66

Well, well, well

Where to begin? Of all the things I thought might happen to the Warriors this summer — and that’s a mighty lengthy list — Baron Davis passing on $17.8 million is not one of them. Of course, that’s because Baron was telling everyone who would listen it wouldn’t happen.

First off, let’s cover some turf that was discussed in the story you’ll never read — the one I sent into the office around 6 p.m. or so last night, or just in time for me to call back within the hour and say, “Tear that sucker up.”

Obviously, this was before BD dropped his bombshell, so I’m not sure this stuff still has relevance in the new Warriors world, but . . .

Don Nelson had this to say at Monday’s press conference for rookie picks Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix: “Matt Barnes and Cro, those guys will not be back, so there’s going to be some minutes there (at the forward spots). The team is going to take on a different shape, a different look. So there will be more opportunities for our youth.”

Chris Mullin didn’t necessarily agree, but did say it wasn’t realistic to think the Warriors could bring back both Barnes and Mickael Pietrus. And he said Patrick O’Bryant is as good as gone.

For his part, Barnes said, via text message: “(Nelson) is the boss. I would love to be a Warrior. I owe so much to Nellie and to the organization. But with the tough season I had last year, it doesn’t look like I’m wanted. . . . This is a cold game and a tough business.”

As for the point guard . . .

Here’s a Nelson quote that I couldn’t get into the paper due to language restrictions: “Opting out of a $17 million contract, that’s ballsy. Nobody can say Baron doesn’t have balls.”

Although I’m sure that a certain radio host who’s not a media member will disagree with me, the Warriors most definitely have been lowballing Baron. Consider this: When Chauncey Billups was 15 months older than BD is now, he got four guaranteed years worth approximately $11.5 million per season. When Steve Nash was 18 months older than BD is now, he got five guaranteed years worth $13 million per. BD was being asked to take significantly less security than that.

Thing is, nobody should be shocked by this turn of events. Lowballing has been the Warriors’ default negotiating position for a few years now; it’s how they chiseled Barnes down to a lone season at $3 million after his breakout year in 2006-07, and how they forced Pietrus to eat the one-year qualifying offer last season. It’s why the books look better and has worked for the team.

In this instance, however, it appears to have backfired. The Warriors have had plenty of opportunities to discuss an extension, but by sticking with their usual modus operandi, when Elton Brand opted out with the caveat that he’s returning to the Clippers, the opportunity was there for Davis to go home. And he’s jumping at it. According to multiple sources and several different reports, he will try to head to L.A. as a free agent as soon as possible, with Brand taking a less-than-max deal to make it happen.

“We’re grown-ups, and we understood that it was a possibility,” Nelson said. “We didn’t think it would happen, but it did and we’ll deal with it.”

According to the Washington Post, the Warriors’ first thought in dealing with it was to make a run at Gilbert Arenas, which would be great except — as always when it comes to Agent Zero and this franchise — the salary-cap cards are stacked against the W’s. The Wizards can and are willing, according to the Post, to pay Arenas for one more year than the Warriors can (six versus five), and can give 10.5 percent yearly raises instead of the 8 percent that Golden State can give. The total amounts will depend on the salary cap numbers, since the maximum allowable starting salary is a percentage of the cap.

If Arenas is not an option, where do they go next? Atlanta forward Josh Smith, an RFA, would fill the Warriors’ hole at power forward, but the contract would have to be large enough to make the Hawks give up on matching the deal. And that presumes Monta Ellis is ready to run the team on his own.

– Geoff

7

Draft Prospects: PG Derrick Rose

Comparison: A young, health Baron Davis … Better yet, Monta Ellis with strength and true point guard skills

Strengths: Physically, this dude is amazing. at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, he’s got good size for a one, but his athleticism makes him even bigger. He is strong, quick, fast and can jump. He’s going to be pound-for-pound among the best athletes in the league from the moment he’s drafted. Perhaps nearly as impressive as his physicality is his offensive intangibles. Stuff like body control, ability to shift gears on a dime, instincts to create, timely aggressiveness, competitive drive, ability to finish, willingness to pass, handles with both hands, can improvise with ball in his hands. He does the things you can’t teach. Most players with his build and level of talent have the shooting guard skills down, but need to learn how to play the point guard position. But Rose is a true point guard. He has vision, leadership, basketball IQ, the gamer mentality, the perfect temperment, sacrificial disposition, clutch, team-oriented.

