I’ve been talking to several principles in the Warriors organization, most of it off-the-record conversation. I’ve learned a few things — such as they won’t be getting Carmelo Anthony, even though they’ve tried hard to acquire him, and Anthony Tolliver was a point of contention between Don Nelson and management.
But the one thing that stands out most is that, for the first time in a long time, they seem pretty happy about themselves. Usually, I’m getting a sales job thrown my way. This time, I’m getting a wait-and-see response, with a half a smile or a certain tone. There is an odd sense of feel good.
* General Manager Larry Riley has been given a stay of execution. All indications are that he will be keeping his job this season, at least to start. It’s fairly obvious considering he’s been new-owner Joe Lacob’s liaison most of the summer, and that he set up the new coaching staff, and that he will be heading the press conference introducing Keith Smart as coach. Of course, the Warriors could hire a boss for Riley (i.e., a pres of basketball ops) or make a change for later. But for now, he’s on the trigger.
* The likelihood is that the Warriors won’t make any moves until around the trade deadline. They’ve thrown their name into the hat for Melo, but that is extremely unlikely. They have their eyes on a few others (I keep hearing Andre Iguodala), but nothing that is available right now. Plus, they really want to see the roster they have. Here is why:
PG Stephen Curry – He is certain his Olympic Team USA experienced helped him, and they’re relieved he didn’t play much.
SG Monta Ellis – I’m told he is more than happy with Keith Smart as the head coach. Smart has been working with Monta since he came out of high school. They have a much stronger relationship than Nellie and Ellis.
SF Dorell Wright – They are trying not to show their hand, but they are hoping Wright turns out to be a key pickup. After seeing him a little bit in pre-camp workouts, they are quietly excited about Wright. Plus they got Reggie Williams backing up here, and they love Reggie in Warriors world.
PF David Lee – They call him “The All-Star.”
C Andris Biedrins – No doubt Smart as head coach is good news for Biedrins, who was not feeling Nelson. If he’s healthy – which no one knows for sure because he hasn’t been around – and can be a double-double guy, many in the organization think that’s enough to push them into the playoff chase.
Coach Keith Smart – Much of the tension and drama and hard feelings in the locker room went out the door with Nelson, who had a rocky relationship with key players. But the few remaining players love Keith Smart and will certainly play hard for him (until he benches them, no doubt). Plus, there is a chance that, under Smart, the Warriors may now really emphasize defense.
Bench – They added Louis Amundson, who was a more-than-solid backup in Phoenix, but the bench is still suspect even with Reggie Williams and Brandan Wright coming off it. Can Brandan Wright stay healthy? Can Charlie Bell be a factor? Is this the system for Rodney Carney to flourish? Is Jeremy Lin ready to play in the NBA?
However, the Warriors are OK with the questions marks and seeing what they have first. And since everyone on the bench is inexpensive, it won’t be hard to make a change. Come January, if these question marks aren’t working, they can get back into the market.
* Nelson still hasn’t called me back, but I’m told he’s pretty happy. He got a $6 million early retirement package. His protege, who had been developing as his successor for the last four years, got the job as the new head coach. Plus, he saw the writing on the wall.
A few insiders have told me that by the time they made the move to send Nellie packing, Nellie was already packed. The construction of the team was defying his system (as my colleague TK had reported). No SF who was big enough to play PF in a small lineup (with Maggette shipped to Milwaukee). No center to put at the high post and draw the opposing big man away from the basket, with Turiaf and Randolph shipped to New York. And no shooter to spread the floor (Morrow lost to New Jersey and Watson to Chicago). Nelson’s last hope to have a semblance of a roster he wanted was Anthony Tolliver., who is someone who could spread the floor like he wanted. But management wouldn’t sign Tolliver, who eventually latched on with Minnesota.
As one member of the organization put it, “That was the last straw.”
Now, Nellie’s machine says: “Hi, this is Nellie. I’m busy, very busy. Probably swimming with the dolphins.”
* The sale is not done, but it is expected to be done on October 20 at the NBA Board of Governors meeting. I bet that lifts some of the tension that existed in the organization earlier this summer. The moves that will be made in the near future probably already have been made. It’s so late in the game that Lacob and Co. now can let the play on the court get all the attention while he takes his time in the background. That means many people will be safe – for now. Clealry, Lacob isn’t opposed to doing things before his ownership is in order, but if he is to be believed, he will wait and evaluate first. Many of the people whose jobs will be in jeopardy will be well into gear by the time Lacob takes over. Don’t be surprised if the main chip has fallen and Lacob comes into office in job shadow mode while he scouts talent.