Inside: Postgame (vs. Nuggets)

You can imagine how melancholy the Warriors locker room was.
I went to the Nuggets locker room first. By the time I arrived in the Warriors locker room, the only player who hadn’t left the locker room or hopped in the shower was Mickael Pietrus. He just sat there, resting on his knees, staring nowhere.
The only smiles flashed came from Baron and Al Harrington when they signed autographs for Allen Iverson’s son. Monta kinda smiled for little A.I. As soon as that meet and greet was over, they all shifted back to somber.
They didn’t sound like they believed.

Melo and Iverson: 58 points on 24-for-40 shooting (60 percent)
B.D. and Jackson: 38 points on 14-for-41 shooting (34.1 percent)

*The Warriors scored 12 points off Denvers 16 turnovers. Denver scored 21 points off the Warriors 18 turnovers.

Denver: 9-for-19 from 3-point range
Warriors: 6-for-27 from 3-point range

*Baron had a tripple double (20 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds)
*Biedrins had 19 rebounds, six offensivem as the Warriors outrebounded Denver 52-44
*Kelenna Azubuike led the Warriors reserves with 10 minutes, 39 seconds. Pietrus played just 10:09, Barnes 6:22 and Croshere 2:56. Conversely, the Nuggets got 26 minutes from J.R. Smith, 23 from Najera nad 15 from Kleiza.

Baron Davis
“It’s tough, but you’ve got to finish strong. You’ve got to finish strong. This was a tough one to swallow, but you’ve got to finish strong. We’ve got to come prepared Saturday night and win the basketball game.”

“We’ve had our moments where we’ve felt fatigued, and fatigue has caught up with us. Despite everything, we have to keep our heads because we are a tough team, one of the top teams in the league. We just have to finish strong, get to 50 wins and see what happens. It’s tough to know that thais game could ultimately end your playoff hopes.”

“I thought we did an excellent job in the first half of getting the ball in the middle of the floor and working the middle of the floor. Every time they made a run or came back, we were able to get a layup or get someone in the paint for an easy shot. The second half, they really covered us and spaced us and we weren’t able to make plays, which we were able to do in the first half.”

Stephen Jackson:
“If me and Baron have bad shooting nights, we’re not going to win.”

“Once we started missing shots, turning the ball over, they became the aggressive team. Their two stars made some shots along with J.R. Smith. Melo hit some big shots and A.I. hit his free throws down the stretch. Their two big players made plays. It was just that they made the plays that we didn’t to win the game.”

“We still have games to play. We are not going to quit because we lost to Denver tonight. We are going to play this season out and see what happens.”

“I don’t think anyone was tired. A game like this, it’s impossible to be tired. It’s impossible to be tired because we have to go out there and play. But we didn’t make the plays. They just made the plays. Their stars stepped up.”

Don Nelson:
“Just a half a step off, playing the way we really needed to win this big game. This was a huge game. I loved the game. I loved every part of it. I just wish we would have played a little bit better.”

“They know this was a game that was probably going to determine who makes the playoffs. It’s not etched in stone yet. I think they still have two tough games, and we have the Phoenix Suns and two games taht we should win. … We won’t know until the last game of the season. So I definitely w ant to win our next two games and see where we are. We know their schedule — the have Houston at home and Utah on the road. Tonight, they’re on top and it looks good for them.”

Allen Iverson:
“It was hard tonight. That is a tough team. They have so many talented players on their team, and it’s even rougher tyring to play that team in front of this home crowd. They ahve one of the best home crowds in the NBA.”

“J.R. Smith played one of the biggest roles tonight. To come in here and beat a team like this, you need everybody. Every guy on the court who is playing, you need the guys not on the court cheering everybody on because we are in here by ourselves. There are 20,000 people in here. Everybody brought it tonight. The thing with the noise in that arena is that you want to shut them up. I know how it is to play at home, an dthat makes the basket that much bigger. It makes it that much easier to get a stop when you have everybody cheering for you, everybody wanting your shots to go in. It is that much harder with everything at stake tonight – and to be able to get a win tonight is great.”

George Karl:
“In the first quarter, we got a hungry team, a fired team that ran by us. We missed a lot of easy shots, some layups during that stretch. They were just getting to the rim on every transition and penetration. Then we went to the zone and I thought A.I. was incredible. His defensive presence in the zone just gave us a confidence to defend them that we didn’t have early.”

