Imagine my surprise this summer when the Los Angeles Clippers signed Kelenna Azubuike to an offer sheet.
The Warriors actually weren't going to match it. Instead, they got a verbal agreement from Maurice Evans to sign with the team.
But the good news was that Evans backed out of the deal because he wanted more money. The Warriors weren't willing to give him any more money. So, the Warriors matched the offer sheet, and Azubuike remained in Golden State.
Like most Warriors fans, when Jason Richardson was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats for the rights to Brandan Wright I was quite upset with the move. Jason Richardson had been with the Warriors from when they were terrible to the incredible playoff run when Warriors knocked out Dallas.
And then to be traded to another horrible team? You can't help but feel bad for Richardson.
One of the things that can be said about Azubuike is that he has perseverance. He wasn't drafted after a solid college career at the University of Kentucky. He played for the Cavaliers and Rockets, but wasn't signed by either team. He was acquired by the Fort Worth Flyers.
Azubuike became the leading scorer for the team, averaging 26 points and five rebounds. When the Warriors were having injury problems Chris Mullin signed him and he was called up on January 2, 2007. He's been a solid contributor ever since.
This season didn't start off well for him well—at least from three-point land. Yet, it never affected how he has played so far. He's averaged 15.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game, his field-goal percentage is at 46.4 percent—and from three-point land, he's back up to 30.6 percent.
In his past four games, he's gone six-for-eight from behind the arc, good for a 75 percent clip. Yet, even with his newly-refound stroke from the three-point line, what I absolutely love about Azubuike is that he never gives up on a play.
There have been a couple of times this year when the Wariors have turned the ball over and Azubuike is the last resort on defense, usually stuck in a two-on-one or three-on-one.
Recently, the Denver Nuggets' Dahntay Jones led a three-on-one break against Azubuike. Instead of fouling, he went up for the block and made the play.
There have been other times when he has been out on an island like that, and has made the block as well. In most cases, players would just give up on the play or take a hard foul. Azubuike doesn't do that—he gets to the spot where he needs to be, and makes the play at the rim.
With the emergence of Azubuike, the sting of losing Jason Richardson has gone away. Sure, I would love to have Richardson back in the Golden State—but Azubuike has quickly moved up on my list of favorite Warriors.
He also shows that if you have a dream, never give up on it—because you'll never know when your chance might come. For Azubuike, it took trips to Cleveland, Houston, Fort Worth, and finally Golden State to make a name for himself—and he's done a great job so far.
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