34

No All-Star Love for Baron

According to a source close to Baron Davis, the Warriors starting point guard was not voted on by coaches as a reserve.
The official announcement comes tonight on TNT.
Davis was no doubt passed up in favor of Steve Nash, Chris Paul and possibly Portland’s Brandon Roy. Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant were voted in by the fans as the starting guards. Davis still could make the team if injury prevents a selected player from participating. Commissioner David Stern selects injury replaces.

19

It’s done: Chris Webber returns

After a 14-year hiatus, Chris Webber is going to be a Warrior again.

A team source said that Webber, who arrived in Oakland as the No. 1 overall pick from the 1993 NBA draft but left the following year after a vicious falling-out with coach Don Nelson, is expected to sign a one-year contract with Golden State either tonight or Tuesday. Another source confirmed the team has put in for waivers on injured guard Troy Hudson, clearing the way for Webber, a five-time All-Star, to join the club.

An official announcement is not expected until Tuesday, and Webber most likely won’t join the team until Thursday, when it returns from a two-day road trip to Houston and New Orleans.

Webber, who has not played this season, also had interest from the Lakers, but went with Golden State after Los Angeles reportedly asked him to work on a tryout basis under two 10-day contracts before getting a season-long deal.

Webber’s deal is expected to be worth approximately $550,000, although the Warriors will be reimbursed roughly $200,000 from the league under salary cap rules meant to encourage the signing of veteran free agents.

A Warriors spokesman, citing team policy, declined to comment on the impending deal, which will reunite Webber and Nelson for the first time since 1993-94. The pair helped Golden State win 50 games that season and earned a playoff berth, but cracks in the relationship started to become public in January and February, and after the season, Webber exercised an opt-out clause in his 15-year, $74 million contract.

Webber held out until November 1994, when Golden State worked out a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Bullets, shipping out Webber in exchange for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round selections. Nelson stepped down as the club’s general manager and coach in February 1995. The franchise didn’t garner another playoff berth — or even a winning record, for that matter — until Nelson returned last season.

The Warriors’ interest in Webber came to light last week, although it may have been going on for significantly longer than that. Sources said that Nelson and Webber have talked through any residual enmity, and Nelson said he has no fears of a repeat performance.

“I look back on it . . . and we were both pretty stubborn,” Nelson said. “I was maybe too tough and he was too young to see the positives that I was trying to bring to the table. But anyway, I think I’ve learned and I think he has too. Hey, I’m an old man and he’s an old player. There’s a lot of common sense to it.”

And a lot of media craziness, too. Let the circus commence.

– Geoff

18

So … It Wasn’t Just Ribs!

Apparently, the Warriors are “seriously interested” in C-Webb. We’re running an article in Saturday’s paper that the Warriors are in talks with Webber, confirmed by team sources.
One of them thinks the two parties are even close to reaching an agreement.
Webber’s top choice is perhaps the Pistons, as he wants to contend for a title and Detroit has the best chances of reaching the Finals of the teams interested. But my colleague Chris McCoskey of the Detroit News, wrote on his blog that Joe Dumars refuses to buy out one of his current players to make room for Webber. The only way Webber gets on the squad is if Dumars trades Flip Murray or Primoz Brezec.
Plus, word on the street is that Dumars isn’t too convinced Webber hasn’t changed his ways. Webber was not the consumate locker room guy when his playing time wasn’t what he wanted.
With Detroit unlikely, Webber’s options are narrowed to the West (maybe Boston gets in the mix).
The Lakers, another team considered a serious contender, have an open roster spot and have also reportedly offered Webber a one-year contract for the veteran minimum. Supposedly Denver has interest in Webber, too. So the Warriors have some competition.
The Warriors have a full complement of 15 players, so to make room for Webber on the roster, they might need to rid of someone. The only one non-guaranteed player, rookie guard C.J. Watson, whose second 10-day deal expires on Monday, perhaps has been too impressive to cut.
“We’re feeling good about him,” Mullin said Thursday. So the odd man out may be guard Troy Hudson, who’s out for the season after hip surgery.
The Times also learned that Webber and Nellie have talked it out, trying to put their past feud behind them. No word yet on whether they’ve hugged it out.
Asked Thursday if he and Webber would be able co-exist if they worked together again, Nelson wouldn’t answer directly.
“Let’s talk about that not in anticipation of something happening or not, let’s talk about it after the fact,” Nelson said. “After it happens, that will be a good question.”

13

Ribs yes, Webber no

So shootaround was spent chasing down the latest Chris Webber-returning-to-the-Warriors rumor, which was spawned by Marty McNeal’s report in the Sacramento Bee that Don Nelson had been spotted chowing down at C-Webb’s restaurant.

