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It’s All Good in Warriors Land Right Now

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.

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* 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:

Starting lineup:

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.

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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.

Marcus Thompson

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    Not doubting the verity of your inside sources, but I’m a little confused by this analysis:

    “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).”

    Vlad Rad.

    “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.”

    David Lee and Ekpe Udoh. Both of whom Nellie would have used at the high post whether Biedrins was playing or not.

    “And no shooter to spread the floor (Morrow lost to New Jersey and Watson to Chicago).”

    I’m pretty sure that Curry, Ellis and Williams can shoot the three. And I’m pretty sure that Dorell Wright shoots the three well and will be used to spread the floor. And there’s a chance Carney will shoot the three well if he’s given a role, a green light, and gains confidence. At least as well as Matt Barnes, who was, if I remember correctly, a player Nellie added to his roster.

    The Tolliver/Amundsen decision is the only one that I’m sure annoyed Nellie. For good reason.

  • Hook Mitchell

    I’d kept tolliver over signing amundsen…

  • Marcus Thompson

    Feltbot,

    I actually wondered the same thing. But Nellie was super low on Vlad Rad. I think David Lee has some skills for the high post, and I heard Nellie liked Lee, but Lee at 5 doesn’t do the job without the scoring 4 or the 3 guard lineup. There is no evidence Ekpe Udoh has the skills to be the scoring 4. The only other options are to run Ellis/Curry/Williams with one of the Wrights at PF and Lee at center. Who is the spot up 3 man? Curry?
    Ellis hasn’t ever shot the 3 consistently. And neither Curry nor Williams play at spread-the-floor positions. PF and SG are what Nellie used to spread the floor. Well, maybe Reggie could play the two, but with Nellie his is a point-forward, not a spot up guy. PG, SF are his point-of-attack positions. He likes those guys to be able to create offense on their own. If they can shoot the 3, that’s a bonus, but that is not why they’re there.

  • slamdunk

    Nelson should be very happy, since he is basically being paid to go away and sit on his butt in Maui. Hard to believe that Lacob is keeping Rowell around after his questionable decisions to overpay Stephen Jackson, give Nelson that contract, and force out Mullin, but I guess this will part of the Lacob “evaluation”. Smart may stress more defense than Nelson, but the roster still looks weak and lacks firepower. The backcourt with Curry and Monte is still undersized, and don’t they still need another center besides Gadzuric, and who is helping to teach Biedrins to shoot free throws? No way Melo even considers coming here, I am sure he wants to win NOW, instead of waiting for Riley to bring in a difference maker type player.

  • http://CCTimes.com TByrd

    Glad Nellie’s gone. He never understood that you need a strong presence in the middle. He could never coach a player taller thaqn he is. I n the west you have to have a strong 5. someone who can stop opposing teame from molesting your basket and give you at least 10 points a night. They still don’t havt that player,therefore, they will b fun 2 watch,but hard pressed 2 c the playoffs. By the way, Hook I used to get a rise watching you rise to the hoop in Mosswood Pk. Oakland

  • Hope

    Slamdunk, the Nets are not going to win now. Maybe not ever. Dysfunction junction is going away, there is enough here for a good start. Who knows how the talent will mesh. I think Lacob knows the difference between a real basketball team and a fantasy one. We will see, but they finally have some hope.

  • earl monroe

    I would probably have kept Tolliver over Amundson too, but maybe Amundson plays better defense,
    Totally unsure about Smart, but will give him the benefit of the doubt for they year.
    Riley? Rowell needs to go. Same for Fitzgerald if for no other reason than Pappa is a much better basketball announcer than him. Jim Barnett is a keeper.

  • jaxfor3

    Nellie did one thing right; he rubbed enough players the wrong way that they will now rally around Smart during the season.

  • meir34

    Funny I tried to post these and they went to an August column of yours.
    The First one merely asked:

    meir34 Says:
    September 26th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Principals or princples, Marcus? Or Principals without principles?

  • lobo

    wonderful column…i am in smart’s corner and will try and be fair in my own mind. i think he has the roster to be very competitive. he claims he just followed the nelson way while our interim coach….we will see.

    casey stengel said the following….think about it
    regarding a team. my job is the following
    5 guya love me
    5 guys hate me
    15 guys don’t care.

    my job is to keep the five guys that hate me away from the 15 that don’t care

    boy does that make sense!!

  • Ken

    MT – Why is a 30 year old player who started all seven games of the NBA FINALS, apparently invisible to the media ?

  • A’s in 2010

    LOL felt@mentioning VLadRad. Nellie would force GS to buy him out if Cohan was still the owner, he hates him that much.

  • robert rowell

    “wait and see” that’s been the W’s mantra for how long now?

  • commish

    We are all waiting to see what happens, but I will say that over the course of the last season, I did enjoy Smart’s mobility to gracefully move off the bench and onto his feet, moving, weaving, communicating. That is of course compared to the oaf Nelson sitting on his lard butt with his Barry Bonds size head in his hands while pulling the young players off the court at the least provocation. I am glad Lacob had the guts and vision to send Nelson back to Maui before he could destroy another set of players new to the Warriors along with the frayed relations with Beans and Monte to mention two of the vets. Of course the majority of the players are happy that the tension of having to deal with Nelson has been lifted off their shoulders before training camp. Go get em Keith!

