OAKLAND, CALIF. -- The Ralph Sampson era began with five standing ovations, three alley-oop slam dunks, two full-court outlet passes and one three-point attempt from squinting range.

The only thing that kept the Golden State Warriors and the capacity Oakland Coliseum crowd from rampant Ralphomania was a too-familiar ending.

The reconstructed, Tower-topped Golden State Warriors blew a 10-point lead against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night in the last six minutes of a 113-106 game billed as the harmonic convergence of northern California hoopdom.

And it seemed safe to say that no 3-16, last-place team in the NBA has ever been so enervated before a game and so satisfied after a loss.

"It's really kind of special the way things happened tonight," said Warriors executive vice president Don Nelson, who sent Eric (Sleepy) Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll to the Houston Rockets for Sampson. "I don't know how much more we could have expected."

Sampson, a former all-America at the University of Virginia and the first pick in the 1983 NBA draft, scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Afterward, he leaned his 7-foot-4 body against a brick wall and repeated the time-honored answers to the time-honored questions:

"I'm never satisfied with a loss."

"I'm just one member of the team."

"This is a new start for me."

The only time he surfaced for air was when he was asked about the minute-long standing ovation that greeted his introduction.

He smiled and said, "It felt good to be appreciated."

To appreciate Sampson you have to understand what price the Warriors paid to get him -- Floyd and Carroll, both NBA all-stars on last year's playoff team.

"With the team as it was, we didn't have any place to go. It was a dead team for me," said Nelson, who was the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks a year ago. "Now we have some direction. We have something to build around."

The Sampson trade was just part of the demolition project undertaken by Nelson since he came here this year. First he traded long-time scoring leader Purvis Short to the Rockets for a No. 1 draft choice and backup center Dave Feitl at the start of the season. Last week he traded Floyd and Carroll for Sampson and backup guard Steve Harris. Before the dust could settle, Nelson traded 6-11 backup center Chris Washburn, the Warriors' first round pick in the 1986 draft and third pick overall, to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to forward Ken Barlow, who is playing professional ball in Israel but might be available to play next season.

Just when it appeared everything that could happen already had, Chris Mullin, the first-string shooting guard, missed his second practice in a month and was suspended. The third-year player was placed in an alcohol rehabilitation program last week for an indeterminate time.

The five who started Thursday night's game against the Lakers had just one starter, Larry Smith, who played on last year's Warriors team.

"We've had just two days of practice {since Saturday's trade}, so give us a little time, and we'll be a contender," said forward Tellis Frank.

If Bay Area fans question the logic of the Sampson deal, it is unlikely to be as a result of Carroll's loss. The veteran center, who averaged 20.4 points in his career, had a local profile that Madison Avenue's full buffing power couldn't polish. "Joe Barely Cares" was the nickname the 7-foot Carroll earned in six seasons with the Warriors.

But Georgetown University graduate Floyd was more than well-liked here. In his five seasons as a Warrior, Floyd had shown brilliance. Last year in the Warriors' only playoff victory against the Lakers, Floyd scored 51 points, 29 of them in the last quarter. On a mediocre team, Floyd shone.

To get Sampson, however, the Warriors had to give up more than Carroll.

"If I could have traded J.B. Carroll, I would have done that straight up. But that's not the way it goes . . . Sleepy Floyd was the deal," Nelson told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter last week. "I'm not an idiot. I didn't do it lightly."

If reports of shouting matches between Sampson and Houston Coach Bill Fitch are true, the Rockets were eager to trade Sampson. It is ironic that earlier in their careers, both Warriors Coach George Karl and Nelson had criticized Sampson for underachievement.

"My negative comments about Ralph Sampson were made when he beat me while he was playing at about 75 percent," said Karl at a news conference last week. "Those comments were made after a game in Cleveland {where Karl coached} where we were overachieving and trying real hard and doing a good job and got close, and then this 'star' went out and kicked our butts in the last two minutes of the game. I was angry."

And Nelson?

"It's true that I haven't always been happy when I've watched him. There have been parts of his game that I wish he'd done better."

But new starts and clean sweeps are, at least for now, in order. And after Sampson's performance against the Lakers Thursday night, a performance that had the Oakland Coliseum unusually full and noisy, even the opposition joined the hallelujah chorus.

"Ralph Sampson is going to truly show what he's all about here," said Lakers Coach Pat Riley. "I'm just glad we didn't get the Ralph Sampson era off to an explosion."