Bring on the Matrix


It’s improbable, considering Marion’s public trade demand hurt the Suns chances of trading, because now every team in the league will low-ball Steve Kerr knowing that he HAS to make a move. But, if I’m Mullin, I’ll make it happen. He’s already made the commitment to the uptempo, offensive-oriented basketball. Might as well try to outscore everyone. Marion is a 20 and 10 guy when at his best.
Are there down sides to signing Marion? Of course.

*He’s not good at creating shots for himself or others. This is especially not healthy come clutch time, and it means he’ll have to play alongside Baron, the team’s best creator, to be his most productive. Which means if Baron gets hurt, Marion may not be as valuable.
BUT the Warriors season relies on Baron’s health anyway. And while the Warriors would love to have five players who can create, they need what Marion brings more than what he doesn’t.

* Like PG Baron Davis, he can terminate his contract after next year.
He wants an extension for $60 million over three years, at least. So, any team that gets him will have to break bread to keep him.
BUT the Warriors don’t have to commit that money yet. A one-year try out isn’t the worst thing. They can acquire him, see how he fits, then negotiate next offseason. If he walks, you’ve only lost Harrington and Pietrus or whoever. Worst-case scenario, you have $16 million erased from the cap. If he fits perfectly, pay him. Marion knows he needs to play with a great PG, which slims his options. He may end up loving it here, and he’s cheaper than Garnett would’ve been. And isn’t that what they got rid of Richardson for, the financial flexibility to get a four-time All-Star like Shawn Marion?

*He’d be taking minutes from Brandan Wright, who could develop into the next Shawn Marion, at a much cheaper price. Wright certainly has the physical tools that puts him in the category of a Shawn Marion.
BUT he could also turn out to be Stromile Swift. Who wants to wait and hope a guy can develop when you have the chance to nab a proven player?


The only thing he can’t do well is defend big, bruising power forwards — though he’d be better at it than Al Harrington — and shoot from 3-point range (with that form of his, I’m surprised he shoots 34 percent from three for his career). He runs the floor as well as anyone in the league. He finishes. He rebounds. He defends.
With Kevin Garnett now in Beantown, is there a better forward for the Warriors right now? Who embodies everything Nellie ball is about, at least from a big man perspective, more than Marion?



Troy Hudson a Warrior


We learned earlier today that the Warriors have signed or are signing Troy Hudson to a one-year deal. This is the latest in a summer of good (but not great) moves by the Warriors this offseason.
In Hudson, they get a point guard with quickness, a nice outside stroke, and some experience. That’s exactly what they needed.
The best part? Hudson will make the veteran minimum, which for him, entering his 11th season, is $1.2 million. So he’s cheap and well worth the financial risk.
Plus, Hudson has something to prove. He’s been injured most of the time lately. He played 34 games last year and 36 the year before. He played just 29 games in 2003-04.
It will be interesting to see what he has left in those ankles. When he did play, he was pretty formidable. When he gets hot, it’s over. Remember his performance against the Lakers in the playoffs a few years ago? They couldn’t guard him.
It’s just the insurance the Warriors needed. With Baron having a reputation for getting hurt, the Warriors won’t have to turn the rock over to an inexperienced point guard in Monta Ellis, or have a forward run the show. Hudson has experience as a starter, on playoff teams, which allows Monta to float between both guard positions.
Nellie now has the option of starting Ellis at shooting guard without worrying about who’s going to spell Baron. Or, he could run Troy Hudson and Monta out there together on the second string.
It’s a very prudent move by Mullin.
By the way, Hudson is also a rapper. His alter ego, T-Hud, has put out three albums: The Stress of Both Worlds, Back on the Block, Vol. 1 and Undrafted. The latter, released in July, sold 78 copies in its first week.
If nothing else, he can perform on the Great Time Out stage at halftime.



Want AK47?


Now that the Warriors have gotten rid of Sarunas Jasikevicius, there is room for a disgruntled Euro on the Warriors bench. The Warriors can be a player with the pieces they have. Mickael Pietrus and Al Harrington might do the trick. Throw in Patrick O’Bryant as well.
But, I want to hear from you. Do you want AK47? Will he fit?
Before you answer, let’s look at some pros and cons.