“We kind of had a strong hold Baron. It wasn’t a box-and-one (zone), but where ever Barfon was, we wanted to play him tight. He likes to roam in the middle of the zone. I thought Eddie (Najera) was there most of the time always being in his way. They missed some open threes that they make sometimes, too. That was big.”

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. … But if they win all their games the rest of the way, we’ve got to win two.”


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


Inside: Shootaround (vs. Kings)

The morning practice was fairly eventful. Here were the highlights:

*Nelson walked from the court to the hallway to talk to the media. But before he said a word, he walked back toward the court to shout something to his rookie.
“Belinelli,” he screamed to Marco, “$100 fine for your friend sleeping in shootaround!”
There were several laughs as all the attention pointed to Marco’s peeps, posted in the stands sporting sweats, a red long-sleeve shirt and some aviator sunglasses. He was shocked.
“Bull#@&%!” he retorted in jest through a thick accent. “Bull#@&%!”
Marco’s friend said he wasn’t sleep, he was just relaxing behind his shades.

*Nelson said Mickael Pietrus was playing tonight, his first time since the first Lakers game. Of course, Pietrus wasn’t so sure.
“I feel all right,” MP2 said. “I’mma see tonight.”
When I told Pietrus that Nellie said he was playing, he looked a bit surprised.
“He said that?”
“Yes, he did. Is it not official yet?”
“It’s official when you see my name on the list (lineup).”

*A jewel of honesty from from Nellie on Stephen Jackson’s play of late:
“He’s been awful. He has not been playing well. … We’re looking for him to come out of it. … He’s our emotional leader. No question. … He’s got to rise above that and he understands that as a leader and a captain.”

*The Warriors seemed light and carefree despite what is on the line. As a group of them filed toward the locker room, Al Harrington was playfully interviewing Andris Biedrins.
“Andris,” Harrington said through a grin, mimicking the media types, “How does it feel to get 15 rebounds?” then passed the invisible mic to Biedrins’ lips.
“Andris, how does it feel to be 7 feet and be a good free throw shooter now.”


Nellie Up to his Old Tricks?

What was the first thing you thought when you heard Nellie’s wait-until-the-offseason response to the Warriors’ picking up the team option for next season? If you’re like me, you thought “Here we go, again.”
Maybe I’m just a hopeless cynic, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this has hold out written all over it. He pulled out all the stops — age, wife, difficulty of the job. Sounds like Nellie has his sights set on more than $5.1 million. He’s laying the ground work for another pay-raise demand. If the Warriors make a deep playoff run, better believe Nellie’s going to want $7M instead of the $5M. The Warriors’ early announcement that they were picking up the option only suggested they need Nellie more than Nellie needs them – which is all the leverage Nellie needs.
Why would Nellie fight tooth-and-nail for a raise and for a guaranteed third year only to say “let me think about it” months later? Why should anyone believe it is really about his health when he cried health last time and it was clearly about the money?
His concerns are, on their own, legitimate. He’s up there in age, his health isn’t the greatest and coaching this team is indeed a tough job. But when has Nellie ever laid all his cards out on the table? He always has an angle, a money card stashed somewhere, a master plan in the works. Don’t be surprised.


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

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?”


Time for Wright is Now

It’s kind of hard to go against Nellie, though I think he makes a lot of questionable decisions, dare I say some bad decisions. Still, the dude knows what he’s doing, and there have been a lot of times where he’s dead on, so there is reason for reserve when questioning his moves. Though I may not always agree with his reasoning, he usually has a pretty logical reason.
This, though, I can’t get past. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it just doesn’t make any sense. Nellie: PLAY BRANDAN WRIGHT.
With Andris out, with the Webber experiment yawning along, there is no excuse for Wright not to play. I’m not even on the “play the youngsters” kick, as I’d be perfectly fine with not seeing Belinelli and Kosta on the court this year (though I don’t understand why C.J. isn’t play. He does well almost every time he’s in). But Wright, he’s different. He can be a factor now. And he’s not as much of a liability as the other youngsters.
Wright has the athleticism, the motor and the skills to contribute something the Warriors need right now. Why is his mistakes less tolerable than Stephen Jackson’s telegraphed crossover or Matt Barnes’ failed Magic Johnson imitations or Mickael Pietrus tap dancing on the out-of-bounds line? If you can bring Webber along, you can certainly bring Wright along, because he has way more life in his legs.
I’m not saying run Wright out there for 30 minutes. But he’s good enough to play 15 to 20. I’d settle for 10. And not with four other hardly used reserves, either.
Whne you think about it, the Warriors have talent on the bench. Half of them have had their confidence sapped by Nellie’s whimsical rotation. But for the most part, some of these dudes can play. Azubuike was a starter. He can play. Pietrus and Barnes can play (when they’re under control). Wright can play.
Even Patrick O’Bryant can play. Kinda. He’s slow. He’s soft. But he has offensive skills. In the right situation, such as last night against the bigger Hawks, he can give you something inside. At the very least, he could put Josh Childress in his place with a bony elbow to the chest. You might as well milk POB for what you can. He’s going to leave town in two months having made nearly $5 million off the Warriors.
All they need is the removal of the fear that one mistake will end their stint. Look how comfortable Wright was last night knowing that he was going to play. With his length and athleticism and skill set, he can’t help but make an impact. All he needs his mental under control, and he’s going to give you something — without causing you to lose.
Since the Warriors didn’t pull off a trade, they can still make a move that adds to the team. They can potentially get that spark they need, that boost past Denver and/or Houston.


