SACRAMENTO — The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings shook up the Pacific Division and their futures Friday, trading a proven star for a potential one in a move that even Don Nelson admits is a gamble.
Nelson, who as coach and general manager is largely responsible for building the Warriors with one of the highest-scoring threesomes in NBA history, sent part of that group, Mitch Richmond and his 22.7-point average, to the Kings for the rights to rookie Billy Owens. Sacramento also got reserve center Les Jepsen and a 1995 second-round pick.
Owens, an All-American forward at Syracuse who became the No. 3 pick in the June draft, remains unsigned and reportedly was contemplating a five-year, $14-million package when the deal was made.
Richmond, a 1988 Olympian and 1989 rookie of the year, was flying from Denver, where the Warriors opened the season Friday night, to his Bay Area home and did not attend the Kings' game against the Clippers. He could make his debut tonight when Sacramento plays at Golden State.
"I do believe we will suffer some early," Nelson said, calling this the toughest trade he has ever made. "It will take at least a month for this young rookie to get in shape and understand what we are doing, the growing pains all rookies go through.
"This is a long-term investment. This trade was made so we could compete with the upper-echelon teams and win a championship."
In other words, the Warriors believed they had gone as far as they could without offering either Tim Hardaway, Richmond and Chris Mullin in a trade. They had spoken with the Kings before the draft about getting the third pick, but that was with the intent of choosing a much-needed center, Georgetown's Dikembe Mutombo, who went fourth to Denver.
The Kings, fighting for respectability, may have acquired it. Shooting guard was their No. 1 need, and Richmond is one of the best. Combined with forwards Lionel Simmons and Wayman Tisdale, there is a new big three.
Many predict stardom for Owens, and Nelson plans to capitalize on his versatility by using him at both forward spots, off guard and maybe even some at point guard. But the gamble is tampering with team chemistry.
"We traded a potential all-star, and we know that," Sacramento Coach Dick Motta said. "But we got a potential all-star. And (Richmond) has proven that. For the Kings' needs, we'd rather have one in the hand instead of two in the bush."