*He’s long and athletic, and flourishes in an uptempo system — perfect for the Warriors style of play. He’s been shackled by Utah’s ocassion to grind it out

*He’s also a strong defensive presence, especially when it comes to protecting the basket. The Warriors need that desperately.

*He’s only 26, so he’s still young and has a lot of developing to do. He’s already a triple-double threat just off intangibles. Imagine if Nellie gets a hold of him.

*He has something to prove. He’s fallen out of favor with Jerry Sloan, and he’s being written off by most NBA heads as a cry baby. A change of scenery may be just what he needs.

*His wife, Masha, a former Russian model, would definitely bring some buzz to the Oracle. Remember, she’s the one who gave him an annual one-time voucher to have an affair.

* He can’t shoot, at least not consistently. The Warriors don’t need another swingman with a sketchy jumper.

* This dude is a good guy, by all accounts. Al Harrington told me he was a genuinely cool cat. But he’s a head case in the locker room. Whenever things don’t go his way, you can count on him whining to the media and stirring up some kind of fuss. He can be a distraction. He asked for his trade on a blog, in Russian. Enough said.

* He’s on the books for $63 million over the next four years. If the Warriors pick up AK47, and extend Baron, Andris and Monta, that’s all the cap for the future and the Warriors won’t be players in the free agent market for a while.

* After what BD did to him in the playoffs, how could he ever come play here? How could he sit in the locker room and look him in the face every day?


Why I Love Nellie


You have to love Don Nelson. I do. Maybe it’s because I cut my teeth in the NBA alongside Mike Montgomery, who was really a nice guy in his own right but tough on the media, but I love Nellie’s personality, his communication style, his realness. He’s like your grandfather or something.
He was on with Razor & Mr. T today and it was absolutely hilarious. He told this story about when he took Victor Alexander with him to this weight-loss place. He said Big Vic stayed in the room next to Nellie and his wife. Nellie said Big Vic and his girlfriend was getting their whoopie on “eight times a day.” They could hear them through the wall. Nellie said his wife was looking at him for similar love. Nellie’s response:
“I can’t keep up with this guy. Holy smokes. … She’s like, ‘Come on big boy. Let’s go.’ Are you kidding me?”
Classic. Name another coach who would tell that story on the air.
Another thing Nelson did during the interview was come clean about his contract situation. He said the whole retirement thing, the issues about him being tired and needing to think about whether he wanted to return, was all a negotiation ploy. Here are the highlights, other than the Big Vic story:

“I really wasn’t asking for the moon, I was just asking for what I’ve made the last 10 years of my coaching career, and that’s about what I’m going to make this year.”

Obviously, I signed for a lot less money when I got here because, evidently, I had to prove myself — over again. I sat out a year and maybe they thought I forgot how to coach. I don’t know. But, otherwise, it wouldn’t have gotten done. I told them that I wanted ($5 million) a year. That’s what I think is a fair contract for me, and they weren’t going to do it. I don’t believe they would’ve brought me in. So I really had to do what I had to do to kind of prove myself. Once I did, I asked for the same amount for the next year. I really didn’t want to retire, and I hated to make that [statement] that “I’m tired” at the end of the year. But I had to get their attention.”

“They weren’t going into my office to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do for ya.’ It was pretty quiet around there. Anyway, I had to get their attention or I don’t think it would’ve happened again.”

“I hated to do that. But, anyway, that was a way to get their attention and understand that I really wasn’t going to come back for the same amount. It’s just too hard a job to feel that you’re underpaid. Now I feel that I’m well paid and I’m making what I did, like I said, the last 10 years and I feel very comfortable about that.”

