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Warriors' Mullin confident despite losing Dampier

| Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004

OAKLAND, Calif. - Despite losing his most dependable big man, Chris Mullin believes his offseason moves will help the Golden State Warriors end their long playoff drought.

"I think the process has been started," Mullin, the Warriors' new executive vice president of basketball operations, said Wednesday. "To take that next step, I think the young players we have need to step up and have breakout years. We all feel confident about the veteran players and what they'll do each night. Now it's about getting on the court and making it happen."

One year after losing Gilbert Arenas as a free agent to Washington, the Warriors dealt center Erick Dampier to Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal instead of losing him for no compensation as a free agent.

The deal that was finalized Tuesday brought Christian Laettner, Eduardo Najera, two future first-round draft picks and the draft rights to guards Luis Flores and Mladen Sekularac to the Warriors for Dampier, Dan Dickau, Evan Eschmeyer and the draft rights to Steve Logan.

Warriors fans were disappointed they couldn't get a starting player for one of the league's more dependable big men.

"He was a free agent," Mullin said. "He was not really our player. Going into this process, I put some criteria on what we wanted to get back. I feel I fulfilled that."

The Warriors have made many changes this offseason since finishing 37-45 and missing the playoffs for the 10th straight year. Mullin fired coach Eric Musselman and brought Mike Montgomery from Stanford to take over the team.

He also traded point guard Nick Van Exel to the Portland Trail Blazers in a deal that brought Dale Davis to Golden State, signed point guard Derek Fisher as a free agent and re-signed center Adonal Foyle to a six-year contract worth nearly $42 million.

"I feel like with Adonal and Dale Davis, we're in good hands at the center position," Mullin said. "I think Adonal is working hard to get fit and healthy. When he has played minutes, he's been very productive not only for himself but more importantly for the team."

Foyle and Davis will be counted on to replace the 6-foot-11 Dampier, who averaged career highs of 12.3 points and 12 rebounds in 74 games last season for the Warriors. He was fourth in the NBA in rebounding, and one of just nine players to average more than 10 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Dampier opted out of his contract with the Warriors in late June and became a free agent after seven seasons with Golden State.

Najera averaged 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game last year but his biggest strength is on defense. He will likely back up Mike Dunleavy at small forward.

"I feel like he is a good fit for our existing roster," Mullin said. "I think he's a player who will play multiple positions. He has lots of energy and is a really good defender. He'll help us win games."

Mullin is also high on Flores, who was acquired by Dallas on draft night in a trade from Houston. Flores, a native of the Dominican Republic, averaged 24.3 points over his final two seasons at Manhattan and is projected as a point guard in the NBA.

"We intend on giving him a really good look," Mullin said. "I scouted him myself a few times during the year. We're going to give him a really strong look."

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