4

From the media room

(Well, OK, the hallway outside the Warriors’ practice facility…)

A series of “ooooooooohs!” went through the room when the Kings took Rider forward Jason Thompson. Somewhere, I think Nellie is laughing through his cigar smoke.

Now, the question is whether LSU’s Anthony Randolph will fall to the Warriors at 14 or be snatched away at the last possible moment.

– Geoff

15

What’s that on the ESPN crawl?

Sorry for the long blog silence on my end and thanks to Marcus for keeping things going. I was taking some much-needed R&R, but I guess that’s over…

Since ESPN has been all over this morning’s story, let’s get some things out of the way first:

* I didn’t assert that the Pistons and Warriors are in current negotiations because I don’t have proof to back that up. If I did, that would have been the lead, and Baron’s decision not to opt-out (something that’s been widely expected by pretty much everyone who reads this blog, or has a pulse) would have been buried eight paragraphs down.
* What I do have is someone whose information and motives I trust telling me that the Pistons are interested in Baron and are willing to deal Rasheed and Chauncey (in general, not just for Baron), a stance that matches up with Joe Dumars’ “no sacred cows” speech at the conclusion of the Pistons’ season.

Let’s not go jumping the gun and buying BD a plane ticket out of town, but let’s say this … if these two teams aren’t currently contemplating such a deal, they should be.

When you write a news story about two opposing sides of a debate, you know you’ve done your job well if neither group has a complaint; that means you’ve given equal treatment. A trade with Baron and Al and Chauncey and Rasheed as headliners is kind of the NBA’s version of that theory, something with pluses and minuses on both sides.

FOR THE PISTONS:
They clear the decks for Rodney Stuckey to take over at PG in 2009-10. They don’t have to worry about next summer, when Rasheed will be looking for a new deal that will take him to 37 or 38 years of age. They get the best individual player in the deal in Baron, and can either let the $17.8 million slide off the cap to use as space to chase another free agent, lock Baron up with their own extension (although that seems less likely, given that they love Stuckey), or sign-and-trade him to any one of the teams that are desperate for point guard help (the Lakers, Clippers and Trail Blazers all jump to mind immediately).

BUT:
They get back a forward who may not fit what they want to do (Al’s not going to be able to replace Rasheed’s defensive versatility). And unless they proactively sign Baron to an extension, there’s always the chance that he’ll walk away and they’ll have little to show for their two best players.

FOR THE WARRIORS:
They get arguably the second-best option to plug their power-forward spot (the best option is busy smoking victory cigars and having free drinks bought for him in Boston), especially given Rasheed’s 3-point range. They get rid of one player (Al) who was unhappy with the way he was used last season and another (BD) who was disappointed by the team’s lowball extension offers this summer. They get another big point guard who can defend 2 guards so Monta Ellis can play the same 2-on-offense/1-on-defense hybrid that made him one of the league’s hottest young players.

BUT:
They give up a lot of years in this scenario (BD is 2 1/2 years younger than Chauncey; Al has more than 5 years on Sheed). A LOT. And while that jump-starts a final push under Nellie, it puts them in jeopardy of paying out eight figures three years from now to players on the far side of 35 who have declined.

Any deal with Baron won’t happen until after July 1 (and won’t be finalized until July 9) because there’s no reason for Baron to agree in writing to not use his opt-out provision. We’ll have to wait and see if Thursday changes the dynamic for either team before determining if this possibility remains viable.

– Geoff

4

Inside: The End

Emptying out the notebook at the sooner-than-expected conclusion to the Warriors’ season:

** Just as Don Nelson is unrepentant regarding l’affaire Baron, Chris Mullin is equally OK with the waste of time, money, energy and resources that was Chris Webber’s Warriors comeback. Before they signed him, I said on KNBR that “the guy can’t run,” and I saw no evidence to dispute that theory while he was with the Warriors.

The recognition of the need to add another rotation player to a rapidly tiring team was good; settling for a guy that clearly gummed up the works in his season debut – which just happened to be the Chicago loss on Feb. 7, a game where the visiting Bulls were missing their top three players – was not.

Nevertheless, Mullin gave an immediate “no” when asked if he thought the Webber fixation cost his team any games.