Let’s recap. Tthe Warriors wanted Nelson to replace Mike Montgomery. Nelson, as reported by other outlets at the time, was looking to get back on the bench. But the Warriors low-balled him. Nellie, not having any other options (he said Sac never even called him back), settled for the $3.1 million a year for three years.
So when last season ended, and he felt like he proved that he was worth more than he was making, he pulled the stunt to get the money he felt he originally deserved in the first place.
Why not just say, “I want more money and I’m not coming back until I get it” instead of the whole “I’m tired” cry? Probably because he would look like a greedy guy and not have the support of the fans, which certainly put pressure on the Warriors pay Nellie. His plan worked to perfection as most fans and media members expected and implored the Warriors to give Nellie whatever he wants.
How many people in the NBA would be as candid as Nellie about this stuff? I have yet to meet someone like that in the league. Say what you want about his tactics, I give him major props for coming clean.


Blog Question

“Marcus, I get the impression that you do not think this team is a contender yet. Do you think a Nellie team can win a title, and what do you think it would take?” — Jim


I do think they are a contender — for the playoffs. One of the last spots, at that.
No way is this team a contender for the title. And, no, I don’t believe Nellie is a championship coach. His gimmicky style has yet to produce a title. His never-ending search for a mismatch always leaves his teams lacking on defense and rebounding.
What will he need to get it done? Almost the impossible: five guys with tremendous offensive skills, including at least two big men with size, who can also defend and rebound. That’s a lot to ask.
A perfect example came in the playoffs. With his team getting pummeled inside, he refused to play his beefiest players for fear that it would hinder his offense. That series vs. Utah was close, too. They came a rebound or two away from stealing a couple of games in Utah.
But his mindset is so offensive oriented (not that he doesn’t preach defense, he does, just after he preaches offense), he never seems to be able to sacrifice it. You mean to tell me Foyle couldn’t have contributed anything in that series? With the way Boozer played in Game 4, you don’t throw Adonal out there, your best defender, to at least try to slow him down?
Nellie probably didn’t even consider it because he wrote him off a long time ago because he doesn’t have offensive skills. Would he not use a player that has only offensive skills but not defensive? Of course not. But he won’t use a defense-only guy. Especially a big man.
Meanwhile, coaches like Gregg Popovich milks Bruce Bowen, Phil Jackson used the heck out of Dennis Rodman. Larry Brown and Flip Saunders would never think about taking Ben Wallace out of the game though he only plays one end of the court. Mike Brown, when it was best for the team, played Eric Snow in the Eastern Conference Finals, though Snow is a liability on offense and Daniel Gibson is a much better scoring point guard.
Coaches that are really successful emphasize defense. They understand that the playoffs slow down, jumpers stop falling, and at some point or another, you have to get a stop and a rebound.
While Nelson’s style is fun, it’s not made to survive in the playoffs. For that, someone else will have to add to the system he’s installing now. Notice Dallas didn’t become legitimate until Avery’s defense-first mentality took over.
It’s that philosophy that leads me to believe he won’ win a championship.


Warriors Win Standoff With Nellie

Don Nelson and the Warriors reaching an agreement — an extra $2 million onto his base, team option for the third season — is good for the franchise on so many levels:

1. It moves the team out of limbo and now they can focus on other business: extending Andris and Baron (if they chose to give him an extension), figuring out what they want to do with Pietrus and Sarunas, and maybe making one more move to get some frontline help.

2. It shifts the power from Nelson to the Warriors next offseason. Nellie caved and signed off on the team option for the third year, which means the Warriors can move on if Nellie pulls another stunt like he did this year.

3. They retain the coach they have to have right now. It cost them a couple million more immediately, maybe $4 miIlion in the end, but for these formative years as a new-and-improved franchise, Nellie is the perfect guy to get this thing up and running. It takes at least a couple of years, so the Warriors really couldn’t have afforded another coaching change this year. After next season, the core of the team should be locked up, the philosophy and direction should be inked, and the Warriors will be in better position if Nellie did walk. I think he’ll eventually have to walk anyway, as I have no reason to believe he’s going to bring a title. But he’s the master at turning teams into contenders. The Warriors aren’t there yet, and they need Nellie to take them there.

