13

What to Watch For – Game #2

Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Clippers left lots of questions heading into Game 2 tonight.

Needless to say, this one is vital. Golden State needs to take advantage of having a four-game home stand to start the season. Going 1-3, or even 2-2, heading into a three-game road trip (Suns, Spurs, Lakers) would be really bad.

Here are a few things to look out for tonight.
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42

Riley Working Magic with Watson?

First, he made an offer to C.J. Watson, one that the Warriors would even agree is a bit of a bargain, though still fair.
Then, he put the word out that the Warriors would match any offer sheet Watson signs in the ballpark. A team would have to jump high, perhaps more than they think Watson is worth, to scare off the Warriors. If they did sign Watson to an offer sheet, that salary cap space is frozen for a maximum of seven days, all so the Warriors can decide to match in the end anyway. So, why would another team sign Watson to an offer sheet?

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11

And then there were eight…

Hey everyone. Just filling in for Marcus while he begins his five-day “vacation.” Of course, he went ahead and broke all kinds of rules with a blog post this morning. Just shows his level of dedication. 

Many of you probably saw this Stephen Jackson video yesterday on hoopshype.com, where he basically said that it’s time to ”shut it down and get (his toe fracture) fixed” and begin the process of getting ready for next season. According to a Warriors’ spokesperson, Jackson is seeing a specialist today. An update on how that appointment went may be forthcoming later on.

Corey Maggette (head contusion) has returned to the Bay Area, joining Andris Biedrins and Marco Belinelli. Brandan Wright (left shoulder pain) will not play against the Nuggets on Saturday. The team also reported Friday morning that Jermareo Davidson had successful surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left foot. He’ll be immobilized for the next month.

In case you’re counting, that leaves eight players available for Saturday’s game (Azubuike, Crawford, Ellis, Kurz, Morrow, Randolph, Turiaf, Watson). Should be a great time.

42

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:
2008-09
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.

11

Report Card: Coaching Staff

Last season, I considered Nellie a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate. This season – though the team added 6 wins to it’s record from last year – I don’t think he did as good a job. As a matter of fact, I think he had as much of a hand in the Warriors missing the playoffs as anyone. That said, he did a solid job. I don’t know how many coaches could squeeze 48 wins out of this roster. I thought they’d get 42 or 43 wins and miss the playoffs. I wasn’t sold on the hype, so Nellie gets credit for making the Warriors practically a 15-win team.

The assistant coaches, from what I could tell, had a big hand in keeping that locker room from falling apart. They did the ego massaging and explaining that Nellie wouldn’t.

Highlights:
• 48-34 record
• Nurtured Ellis into a productive force despite his obvious flaws. Though Nellie believes Monta’s brightest future is at PG, he didn’t stubbornly stick to that and went with a small backcourt. Turning Monta loose was at SG was key to the team’s success
• Same thing applies for Biedrins. Nellie would much rather a center who can shoot from outside. But he, instead, milked Biedrins for what he could bring. He probably shouldn’t get kudos for that, as that is what coaches do. But with Nellie’s judgemental coaching style, its worth mentioning
• Gave responsibility to Keith Smart, presumably the next head coach. Smart ran practices, led the huddle during timeouts, addressed the team in the locker room after games, etc. It is important that the players see Smart as head coach when he does take over, and Nellie helped make sure that happened by letting Smart spend some time in the big chair.

Lowlights:
• Ran Baron and Jackson into the ground (and tried to run Monta in the ground) because of his lack of faith in reserves. Justified or not, you can’t play 82 games with seven players.
•He ruined a lot of players confidence, which is counterproductive to the task at hand. His irregular rotation and sharpe tongue didn’t bring out the most in everyone – namely Harrington, Barnes, Pietrus and Azubuike.
•Failed to get rookies of the future much-needed playing time, which means they’ll still be green next year (not so much B-Wright), just like Kelenna and Patrick were still raw this year. It’s hard to believe Belinelli and Watson couldn’t give anything if given some decent playing time.

One argument is that the Warriors won 48 games and that is a major plus. But another argument is that they misses the playoffs by a game because they couldn’t beat a suspect Denver team at home. Nellie is a major reason for both.
GRADE FOR COACHING STAFF: B- (the assistant coaches boosted it up from a C+

10

Next Year’s Back-up Point?

A story today in the Chicago Sun Times has Chicago Bulls PG Chris Duhon – the one who set his career high at Oracle Arena not too long ago – said he likely won’t be back with the Bulls next season.
I have long been enamored with Duhon as the perfect back-up to Baron. He is a true point guard who defends, and his outside shot is improving. There was a concern about how a solid back-up might stunt the growth of Monta, who was penciled in as the back-up PG. However, that isn’t an issue anymore because Monta is a bonafide starter.
If I’m the Warriors, I’m picking him up this offseason. Duhon hasn’t even played since the Bulls got Larry Hughes. He skipped practice for the Duke-UNC game. You know he’s a goner. It makes you wonder if the Warriors could have gotten him for relatively nothing before the deadline.
Nonetheless, taking the moment to look ahead a bit, Duhon is the answer at back-up PG. He’s good enough for Nellie to be confident resting Baron, but not good enough to create issues about him being the starter. The Warriors can even keep C.J. Watson around as the third point guard, giving him more time to develop.

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.”