Nellie Issued Crawford Ultimatum

So, the latest from behind the blue-and-orange velvet rope (I know some of you will hate the soap opera element of this blog post. Sorry). More details about Tim Kawakami’s post from early Friday.

Warriors coach Don Nelson — according to multiple team sources — in a meeting the day after the road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 23, told guard Jamal Crawford that if he doesn’t opt out at the end of the year, the Warriors are going to trade him this offseason.

Yes, he actually told him that.

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Warriors Want Amare

The Warriors have thrown their hat into the ring for Suns All-Star PF Amare Stoudemire, who is available if the NBA insider scuttle is to be believed. According to a team source, the Warriors have and likely will continue to have talks with the Suns about a deal.
(UPDATE: My man Tim Kawakami’s hearing the same thing.)
I haven’t gotten word yet on who they have offered. While they would probably love swingman Corey Maggette to be a part of any deal, one would figure there is no conversation without the names Andris Biedrins or Monta Ellis coming up. That’s the minimum of what Phoenix would want in return. The Warriors have to know that going in, which likely means they are willing to move either of their two once-untouchable centerpieces.
There are problems, though.
The Warriors don’t have a player Phoenix would take who isn’t locked up for a bunch of money. Phoenix, according to insiders, is trying to cut money. Adding players with four or five years on their contract probably won’t do the trick. They need expiring contracts, and the Warriors don’t have any worth anything.
Biedrins is still a cheaper option than Stoudemire, especially of Phoenix can move Shaq. Still, other teams have more of what Phoenix might be looking for:
Dallas – has Jason Kidd’s $21M expiring contract, and Josh Howard, who has one year left at $10M plus and a team option
Detroit – has Rasheed Wallace’s $13M expiring contract, not to mention Iverson’s $21M expiring contract
Chicago – Has some $14 million in the combined expiring contracts of Drew Gooden and Ben Gordon


Crawford to Warriors

After all the hoopla this morning, I finally got confirmation. It is official, according to Al Harrington. The Warriors have completed the trade him to the New York Knicks for Jamal Crawford.
Harrington is making $9.23M this season and has a player option for next season, which if he picks it up will pay him $10.03M. The initial reports had the Warriors taking back Malik Rose, who has one year left for more than $7 million, which would have also fit.
Before I ask you what you think of this move, here is what I’m thinking:

The Positives

* The Warriors get a veteran guard who can play both guard positions. He’s 6-5, 200 pounds and has become a reliable scorer. He’s averaging 19.6 so far this season after averaging 20.6 last season. He’s feeling it from three so far this year, currently at 45.5 percent, but for his career he’s around 32-35 percent. He also has a reputation for being clutch.
He can dribble well, he can shoot (though he’s streaky) and he can create. He’s experienced. You can trust him to inbound the ball (I hope). Not sure about his defense, but he did play for the Knicks, so chances are he hasn’t played much.

*The Warriors get to put the Harrington situation behind them. That relationship was a wrap and it was only going to become more of a distraction. Nellie can’t stop bringing up how Al ruined it by going public. It was best for both parties to get this chapter over.

* Crawford is the perfect guy to play next to Monta Ellis, when he returns. Crawford can play both positions, so Ellis can be the point guard and still take advantage of Crawford’s skills.
If the Warriors decide the Ellis-at-point experiment is not working, they can play Crawford at the point and let Ellis be simply a scorer. Plus Crawford has the size and athleticism that allows Nellie to play point but defend shooting guards, which allows Ellis to play shooting guard and defend point guards.
If the Warriors were going to go out and get a point guard, this is the type of player they needed. He’s probably too good in that he’ll make Monta’s growing pains harder to swallow (knowing there is a capable option). We all know about Nellie’s impatience with mistakes. Having Crawford as the ready Plan B might make him pull the plug on Ellis-at-point much quicker than if CJ is the Plan B.
But he now has the option to be move Monta off the point without losing that much production.

The Concerns
* Crawford is making $8.64 million this season. He has an Early Termination Option that would allow him to walk away from his contract after this season. If he declines to use that ETO, the Warriors would be on the hook for 2009-10 ($9.36M) and 2010-11 ($10.08M).
If Crawford opts out after this season, the Warriors get the bonus of shedding future salary along with moving their disgruntled forward. But if Crawford decides not to opt out, the Warriors are adding $10 million in future salary. For a team that has sought to avoid the luxury tax, that is an interesting risk to take considering the recent contract extension of Stephen Jackson and the previous big contracts giving to Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Corey Maggette. The Warriors could have four players making double-digit salaries in 2010-11, with Jackson just shy of $10M.

