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.