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.

22

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

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:

3

Report Card: Guards

It’s hard to not look at the stats of the Warriors guards and come away impressed. But there were some areas where the guards fell short – and it hurt because of their importance to this team. I’m a little harder on them (especially Baron Davis) because their value to the team and their overall talent is greater than anyone else’s on the team.

Baron Davis — He averaged 21.8 points in 39 minutes, his highest marks in those categories since 2003-04, whe averaged 22.9 points in 40.1 minutes. He also set a career high in rebounds. But where Baron falls short — and this is only a shortcoming because he is expected to be elite — was being a point guard. Baron proved two things this season: 1) he is still a top-notched scorer and 2) he can stay healthy (though that is relative). Unfortunately for the Warriors, they only need No. 2. Golden State doesn’t need Baron to be a dominant scorer, but a playmaker. They are better when he’s not the leading scorer. His assists (7.6) dropped under 8.3 for the first time since he joined the Warriors. His field goal percentage also dropped (42.6) fairly significantly off last season’s career-best 43.9 percent. They needed him to make stuff happen for everyone else, not get his. Last year, he played like Chris Paul. This year, he was Gilbert Arenas. They are much tougher to defend when he’s racking up 15 assists than when he’s scoring 40. Plus, he was bad down the stretch.
Grade: C+

Monta Ellis — He really took his game to another level this year. His became a reliable offensive weapon, partially filling the void left by Jason Richardson. There’s no question this dude has the potential to be the next. But looking at just this season, he was atrocious on defense, and that hurt the Warriors in the long run. If Baron is going to play 40 minutes, Monta has to guard the Allen Iversons, the Chris Pauls, the Tony Parkers, etc. He couldn’t this season. His best defense was getting 30 himself. Plus, Monta has the tendency to force offense and take quick shots at the wrong time. He was excellent on the boards, though, and he’s already a much better ball-handler than he used to be.
Grade: B

Marco Belinelli — I give him a lot of credit for keeping a great attitude while not playing and while sitting in the disgruntled section of the locker room (with MP2, Matt Barns and Al Harrington). He thought he should’ve played more, but he always kept a smile on his face and kept working hard. And when he got in, he stroked it some. Grade: B

C.J. Watson — He was much better than I expected, and he fit because he can score. Could’ve been more aggressive, but I understand why not. He produced when he got the minutes, and that’s all you can ask from a guy who started on a 10-day contract.
Grade: A-

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+

4

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.

KEY STATS
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

GOT LOST IN THE LOSS
*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.

WHAT THEY SAID
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.”