Weakness: His outside shot needs work. He can stroke it some, but not with the consistency and fluidity that will force defenses to play up on him. If he ever gets that, he’ll be unstoppable. As it is now, he’s streaky. His mid-range game is hardly to the level of a Monta Ellis, and his range from NBA 3 is questionable.
He’s coachable, by all accounts, but he is raw. Only one year of college under his belt, he’s going to have growing pains. This is especially evident in a half-court setting. He’s pretty much feasting off of his natural ability, which works wonders in the open court. But the halfcourt game has a cerebral element that he doesn’t have the wisdom for yet. Running stuff like the pick and roll requires quick, smart decisions to be made. He’s no Chris Paul in that department yet. He is somewhat turnover prone because he gets out of control quite a bit. Also, he’s fairly quiet, which is not the best disposition for a point guard.

Fit with the Warriors: In short, he would be perfect. He is superb in transition, can create, physically imposing, and has a very strong skillset. Nellie, or whoever coaches the Warriors, would love a talent like this on the court. He could walk right into the Warriors current system and be effective. Best of all, he can defend. He is described by scouts as a “relentless defender” who takes advantage of his physical attributes on that end of the court. At the college level, he was somewhat of a lock down defender. Most important, he has been known to play hard on that end. And he has the size to defend shooting guards, which is also a prerequisite for playing PG with the Warriors. Plus, because of his size, he is a good rebounder. Guards must rebound in the Warriors’ system.

Chances of ending up a Warrior: No chance. His value is way too high. He’ll likely go No. 1, which means the Warriors would have to give up the farm to Chicago. Bye, bye Monta, Andris, the No. 14 pick and maybe Pietrus. Actually, the Bulls may not want either of those two players anyway, considering they have Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, and Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. Adding Monta and/or Andris would be redundant.
Now, if Chicago decides to take Michael Beasley. The Warriors, in the dreamiest of scenarios, could maybe put a deal together to send Baron to Miami. The Heat have to do something to make sure Wade stays with Miami when his opt-out clause comes up in two seasons. The best remedy for that is to win now. Maybe Wade might be convinced that a trio of Baron, Wade and Marion is the trio they need to compete with Boston’s big three, and that waiting for Rose to develop takes too long. Owner Mickey Arison can afford to pay the tax, so maybe he signs off on taking in another big salary.
But that’s just a dream.

Check out some of Derrick’s raw athleticism:

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

24

Standing Pat a Good Move

Let MP walk at the end of the year.
Bite your tongue and pass on Mike Miller.
Pass on Charlie Villanueva.
Walk away from the Jermain O’Neal sweepstakes.
Reaching the other end of the trade deadline without making a move won’t be a bad deal at all. In fact, it may be the best deal available. Any person of value will have a catch, usually some worthless player with a bloated contra chained to their ankle. It’s not worth it to take on a bad contract. It’s not worth it to burn the trade exception now unless it is on a no-brainer.
Two reasons: a) it won’t help the Warriors over the Lakers/Dallas/Phoenix/Spurs hump; b) there will be plenty options in the offseason.

Seriously, who out there is going to help the Warriors win the Pacific, ensuring them a top-four seed? Who out there that is available can hit the ground running over the next 28 games and propel the Warriors into the playoffs, then be good enough to make Nellie’s eight-man playoff rotation? The choices are slim.
This offseason, there will be plenty more options. The same players will be available, plus the restricted free agent market, plus the free agents to be. The Warriors won’t be stuck trying to make moves with greedy GMs looking to capitalize on deadline pressure. Mullin & Co. will have the leverage in the form of options.

With an owner that has regard for the luxury tax, Mullin has to be careful about every move. It would be much smarter to make moves for a championship than to get a round further into the playoffs.
The pattern is clear. In today’s NBA, you have to have three great players to win a title. The Warriors have one great player and two really good ones (Ellis and Jackson). By next year, Ellis will be closer to great. All the Warriors will need is one more great player. They have a better chance of getting that during the offseason then now.

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.”