MP time: Almost at an end?

So Mickael Pietrus came right out and said it at practice Tuesday afternoon.

And said it, and said it, and said it…

In seven minutes of talk with the media, Pietrus didn’t go more than 20 seconds, on average, without using either the word “trade” or “move” to describe his fervent desire to play anywhere other than Oracle Arena.

“No matter where I go, I’ll prove myself and I’ll be a great player,” Pietrus said. “That’s all that’s on my mind right now. And I’ll be an All-Star, too.”

MP has popped off about playing time before, but this was hardly one of those situations. It was a clearly calculated attempt to force the hand of the Warriors, although it appears to have had little effect on the organization as a whole.

“I think it’s necessary to do a deal that’s good for the Warriors,” executive vice president Chris Mullin said when asked if the Warriors had no choice but to move MP. “That is necessary. . . . There’s a lot of things I’m willing to do, and I’ve been willing to do. But that does entail somebody else in that scenario.”

The problem remains the same as it’s been for months: Mullin and Pietrus’ agents are at loggerheads over what constitutes a fair deal. Bill McCandless and Happy Walters have flogged a lot of potential trades, but none of them have passed muster with the Warriors, who are looking for a very specific type of player — for the most part, either someone who’s going to take the team to the Western Conference finals or beyond, or someone who’s coming off the books this summer, so the money doesn’t get squeezed for Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins.

(Personally, I’m partial to Miami’s Jason Williams, but I’m not convinced the Warriors would be willing to use their $10 million trade exception on J-Will — nor am I convinced they’re enamored with Williams’ game in general.)

McCandless brought up an interesting point Tuesday: If Pietrus is worth so much to the Warriors when it comes to making a trade, why isn’t he on the floor more?

“(Pietrus) is either a contributor on your team — in which case he plays 25 minutes — or he’s not,” McCandless said. “If he’s not a contributor, why expect to get the same things in return?”

In Kawakami’s absence, here are the Q&A transcripts:

