first half and letting him go. Jiri Welsch has a short end of the stick. He’s out of that rotation. Danny has found himself out of that rotation. Recently Chris Mills has found himself out of that rotation. Danny and Chris are two guys that can play in this league, they’ve proven they can play, they’ve shown they can play in this league.
So it may not be for another year before we see a lot of Dunleavy on the floor?
EM: I know what he can do because I see him in practice every day. The biggest thing is I don’t think he was drafted for the first 40 games of this season. He was drafted for the future. The bottom line is Arenas is a pretty good player year and half later after sitting out the first 35 games of last season? Did that hurt his growth? Maybe not. Maybe he learned some things while he was sitting. Maybe he respects his minutes now cause he didn’t get them early. The good thing with Mike is that his father is a coach and his father understands the game. So I’m sure he’s helping him understand. It’s not gonna happen overnight.
At this point, is practice just as important as game action for Dunleavy and Welsch?
EM: Probably more important and pre-practice is more important and post practice is more important and the summer is more important. That’s where Troy developed. Troy did not develop over those 82 games last year. Troy developed on his own in the weight room, doing the individual work, and playing in the summer league. I’ve already talked to Mike and Jiri about our summer league plans for them and how important we feel it is and the potential cities where developing and the potential dates we think. That’s very important to start thinking about that. I disagree that a guy can’t develop if he’s not playing.
Arenas has really nailed down the starting point job. He’s really blossomed this season as a starter at the point: 16 ppg, 6.3 apg. What has impressed you about Gilbert?
EM: Gilbert has done a great job at developing as a point guard. Look at him a year ago to where he is today. Gil was guy trying to learn position and all of a sudden he knows the position. He understands the point guard position. He can play two positions, but he is a point guard and is proving it. Our guys are now playing better against NBA starters than they did against summer league competition eight months ago. We were pretty scared when we watched the summer league tape
The Warriors are now 16-22. Where do you see the most progress since day one?
EM: We haven’t yanked guys in and out starting lineup. The game starters have started the third quarter of every game. And we’ve been very consistent as far as giving our young core the minutes. Also I’ve seen guys believing they can win, first at home. For the most part we’ve done a good job at home and we’re getting better on the road. Offensively we’re playing exciting basketball. One of the things we wanted to be was pleasing to watch. We push the basketball and not walking the ball up and shortening the game up.
The energy seems to be there through the whole 48 minutes as well.
EM: When we get down in games by eight points with 40 seconds to go like we did in our recent two-point loss to Memphis. That could have easily turned into a 12 or 14 point loss. But I thought we executed exactly who we should have gotten off some better shots. But for the most part, they never quit until the buzzer stops.
AJ Hayes is a San Francisco-based sports writer and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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