Steinmetz: Silence — is Golden State

It’s been eerily quiet around the Warriors’ offices lately, which is just the way executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin likes it. Amid all the talk about Kobe Bryant wanting out of L.A., Kevin Garnett going there and Jermaine O’Neal possibly moving along, the Warriors seem to be a million miles away.

That can only mean one thing: Stay tuned.

If there’s one thing Mullin has proven during his front-office tenure, it’s that silence precedes big-time noise.

In February 2005, without any fanfare, the Warriors acquired Baron Davis from the New Orleans Hornets for Dale Davis and Speedy Claxton. Then last season, well before the trade deadline and prior to most speculation, Mullin turned around the fortunes of the Warriors by unloading Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy for Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington.

Maybe there is some truth to the rumors that Garnett could be headed to the Lakers or O’Neal could wind up in Boston. But if that’s the case, don’t think Mullin is sitting idly by or doesn’t have the situation monitored.

If you think Mullin’s idea of a big offseason is picking 18th in Thursday’s NBA draft and then bringing back the core of the team, then you haven’t been paying attention. As you read this, Mullin is no doubt trying to finagle his way to a better draft pick or attempting to secure some kind of difference-making big man.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that any kind of significant offseason move will likely have to include Monta Ellis, the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2006-07. Conventional wisdom suggests the Warriors are looking to deal shooting guard Jason Richardson, despite Mullin’s denials.

In reality, Ellis is more likely to go. Why? Because the Warriors are in luxury-tax territory and probably will remain there for the next couple of years and Ellis is going to get a monster raise at the end of next season.

Ellis is set to make $700,000 this year. Next year? How does $7 million to start sound?

The bottom line is that Mullin will likely have to shed some salary if he hopes to re-sign Ellis at the end of 2007-08, and that’s easier said than done. Oh, and center Andris Biedrins is going to need an extension, too.

It seems counterintuitive to think the smallish Warriors would look into dealing Biedrins, their most effective big man.

Ellis had a terrific second year, averaging 16 points per game and taking advantage of coach Don Nelson’s up-tempo style. Ellis struggled in the playoffs, however, and questions linger as to whether he’ll be able to play full-time at the point.

But Ellis’ upside is undeniable. And in a league going more and more toward an up-and-down style, he has value.

While Warriors fans are still pumped about their team’s 42-win season and unexpected run to the second-round of the playoffs, Mullin likely knows this is a key offseason. The West is getting better.

If he brings the same team back, and Baron Davis goes down for a little while, the Warriors once again could be looking at a 30-ish win total for 2007-08.

Mullin knows this. That’s why it’s so quiet around here.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.


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