Mickael Pietrus:
I definitely want to be traded to another team that I can help at the 2/3 position. I think that it was good to play the 4/5, but it’s not really my primary spot, it’s not where I’m so efficient. So I want to move on. I think I came here, I worked my ass off for the team, and now it’s good that we have a playoff team and I feel like I need to move on and go somewhere else I can help the team right away.
(What if you’re still here on Feb. 22?)
I want to be traded. I want to be traded. I don’t think about after Feb. 21. I think about now, and I think for me it’s time to move on and go to a team that I can — as a player, you’re always looking to improve yourself and I feel like I need to prove myself and be a better player every day.
(Most players say, “I just want to play for a winning team.” You just called this a playoff team. Why leave?)
Because I feel like the 4/5, if you compare my statistics at the same time last year, before the trade, I was averaging 14, 15 points, and this year, they’re trying to move me to the 4/5, which is not my primary spot. I would like to get back to where I came from, like the 2/3, and play at a high level.
(Nellie says you’re playing better than earlier this season.)
I don’t feel like I’m playing more minutes, but I feel like when I step on the floor, I’m trying to be a professional and do the right thing for the team. I know I’m not going to stay on the floor for 40 minutes, so I’m trying to help the team the best way I can, but I feel like I need to move on and go to a team that wants me and wants to use me at the 2/3.
(You think the Warriors don’t want you?)
I never said they don’t want me. It’s nothing against the organization, it’s just always as a player you want to improve yourself and I feel like I need to move on.
(But doesn’t the fact they only made the one-year qualifying offer speak volumes?)
If you look at the team, the only tradable guy on the team is me, and I won’t mind that.
(What did Nellie say to you?)
Between coach and me, I think it was a private talk. He told me that he only has 10 minutes for me at the 2/3, and I’ve been through a lot this year, a lot of frustration, and when I was to play the 4/5. To me, to play just 10 minutes at the 3, it’s kind of tough. I’m trying to be as professional as I am, try to help the team the best way I can before I move on.
(Nellie said they’re not just going to trade you for the sake of a trade.)
I want to be moved. I want to be moved. I want to be moved. I want to be traded.
(Sad that it’s come to this?)
Since I came here, I’m a vet now, I gave the team a lot. We were a bad team five years ago, and I worked hard to put the team where they are now, and I feel like I’m ready to move on and look forward and get better.
(Happy with where Nelson has played you, or frustrated?)
I feel frustrated, because when you look at my statistics from last year, when I used to play the 2/3, I was averaging a lot of points and a lot of rebounds. But since he moved me to the 4/5, I’m not as efficient as I was. I’m trying to find myself at this point, but this team doesn’t belong to me. I think I’m better at the 2/3 and I can help the team better.
(If you leave, what would you take from Nelson?)
It’s no hard feelings against the Warriors, no hard feelings against anybody, no hard feelings against Chris Mullin. I feel like I want to improve my game from last year to this year, and for me it’s time to thank them and move on.
(If you had it to do over again, would you have stayed out instead of signing the qualifying offer?)
It’s a good qualifying offer. It wasn’t bad. I don’t think it’s a problem with the contract. I think it’s a problem where you give so much to the team last year and I was expecting more this year, and try to help my team and try to play at a high level and try to focus in. But I feel like for me, it’s just time to move on after five years. I gave so much, and I would like to thank everybody and be traded.
(Expecting “more” of what, exactly?)
In terms of playing time. It’s kind of tough when you play 10 minutes and you try to improve as a player. I know that I’m a better player, and I will be a great player.
(Did you try to convince Nelson to play you more at 2/3?)
No, I understand that we have a good vet in front of me in Stephen Jackson. It is no problem. But I feel like there’s more teams out there who would like to use me at the 2/3 and I feel like it’s time for me to move on.
No matter where I go, I’ll prove myself and I’ll be a great player. That’s all that’s on my mind right now. And I’ll be an All-Star, too. I told you before.

Don Nelson:
(What was the upshot of Mickael’s meeting with you?)
Real simple. It was nothing I didn’t know. His agent asked him to see me so he could put the quote in the paper that he did. Anyway, he did.
(Problems with guys playing for contracts?)
No, actually, it was getting better (with Pietrus).
(How so?)
Well, at least he’s playing know, playing hard, playing the best he’s played all year right now. That hasn’t transformed to the games, but he’s working hard in practice, those kind of things.
(Was he pouting earlier this season?)
I wouldn’t say that. You call it what you want. I don’t really know. He has not had a good year.
(What did you tell him?)
I told him exactly what you would think I would tell him: That we’re not just going to trade him because he wants to be traded, and if we can get a player for him, we’ll trade him, and if we can’t, he’s gonna stay here. Real simple. It has to be somebody that we like, somebody that can help us. He’s an NBA player. I have to get an NBA player back for him that I like. I like Pietrus. When he’s playing, I like him. He played 26 minutes a game last year. Why are his minutes cut down? Because of his production. No other reason. I had him penciled in for at least 26, 28 minutes. Losing JR, you assume that he and Matt have to really step up for us to play well. Matt is just now starting to play, and so is Pietrus. I’m shocked we’ve don as well as we’ve done without those guys being major contributors. I think Monta, Baron, Jack, Pietrus, guys that are playing a majority of the minutes have done a really good job.
(What kind of problem will it be if he’s here Feb. 22?)
It would be no problem for me. I think it’d probably be a positive for him too, one way or the other, once the trade deadline has passed, and he’s either gonna be here for the year or he’s not. It’s gonna help him as well.
(Was the meeting the reason behind putting him at the 3?)
No. That’s a mental thing. He feels if he’s a 3, he can play better, so I made him a 3. There’s not a lot of minutes there, however; Jack plays 40 minutes at the 3.
(He played some 4 last year.)
It didn’t change. It’s just in his mind. I don’t know.

— Geoff