Nelson copped to noshing at Webber’s place — he pulled in with assistant Larry Riley when a Warriors contingent went up to Sacramento to scout the Memphis Grizzlies, who played the Kings on Jan. 10 and the Warriors the following night. But he wouldn’t comment on any theoretical reunion with Webber, who won the 1993-94 NBA Rookie of the Year award before falling out with Nelson and eventually being dealt to the Washington Bullets.

“You need to talk to Mully about those situations,” Nelson said. “You can talk to me about the ribs. Best in Northern California. Unbelievable, juicy. I got the barbecue and a baked potato and a couple of beers. Or it could have been scotches.”

Was Webber at the grill?

“No, he wasn’t there,” Nelson said. “That’s the other funny thing.”

Heeding Nelson’s instructions, executive vice president Chris Mullin was next. Just before signing point guard C.J. Watson, Mullin said that he was keeping his eyes open in the short-term for a guard and a big man. With Watson working out nicely, that leaves room for a center, no?

“We’re going to look at a lot of different things,” Mullin said. “A big guy with skill, yeah, that’s something we could use.”

At 34 years old and having been out of the league for eight months, does Webber still fit that bill?

“That’s debatable,” Mullin said. “I can’t say what he’s got left. I couldn’t elaborate on that.”

Last January, when Webber was bought out by the Philadelphia 76ers, Nelson said it would probably be a bad idea to have him re-team with the five-time All-Star.

It’s not any better of an idea now. I can’t imagine Webber would be able to keep up with this team’s pace, and he certainly doesn’t want to be stuck in the low post, which is where the Warriors could use the most help from any new big man. I don’t doubt that the Warriors have kicked around Webber’s name in discussing what players might help them, but as shown by Watson signing, the team is more likely to bring in a younger guy on the way up than a veteran with a high probability of getting hurt.

In short, if you want a Nellie/C-Webb reunion, by a Run-TMC DVD.

– Geoff

10

Will Baron Opt Out?

Keeping the discussion on Baron, though switching to on-the-court matters, I just did a quick look of salary cap figures for next season. Based on that, I like the Ws chances of keeping BD, though I think it’s much more feasible than I previously thought.
Just on the surface, you would think there are no teams $15 to $18 million under the cap who can sign BD. The Warriors are the only team that can go over the cap to sign him, so – assuming the cap will be at about $57M next season – a team would have to get down to $39M to sign him to the same amount he makes now.
There are teams who can do it, but most of them don’t seem like teams BD would be interested in.
Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Philly and the L.A. Clippers will all have money under the cap if they decide to sign a free agent before re-signing their own free agents. Atlanta has to re-sign Josh Smith. Ditto for Charlotte with Okafor and Morrison, Chicago with Deng and Gordon, Philly with Iguodala, and the Clippers with Brand and Maggette.
Before they sign these players, if they sign them, each of these teams are in the 30s and have plenty room to sign BD. If they’re willing to flirt with or pay the luxury tax, they can then sign their own free agents.
If any of these teams wanted to go after Baron, they would certainly have an enticing offer.
Imagine Atlanta, in the East, with BD, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Of course, I seriously doubt if Baron would want to play in Atlanta.
What about Charlotte with J-Rich, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. The Bobcats would have to trade Felton, which wouldn’t be much of a problem. Baron was the man in Charlotte once upon a time. Still, that would be more like a step backward for him, I think.
Chicago would be interesting. Hinrich, making $10M, would be an expensive back-up. And I can already see Ben Wallace fumbling one of Baron’s dimes. But Ben Gordon would be much better next to a dominant PG, and Deng and Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas, gives BD some nice talent to work with. Plus it’s a major market, and he could have some influence on which coach they bring in. They could actually sign Baron, then trade for Pau Gasol. It’s feasible.
Philadelphia is way under, like $34 million, and they could get even lower by trading Andre Miller for next to nothing or an expiring contract. They could sign Baron, then re-sign Iguodala and Louis Williams and be set on the perimeter. Throw in Samuel Dalembert and youngster Thaddeus Young, and Philly’s back in the playoffs. Baron is the man in a major market and included in the East Coast Bias, too, instead of fighting against it.
The scariest one for Warriors fans would be the Clippers. Both Maggette and Brand are expected to opt out. Even if Brand doesn’t opt out, the Clippers could still get low enough under the cap by trading Tim Thomas ($6M) or Cuttino Mobley ($9M) and getting little in return. Baron would finally be back home in LA and the Clippers would have the PG they desperately need. Imagine BD, Brand, Maggette and Kaman. Plus they’ll have a lottery pick this season.
There are some others who are a few moves away. Miami needs to find away to shake the contracts of Mark Blount and Udonis Haslem, which would be difficult to do.
If Sacramento traded away Mike Bibby and Ron Artest opts out, it would be way under the cap. They could sign BD, then re-sign Artest and would be a formidable team when you consider Kevin Martin and John Salmons. Boom Dizzle in Sac, though? I’m not buying it.
In the end, my guess is Baron will not opt out, walking away from the $17.8M he’s due next season. Instead, the Warriors will add on a few years to the end of his contract, maybe three years for $15 per. He would be set for four years and $63 million, and in a place he likes. That’s hard to top.
If I were Mullin, and Baron has already expressed he would stay with the Warriors, I would get him to opt out and free up cap space. That way, the Warriors can make a run at another big-time player — one of those restricted free agents (Iguodala, Okafor, Deng) or, even better, Brand, if he indeed opts out — and then re-sign Baron. Instead of tacking on three years at $15 per, I’d give him a four-year deal at $16 million per, which is $64 million total. Not only would he have the help he needs, especially if they could get someone like Brand, but he would come out with a little extra money.