  • Mr. B

    The grass seem to always be greener on the other side.

    Without Nellie and Cohan, who is everyone going to blame should the Ws go sideways this season?

  • Nellie fan

    Joe The Cob and Goober are beyond stupid. Fire the best coach in basketball and turn the team over to an untested rookie coach? I can hear it now, “We needed to come in and show everyone we were in charge. No way was Don Nelson going to buy into that! Let’s get rid of him! Fools!

  • Bleep

    I would have really, really liked to see what Nelson could have done with this roster this year.

    But if Nelson really didn’t have even enough influence to get a bit-player like Tolliver signed to what turned out to be a pretty reasonable deal, the writing was certainly on the wall.

    Personally, I have no problem with Amundson, and think that his grit and willingness to forcefully box people out will be a good addition.

  • jsl

    Nice analysis, MT: especially good response to Felty.

    More, please.

  • GO WARRIORS

    Thanks Marcus for the update, it was very thorough and insightful. As you mentioned, as most of the players that management signed this off-season do not fit the system that Nelson runs (probably why he was happy to leave), they obviously want to run another system. Are they sure that Smart can run “their” system and are they sure that “their” system will work? We know that Nelson’s system, given the right players, works very well (e.g. Early 1990′s Warriors; one team going 55-27, the Dallas teams; one going 60-22, and the 2007 “We Believe” team). In addition, as David Lee signed on believing that the Warriors would be running Nelson’s system, something he would fit into very well, how happy and/or effective will he be in this “new system” that “new management” wants to run? Look, as they paid $450 million for this team, they have the right to do anything they want. It’s just too bad that, as a long suffering Warrior fan, had Nelson stayed and management made the off-season moves he’d wanted, this Warriors team featuring Monta, Curry, and Lee, with Nelson running his system, could have had a really great year. Instead, it’ll be another “transition” year as “new management” learns the lessons that it took “old management” many, many years to learn; as evidenced by Cohan rehiring Nelson and, subsequently, giving him the extension.

  • ParkerLewis

    This is what’s wrong with the Internet:

    “wait and see” that’s been the W’s mantra for how long now?”

    No value in that response.

  • robert rowell

    must have been some value, tough guy, got you to respond.

  • http://feltbot.com/ feltbot

    It’s news to me that Nellie hated Vlad Rad, but he wouldn’t be the first coach to feel that way if true. It looked to me like Vlad was doing some good things as a small ball 4 until he got injured. I just assumed Nellie hated the way he was playing while injured (as with Biedrins), which is what he said to the press.

    What do you think Smart will do with Vlad Rad? Leave him parked on the bench? Personally, I think he’s only playable at the 4; he can’t guard anyone at the 3.

  • HoopsFan

    MT, yes, Ellis has good rapport with with Keith Smart, but that will only be good enough to raise his market value before he’s traded for a bigger guard who can help Curry to defend on the perimeter and cover opposing guards posting up.

  • jclay09

    I find it funny that David Lee is being referred to as The All Star as if he’s this legend who no further description is required. He certainly earner his All Star bid last season, and he has a solid game, but he is far from a shoe in All Star in the West where the big boys play.

    Guess that’s what happens when it’s been 16 years since you’ve had an All Star rep.

    Hey, if the Ghost of Beidrins Past rears it’s head may be this team can be pretty decent.

  • some guy

    the head coach only matters in who he decides to play. this team (when healthy) is a 30-40 win team in the realm of the Memphis Grizzlies. the coach isn’t going to change that. they still lack a player to build around that can carry a team on his back to 50 wins like Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams (or Yao if he’s healthy). and they don’t have the collective talent like the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavs or Spurs.

    let’s not forget that for all intents and purposes, Smart was the HC (ran practice, training camp and the defense) and the team still was horrible defensively. like Smart himself stated, they’ll be better defensively b/c they got better defensive players (yet to be proven, but DWright, Amundson, Bell, Gadzuric and Carney all have history as good defenders). not b/c he’s the coach.

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  • Tim1234

    After 20 games Smart will be gone. “But Nellie was super low on Vlad Rad. I think David Lee has some skills…” Maybe after 40 years in the league Nellie can evaluate the skills of players. Have you seen Rad play? The player moves this off season were terrible. Not signing Morrow…Tolliver…Matt Barnes as a starting 3? David Lee is a white Troy Murphy (that is a joke laughter please). He is not close to being an all star in the west and did well in the no D open system of New York. If he was a difference maker NY would have kept him to play with Amare. The Magetti trade was just as bad as the Jackson deal and Magetti did not want to leave. I don’t blame Nellie, these guys are a worse team than his D league all stars. Maybe Nellie will be bored and decide to take the Clippers to the play offs. Would you bet against him if the Clips hired him?