* Don’t the Warriors have enough guards? Adding one more to the mix is going to make for some interesting minutes-juggling by Nellie. Assuming Crawford doesn’t come here and ride the bench, is he going to play point guard? If he does, that means Stephen Jackson is back at shooting guard. Where does that leave Anthony Morrow?
OK, maybe Jax goes to small forward so Morrow can get a bunch of minutes at shooting guard. He has to be on the court, right? So then where does that leave Azubuike? Corey Maggette? How is everyone going to handles getting 25-30 minutes yanked from the guard pot by Crawford?
Either the Warriors have another move in the works or there is going to be some serious adjusting on the perimeter. I haven’t even mentioned C.J. Watson, and the former starting point guard who is now in Bakersfield.

* Crawford is a gunner. In five of his eight seasons, he finished with more three-point attempts than assists (not counting the one season he had eight fewer three-point attempts than assists). This season, he ahs taken 77 3s and has 44 assists.
Do the Warriors need another player to jack up shots relentlessly. Jackson, Azubuike, Maggette and now Crawford. The Warriors better order a new shipment of Spaldings. Will there be any shots left for the team’s best shooter, Anthony Morrow?

OK, so what do you think?


Whew! Now Let’s Play Catch-Up

OK, a lot has happened super fast. There was quite a bit of info, thoughts I didn’t get into my story for tomorrow’s paper. Here are some of the major points of the article, some of my thoughts, and some answers to your questions. Ready? Breathe. Read.

* I was told consistently by a source that Maggette got five years, $50 million. At the last-minute, I heard it was five years, $40 million. But my source reiterated that it was $50 million. That $10 million is a huge difference. That deal looks a whole lot better if it is for $40 million.

* Heard late in the evening that the Warriors made an offer to Ronny Turiaf! Don’t know all the details yet, but I was told it averaged about $4M a year. Ronny is restricted, so if the Warriors sign him to an offer sheet, the Lakers can match. I’m not sure if I like this or not yet. Turiaf is one of those dudes who impresses you in spots, but when you step back and look at what he brings overall, he’s not to impressive. He does some things well, not so much others. Is he worth $4M? Over three years, sure, why not. The Warriors need a hustler, a body not afraid to bang.

* I was shunned by Baron’s people. He nor his agent responded to the one question I had: With Brand going to Philly, is there ANY chance AT ALL that Baron goes back to the negotiating table with the Warriors? I got no love. A contact did tell me that the Clippers spent Tuesday evening talking to Baron, convincing him to stay, even working out the details of the contract (as well as preparing a fat offer sheet for Atlanta’s Josh Smith). They were pretty sure he was staying, but he was rumored to be livid over Brand’s Boozer impersonation.

* Pietrus got love from Orlando because Otis Smith, the Magic’s GM, likes Pietrus. They had some kind of bond when Smith was with the Warriors and Pietrus was a youngster. That helped MP2 get what he got. Orlando needed a replacement for Maurice Evans, who is now a free agent. There is even talk that Pietrus could start.

* Didn’t I say top-tier ballers don’t want to play for the Warriors? Brand turned down some $10 million more from the Warriors to go to … Philly! Dang. That was a straight slap in the face to the Warriors. Did the Warriors really think they were going to get a player better than Baron?

* Speaking of Brand, he just went from one of the league’s character examples to supplanting Carlos Boozer as the face of reneging. Check this out – Brand, according to insider scuttle, turned down virtually the same amount from the Clippers. Los Angeles got up to $80 million and was willing to renounce more players if necessary to give Brand more. Still, he chose Philly.

* So the salary cap is $58.7 million. The luxury tax will be $71.1 million. Based on my estimation, and figuring this out cost me hours of my life I’ll never get back, the Warriors are at about $50 million including the cap holds. Here is the breakdown:
Al Harrington – $9.23
Corey Maggette – $8.50
Stephen Jax – $7.14
Andris Biedrins – $7.90 (cap hold)
Adonal Foyle – $6.50 (buyout price)
Brandan Wright – $2.50
Kosta Perovic – $1.70
Ant Randolph – $1.70 (rookie scale max)
Monta Ellis – $1.54 (cap hold)
Marco Belinelli – $1.45 (rookie scale max)
Kelenna Azubuike-$0.89 (cap hold)
Richard Hendrix – $0.44 (league minimum)
C.J. Watson – $0.71 (minimum salary, non-guaranteed)
Total – $50.20

That leaves the Warriors with some $8 million to spend before hitting the cap. If Andris signs a deal starting at a salary equal to his cap hold, the the Warriors can sign a free agent or two before signing Ellis and Andris. They’ll have close to $10 million if they wait to sign Randolph until they hit the cap, which they can do under CBA rules. They would also have more if they traded Harrington and got less money back.