“I think we may have won that Boston game (because of Webber), actually,” Mullin said. “I thought he did a good job in that game (on Feb. 20). I thought he played well. Baron made that incredible shot, but I thought defensively, (Webber) helped us that night.”

** Mullin was in pretty good form, humor-wise, during his season-ending chat with print reporters on Wednesday. Among the highlights was his response to a reporter noting that Baron might want “17, 17, 17 and 17,” referring to a three-year extension on top of his $17.8 million salary for the upcoming season.

“That’s a good number,” Mullin said. “I like the number 17, especially if it wasn’t just my (uniform) number. If that was the going salary (when Mullin played), that’d be pretty sweet.”

As for who will represent the Warriors at the draft lottery on May 20, Mullin knows one thing – if past history with the event counts for anything, he won’t be the one in the chair in Secaucus, N.J.

“From that standpoint, I shouldn’t do it, because the first year they had it, it was the worst (outcome), the booby prize,” Mullin said, referring to the initial lottery of 1985, when the Warriors were denied a shot at No. 1 pick Patrick Ewing despite a league-worst 22-60 record and ended up with a certain lefty out of St. John’s. “They could have got (No.) 1 through 7, and they got 7. So I’m a bad candidate.”

** Nelson said last week that he made the determination as early as training camp that he’d have to ride the Baron/Jack/Monta triumvirate into the ground in order to compete for a playoff spot. What about guys like Austin Croshere and Troy Hudson, the veterans brought in to firm up the Nos. 9 and 10 spots on the roster? Couldn’t they have been some sort of stopgap measure?

“Do you have any idea who you’re talking about?” Nelson said. “Were you hoping that those guys rise up? They’re at the end of their careers, they were never great players anyway, and now you’re going to ask them to rise up and all of a sudden be something special? At best, they’re a good veteran.”

** The trade-Al-Harrington door swings both ways. While the team mulls over its future with Al – and decides whether his $9.2 million price tag might be better spent on other roster priorities – he will ponder if he wants to endure another season of Nelson’s pointed needling or wants to demand a change of address instead.

That’s not to say Harrington is undeserving of blame, but he certainly bore a disproportionate share of Nellie’s insults. And though Al is too much of a pro to ever admit it, it was clear from watching him that he’s frustrated at being the team’s designated whipping boy.

** Stephen Jackson gets the last word. Asked about the urgency to win during what Nelson says will be his last year (assuming he comes back), Jackson couldn’t help for laughing: “I love Nellie. I hear something different from y’all every week with Coach.”

– Geoff

2

Warriors win for resting

They may have held only a light practice, but the Warriors were nevertheless pretty successful Friday; Golden State couldn’t have scripted a better pair of outcomes than having the Lakers beat the Hornets and the Rockets knock off the Suns.

Phoenix is now all but cemented in the No. 6 spot, so their motivation against the Warriors on Monday may slacken.

Houston, meanwhile, is still right in the thick of the race for home-court advantage — and just a game behind No. 1 New Orleans — giving them plenty of reason to knock off Denver on Sunday, which is pretty much a necessity for the Warriors to sneak into the postseason.

Now it’s up to the Warriors to do their part.

** Something to watch for: Mickael Pietrus is suffering from tendonitis in his left knee, something that flared up during his rehab for the right groin/hamstring strain that cost him nine games. He said it’s nothing major, but it can’t be helping him regain his natural athleticism.

– Geoff

13

Don’t Stop Believin’?

I was trying to find some way in my gamer to compare the “WE BELIEVE” signs to the end of the Sopranos finale, where Journey’s playing over the jukebox and then, in that jarring instant, everything goes to black. When it aired, some people speculated it was supposed to represent a bullet to Tony’s head.

No speculation here: For the Warriors, that’s what Thursday’s loss to Denver was.

Sure, the body will keep moving through the final three games, and if the Nuggets somehow manage to get swept in their back-to-back against Utah and Houston over the weekend, there will be talk of new life. But even if Denver gags both those games, one of two other things would need to happen for Golden State to actually make the postseason.

