Chris Mullin used the word often Thursday when talking about this season’s Warriors.
The executive vice president of basketball operations clearly has bigger goals in mind after the Warriors stunned the NBA (not to mention Mark Cuban and his top-seeded Dallas Mavericks) with their furious regular-season finish and run to the Western Conference semifinals.
But that doesn’t mean he is willingto brashly predict the Warriors will win the Pacific Division and earn a high seed for the playoffs.
Mullin has spent the offseason — “The shorter the better,” he said — trying to address the warts exposed in the playoffs and make the Warriors better. Gone are Jason Richardson, Adonal Foyle and Sarunas Jasikevicius. In are Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli, Austin Croshere and Troy Hudson.
“We had a good run,” Mullin said of the postseason success. “It’s been a pretty busy offseason, I think productive.”
And there remains a little work left to be done. Still outstanding is the one-year, $3.47 million qualifying offer to high-flying forward Mickael Pietrus. Training camp opens Tuesday in Hawaii and Mullin expects the restricted free agent to be on the flight. The offer expires Monday and, if not accepted, the Warriors retain the right of first refusal. Pietrus’ agents have been seeking a sign-and-trade deal.
Other than that, Mullin will entrust Don Nelson to wave his coaching magic wand over the 15-player roster, albeit one with many of the players having experience in the up-tempo system that made Oracle Arena a destination for fans.
Mullin, while more tempered, is looking forward to seeing what Belinelli, a rookie shooting guard who dazzled during summer league, can bring to the table. Nelson has the Italian penciled into the starting lineup, replacing Richardson.
“We’ve seen some of them against other top-flight competition,” Mullin said of the four rookies and two others with less than a season in the NBA. “Of that group, Marco and Kosta [Perovic, a 7-foot-2 center] have played professionally in Europe, they don’t have NBA experience, but a little more than say Stephane [Lasme, a rookie] or Patrick [O’Bryant, last year’s first-round pick]. It’s a tough transition, no doubt about it. Stephane’s tools might be suited for the way we play, he’s a little older than normal draft guys , a little more strength, a little more maturity, how he fits in, we’ll have to watch that.”
NOTES: Warriors forward Al Harrington will be at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to participate in the National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by first lady Laura Bush. … After the annual media day Monday, the Warriors will take an afternoon flight to Hawaii, where they will practice for two weeks. Practice is on the campus of BYU-Hawaii in Laie. The Warriors will also play two games against the Los Angeles Lakers before returning to the Bay Area.