33

Did Baron Slight the Warriors?

After playing four games in five nights, BD – instead of going home to rest up against Minnesota – flew to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. The first movie by his production company, “Made in America”, debuted in Park City and Boom Dizzle, ever the entreprenuer, couldn’t miss it.
Does anyone have a problem with that?
I’ve been going back and forth on it. On one hand, he’s young and rich and basketball isn’t his entire life. That’s fine, right? I don’t have a problem with him doing his business thing.
But, should he leave that stuff for the offseason? Should he have maybe passed this one time, considering how desperately the Warriors need him to be at his peak? Would Steve Nash or Kevin Garnett, players hungry for a championship, ever have done such a thing?
Plus, BD is the catalyst on the court. Not just because he’s the best player, but also because he’s the point guard. The Warriors lack of energy and urgency is some of his responsibility, too, because he sets the tone.
Then again, it’s his own time. He didn’t skip practice. He wasn’t late to a game. He used his off day how he wanted to. The CC Times doesn’t tell me how to spend my off days. Who is anyone to say what he should be doing on his day off, especially you can’t be certain it hurts his performance.
You’ll never be able to calculate if the excursion he took to Utah negatively impacted his play. There’s no well to know if he would’ve made that lay-up had he not taken the trip. You can’t reasonably say that if he stayed in the Bay Area and rested, he would have blown right by Marko Jaric on the previous possession instead of taking that fall-away 22 footer on the previous possession.
But here’s an interesting question: would the Utah trip be an issue if he made the layup?
Is it even an issue now? I’m undecided. What do you think?

26

Missed Opportunity

I really don’t want to dwell on the negative, but it’s just in me. Sorry. Well, not really sorry. I don’t get paid to look on the bright side. I digress.
Though the Warriors went 3-1 on a brutal four-games-in-five-nights road trip, all I can think about is the game they gave away. If the Warriors would’ve lost the fourth quarter to Indiana by just 13 points, they’d be 26-16 and in fourth place in the West. As it is, they’re eighth.
I know, I know. It’s early.
I know, I know. If they beat Indiana, there’s no guarantee they go on to beat Chicago and Milwaukee.
I know, I know. Games like that happen through the course of the season.
But this year is eerily different. This season, it seems, its going to come down to a game here or a game there.
Think I’m overexaggerating? Well, the Warriors had already given away three games heading into Indiana.
Vs. Orlando: Monta Ellis missed a free throw that would’ve put the Warriors up by three with 17 seconds left in the game. Instead of the Magic needing to heave a game-tying 3-pointer, Rashard Lewis went to the rack and was fouled. Both free throws sent the game to OT, where Orlando won.
At New Jersey: ahead by one in the final two minutes, Jackson and BD both took and missed 3-pointers, then someone left Vince Carter wideopen for a 3-pointer. Vince’s shot proved to be the eventual game-winner as the Warriors turned the ball over on their next two possessions.
Vs. Denver: Down two, Baron passes up a lay-up for a 3-pointer by Jackson, who was 5-for-14 from 3-point range at the time. Denver, also a high-scoring team, capitalized by making the smart play on the other end, Carmelo Anthony drawing a foul and nailing the free throws.
Not that the Warriors are done because they gave these much-needed victories away. By no means. I just have concerns about if they can even play at their highest level consistently. I think Nellie might be right when he said he doesn’t know if they can play any better.
If that’s the case, they certainly can’t afford to give away too many more games. They’re going to need a favorable match-up and homecourt advantage to make some real noise in the playoffs. And the difference between the No. 4 seed and the No. 5 seed, the No. 3 seed and the No. 6 seed, could come down to an unacceptable fourth-quarter performance in Indiana.