*Here’s a concern I have: what happens when Monta and Andris want more than Maggette? Monta certainly has a claim. Say the Warriors start Monta at $9 a year (which would be $67.5M contract over six years). And say they start Biedrins at $8. That would make Stephen Jackson the fifth-highest paid player on the team.
Now, he’s up for an extension. I seriously doubt if he gets one. How is he going to react to being so far down on the salary pole but being a leader on this team while getting no extension love? Remember, Jackson has watched Richardson get shipped out unexpectedly as if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the team. He watched Pietrus and his boy Barnes get hardballed into a one-year deal. He watched his “brother” Baron Davis get his extension requests rejected in consecutive offseasons and then “lowballed” (in his eyes). He’s watching his other close friend, Al Harrington, once highly coveted by the Warriors, become a role player.
You have to wonder if Jackson is going to take one for the team or try to get his paper.

* With the way restricted free agents are about to get squeezed (only the clippers have money left), don’t be surprised if several of them ask for a sign-and-trade or choose to play for the one-year qualifying offer (and become restricted free agents next season). Including Andris. The free agent market is kind of skimpy this offseason – thanks to all the money going to the few big names out there. Some of the second-tier stars will shine a lot brighter in 2009.

* I still say go after Rasheed Wallace or Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom. Use Harrington, future draft picks, etc. – maybe even Stephen Jackson – to get a proven All-Star. They all are one-and-done, which could give the Warriors cap space next year if they don’t work out.


Wrapping up BD’s departure

Tying up some loose ends: One thing the Warriors did not do after Baron Davis opted out Monday was attempt to up their previous best offer — which appears to have topped out at two years and $30 million (including all potential bonuses; the value easily could have been more like $25M). Todd Ramasar, Davis’ agent, said he did not hear Monday night or Tuesday morning/afternoon from the team, which seems to have cut the cord as soon as Davis sent his termination letter Monday afternoon.
As for free agents the Warriors have talked to, in addition to the well-chronicled Gilbert Arenas pursuit, a league source told me late Tuesday that Golden State took a run at Clippers forward Elton Brand, offering five years and $80M. Brand, however, is still set to go back to his old team, and it’s hard to see how that comes derailed now that Baron’s on board.

Without Davis, the Warriors could have something along the lines of $17M to $18M under the salary cap, with another $12M or so free before they hit the luxury-tax threshold. That means the club could spend as much as $30M on acquisitions (with at least some of them being trades). Add into that the contract of Al Harrington ($9.2M), presumably to be first on the list of players slated to go, and that’s a huge amount of cash to remake Golden State. Thanks to the free-flowing money, it’s easy to envision a bevy of restricted free agents lining up for meetings so they can claim the W’s are seriously interested and drive up their prices. What’s going to be tough is identifying when Golden State is actually interested versus when it’s just a ploy.

As for the point guard position . . . Nellie says he’s ready to see more Monta at the point this season, and while that may be true, it’s crazy to think that the Warriors can get by on nothing but C.J. Watson and Marco Belinelli if Ellis were to get hurt.

So, who’s available? Well, Sacramento re-upped Beno Udrih, the Raptors locked down Jose Calderon and Agent Zero appears set to go back to the Wizards, with the Warriors once again left second-best in the bidding for Gilbert. (Perhaps the Gilbert Arenas Rule needs to be amended to read, “Gilbert Arenas will play at least one more season for the Warriors before retiring.” That might be the only thing that gets him back here.) Aside from Baron, those were pretty much all the sure-bet, starting-caliber point guards available in free agency.

If the Warriors go the trade route, the Sonics (Russell Westbrook, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson) and Grizzlies (Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittendon) are still oversubscribed at the position (although Seattle may be less interested in dealing now that Watson has broken a thumb and is expected to be out until training camp). And as Tim Kawakami pointed out in his column today, the Knicks could part with Jamal Crawford (not a true point, but could team well with Ellis) — unless Mike D’Antoni manages to run Stephon Marbury out of town, of course.
There’s been no indication the Pistons have changed their mind about wanting to deal Chauncey Billups to make room for Rodney Stuckey, so that’s still a possibility. Jamaal Tinsley’s departure from Indiana is a foregone conclusion, but reteaming two of the combatants from Club Rio — notwithstanding Stephen Jackson’s oodles of good works over the past year — might be seen in Warriors headquarters as unnecessarily courting trouble. Kirk Hinrich is available in Chicago, and his front-loaded deal, which steps down $1 million per year, would actually fit well with a team that has a ton of space now but will be paying out big money to its youngsters later.

Second-tier free agents include Anthony Carter (who told the Rocky Mountain News he has been contacted by the W’s), Carlos Arroyo, Tyronn Lue, Jason Williams, Sam Cassell and my personal favorite: Jannero Pargo. After bouncing around the league for three years, he finally found a niche with the Hornets. He can shoot the 3 (although he has a fairly dreadful overall FG%) is great from the line and would have no trouble adjusting to the Warriors’ uptempo style. The biggest obstacle — and it may very well be a deal-breaker — is that he’s 6-1 and 175, so there’s no way that he can play with Ellis. And Ellis, it seems very clear, is going to play 40+ minutes a night, every night, for the foreseeable future as the centerpiece of this team.

— Geoff