4. It gaves management, at the very least, the appearance of power. They sent a message to players, current and future, that they run this show. That’s huge in debunking the notion that Nellie is the puppetmaster, and if he leaves, the Warriors chances leave with him. Any future free agents, or current players who will needed to be retained later such as Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson, won’t be as down on the post-Nellie Warriors if they feel like Chris Mullin is in charge. Nor will they feel like they can hold the franchise hostage, as if the Warriors need them more than they need the Warriors. These last several moves by Mullin and president Bobby Rowell — trading JR, playing hard ball with Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus, not caving into Nellie — are significant strides in management reclaiming control of the franchise, which had previously been in the hands of any young talent the Warriors were afraid to lose (i.e., JR, Murphy, Dunleavy), Baron Davis and Don Nelson.

5. It gives Monta the guidance he needs. He MUST have an experienced coach at this stage in his career, someone who has the guts to sit him down when he gets out of control. The dude has the talent, so much that he can flourish without fundamentals. Nellie is strong enough of a presence that Monta has to listen. With Richardson gone, and KG in Boston, the Warriors need Ellis to grow fast.

6. It gives Keith Smart another year to learn. Presuming he is the next coach, even he knows he can use as much time as he can to steal wisdom from Nellie. He probably could’ve taken one of the open jobs. I know for a fact he drew some interest. But Smart is … smart, and he knows taking over some woeful franchise isn’t best for his career. He can continue to learn from Nellie, let the Warriors build the foundation for the future, then step in when Cohan gets tired of Nellie. He can be the new Avery.


Best Kept Secret

I already know what you’re going to say. I can already see the comments ripping me as I type now. But that’s how real this is, that I’m willing to put up myself out there like that.
I have been utterly captivated by the WNBA Finals. Yeah, I said it.
I’ve been watching all of the playoffs (remember, this is Hoop Junkie, not NBA Junkie), but these finals have been riveting. I DVR’d Game 4 and watched it at like 1 a.m. Had to wait until the wife and baby was sleep so I can have freedom to throw pillows and jump around. Full disclosure: I am a huge Diana Taurasi fan, and therefore, a Phoenix Mercury fan.


This series — which concludes Sunday — has everything. Phoenix plays like the Suns, they run Paul Westhead’s uptempo system. They want to jack threes and run the break. Detroit is the blue-collar, grind out squad you might expect. It’s like Phoenix v. Detroit in the NBA. Obviously, the players aren’t as good, but the clash of styles is entertaining. And there’s been beef brewing the whole series. Lot of mean-mugging. Lot of trash talk. Lot of hard fouls.
One of the highlights is the match-up of two of the most explosive guards in the league, Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix) and Deanna Nolan (Detroit). Seriously, this is like the women’s version of T-Mac vs. Gilbert Arenas. They both are so athletic and so skilled. Both are ballers.

These two have been going at it. Cappie can get to the rack at will, and she has a stepback jumper you will be surprised to see a woman pull off. Deanna has an unbelievable pull-up jumper



Gotta mention Cheryl Ford, who plays just like her dad, Karl Malone, who was at Game 4. You also have crazy Bill Laimbeer storming Detroit sidelines, and all his antics. He’s mic’d up, so you get to hear all his complaining and smart remarks. One time, Taurasi came down with an offensive rebound, Laimbeer turned to his bench and said, “How come it’s always Swin’s man getting an offensive rebound?”
He called her out on national TV.
Then there’s Katie Smith. Anyone who knows anything about women’s hoops knows she’s a baller. She’s been around a while, clutch like Chauncey Billups. She can shoot the lights out and she’s cagey. She’s matched up with Taurasi, and doing as good a job as you could expect.
Game 5 (the WNBA Finals is best-of-five), is in Detroit, so Phoenix has a tough job. They beat the Shock once in the D already in Game 2 (Diana dropped 30, hitting pull-up 3-pointers from Ann Arbor), but that wasn’t with the series on the line. Detroit, which won last year’s title, is experienced and clutch. Which means if the Mercury wins, it’s likely going to because Diana did something magical.
If you don’t watch, you could miss it.