Either: A) the Warriors will need to win in Phoenix — a place where they’re 5 for their last 46 — against a Suns team that may still be fighting for as many as two rounds of home-court advantage.

Or: B) the Nuggets will have to kick away a third straight game, against a Memphis team that will have less than nothing to play for, the only goal being to avoid injury before the final buzzer sounds and the last plane flight of the season takes off.

The chances of either seem about as remote as a reunion for Tony, Carmela, Meadow and A.J.

– Geoff

22

Inside: Practice (4/9)

** First, the hard news: Rookie forward Brandan Wright may not be available Thursday. He’s being termed “day-to-day” by the team because of a strained left groin he suffered in the Warriors’ 140-132 win over Sacramento on Tuesday.

Wright couldn’t say when exactly the injury occurred, but he didn’t notice it until he started cooling down after his 6-minute stint in the second quarter.

“It’s probably like a day-to-day thing. Nothing serious, though,” said Wright, who suffered a similar injury during his high school career. “It can linger if you don’t get on top of it, but I’m definitely going to be on it three or four times a day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Warriors coach Don Nelson said Wright’s absence makes it “triply good” that Mickael Pietrus has returned from his own bout with a strained groin.

** Nelson said that he would be making changes from the game plan that led to a 119-112 defeat in Denver two weeks ago, but his team didn’t meet very long for its shootaround (they won’t be holding one tomorrow because of the early 5 p.m. start time dictated by TNT). So it’s doesn’t seem like there was that much new material to go over.

** The Warriors’ locker room is filled with good guys who are even better quotes, but Pietrus can be on a level all his own sometimes. Take this exchange from today’s Q&A:

How does this run compare with last year’s? Is it more intense? Are there more expectations?
It’s more intense because in the West, there’s no games for free right now, because I think everybody’s going to play until the end. We’ll see. I really want to go to the playoffs. Trust me, I really want to go. It’s fun. Did you come last year in the playoffs?

Oh, yeah.
Did you wear that “We Believe” shirt?

I grabbed one, yeah.
You have to wear it, not grab it. You have to wear it, right? [Here, MP turns to Warriors PR official Raymond Ridder.] Hey, tomorrow we need like 23,000 “We Believe” shirts! [Replies Ridder: "And, we need everybody there at 5 o’clock."] A 5 o’clock game tomorrow. I want to talk to all the fans to get their drink on, get their T-shirt on and let’s ready to war. That’s it. Be there at 5, because it’s going to be a fun party tomorrow. Trust me.

– Geoff

6

Team exercises Nelson’s option for 2008-09

This story should be up online at any minute, but just in case you can’t wait:

By Geoff Lepper
STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — Whether Don Nelson returns to the Warriors bench in 2008-09 is now his decision alone.

Golden State made its feelings known Tuesday, exercising its option on Nelson’s contract for next season and locking in the coach at a base salary of $5.1 million months before a decision had to be made.

“It’s very nice of the organization,” Nelson said. “It’s always nice to be wanted, especially when you’re 67. It’s a very nice gesture on their part.”

But now the question is in Nelson’s court regarding whether he wants to return for a third consecutive season on the Warriors bench at the age of 68. Nelson wouldn’t make any commitment Tuesday, saying that he’ll take some time to ponder his status after the season.

“I’m going to have to think about that. I’m going to have time to reflect,” Nelson said. “My wife and I will have to talk about it, we’ll talk to the team about it, see how they’re feeling. . . . There is another part of life that I’d like to explore.”

Last season, Nelson led the Warriors to a 42-40 record and helped bring an end to the franchise’s 12-year playoff drought. Golden State has rebounded from an 0-6 start this season to post a 39-17 mark over the last four months.

“We’re extremely pleased with the job that Don has done this season,” team president Robert Rowell said. “He’s done a terrific job of building on last year’s success.”

Nelson said that he had an inkling the Warriors were moving forward on the extension — which did not have to be finalized until June 1 — when Rowell asked for a meeting prior to the team leaving on its road trip last week.

“I assumed with our success they probably would, but I didn’t think they would exercise this early,” Nelson said. “It’s really more how my frame of mind is, whether I want to do it again. How long can you do a job like this?”