Suns' Richardson wonders what happened to the Warriors
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By Marcus Thompson II
Contra Costa Times
Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson keeps in touch with several of his former Warriors teammates. Stephen Jackson, in fact, is staying in Richardson's home in Charlotte, N.C.
Usually when Richardson and his ex-teammates talk, the conversation turns to the Warriors. And that's when they usually scratch their heads.
"It's crazy what's going on over there," Richardson, 28, said in a telephone interview. "They really went from being great to going back to the same ol' Warriors."
On Saturday night, when the Warriors host the Suns, Richardson returns to an arena that he helped turn into a phenomenon, to face the team he helped lift from doormat to playoff Cinderella during the 2006-07 season.
Richardson was traded away by the Warriors on draft day 2007. He's been on two teams since leaving the Warriors. He's now a starting guard for a Suns team that is in the mix for one of the top four Western Conference seeds in the 2010 playoffs.
Still, he can't help but be befuddled by the franchise he played for during his first six NBA seasons.
Along with several other former Warriors who helped pull off arguably the biggest upset in playoff history by knocking off the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, Richardson can't help but wonder what could've been.
"That's the crazy part," said Richardson, who's averaging 15.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game this season. "We didn't get the chance. That team together, in two months (after acquiring Jackson and Al Harrington in January 2007), made history. It would've been scary had that team been together a whole year and had a training camp together.
"I kind of feel bad for the fans. They had a playoff experience. They had a good team. They had so much potential. Now, it's almost back to my first three or four years there."
Richardson, though, said he isn't surprised by one thing: Monta Ellis. His former Golden State teammate is averaging 25 points, 5.0 assists and 2.36 steals in 40.9 minutes per game this season. He's established himself as the face of the Warriors franchise and even garnered All-Star talk.
"He's the man," Richardson said of Ellis. "You saw it in him when he first came in. All that hard work he put in, it's definitely paying off. You definitely could tell he was going to be effective. The time was going to come when he was going to be a star in this league."
Despite a 7-21 record this season, the Warriors are headed in the right direction, Richardson said, pointing to talented youngsters Ellis, Anthony Randolph and Stephen Curry.
Richardson also didn't rule out a return to Golden State as a veteran role player when his current contract expires after the 2010-11 season. He said he's learning a lot from Suns teammates Steve Nash, 35, and Grant Hill, 37, about how to prolong NBA careers with proper eating, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
He said he wouldn't be able to be the J-Rich of old, but he wouldn't mind the opportunity to play before what he calls the best fans in the league.
"I do miss being in that arena (Oracle) with the fans, being a part of that environment," Richardson said. "Phoenix has great fans, but I don't think they're as rowdy as the fans in the Bay."(c)
(c) 2009, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
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