|Nelson uncertain on future with Warriors, but team's optimism high|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 May 2007 13:50|
And without their beloved Nellie, even the Warriors aren't certain they could duplicate the tantalizing promise they showed late in a memorable season.
Nelson plans to decide by July 1 whether he'll be back for another year with the Warriors, whose surprising playoff run ended Tuesday night with a second-round loss to the Utah Jazz. The defeat capped the franchise's first winning regular season and postseason berth since 1994.
``It's not a good time for me to make that decision,'' Nelson said Wednesday at the Warriors' downtown training complex. ``I think it was really important that I came here. I'm not so sure it's important that I stay on.''
Nelson, who turned 67 on Tuesday, went 42-40 in his first season back with Golden State, where he also coached from 1988-95. His 1,232 career coaching victories are the second-most in NBA history.
After snapping their 13-year playoff drought on the final day of the regular season, the eighth-seeded Warriors shocked the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, beating the NBA's best regular-season team - and Nelson's former employer - in six games. Utah beat the Warriors in five games, though all four losses were close.
Although Nelson signed a three-year contract to replace Mike Montgomery last August, he wants time to talk over his future with his wife, Joy, before committing to another year of the NBA grind, which gave him sleepless nights and added 15 pounds to his already ample figure. Nelson plans to relax on the beach at his home in Maui until his head is clear.
Golden State fans probably shouldn't worry too much, however. Nelson also said he plans to keep his entire coaching staff intact, and he spoke optimistically of the Warriors' potential for improvement with a full healthy season for the roster that finished the regular season 16-5 before flattening the Mavs.
Nelson plans to add his opinions to top executive Chris Mullin's ideas for the draft next month, and he'll decide his future around that time as well.
``I'm kind of anticipating coming back, but I'm just not totally sure,'' Nelson said. ``Whether I want to put my body through another year or two would be the main issue. I'm not 66 anymore. There's another life out there outside of basketball that's very enjoyable, especially when you have the means that I have at this particular time in my life.''
Nelson didn't tell his players or assistant coaches about his reluctance to return, so they all reacted with degrees of incredulity when they heard the news after wrapping up the most exciting, rewarding season in nearly every player's career.
``I don't want to hear that. I'm going to Maui ASAP to talk to him,'' said Baron Davis, whose 2 1/2 years with Golden State culminated with four 30-point games during the playoff run - turning him into a folk hero among the Bay Area's success-starved fans.
``We love him here,'' Davis said. ``He's the reason why we made the playoffs, and he's the reason a lot of guys are excited and happy about basketball. ... It would be a huge setback. It would be kind of like starting all over from scratch, rebuilding again. That's not the news you want to hear after this season. I want him back, and we have to have him back.''
If Nelson departs, assistant coach Keith Smart would seem to be a logical replacement - but Smart anticipates another season at Nelson's side.
``This is the first year in my career as a coach that every day I looked forward to the excitement of learning something,'' said Smart, who spent 40 games as Cleveland's interim head coach four years ago. ``I learned so much working for him, and I want to continue to learn.''
Nelson and Davis combined to produce the Warriors' most memorable season in decades, but it wasn't headed anywhere special before Mullin swung the eight-player trade that ditched underachievers Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy in favor of Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington, who immediately became key pieces of Nelson's uptempo offensive attack.
Jackson's defensive intensity against league MVP Dirk Nowitzki also helped to turn the Warriors' first-round series in their favor. Both veterans will be back and eager for a full season under Nelson.
Though the Warriors' playoff run will be remembered for years, Golden State sees no reason it can't replicate its outstanding regular-season finish next fall. Nelson's offense finally clicked with a full roster of healthy players led by Davis' playmaking and uncanny knack for big shots.
But there will be personnel changes outside of Nelson's status as well. Backup swingman Matt Barnes is a free agent ready for his first big NBA payday, so he's unlikely to fit under the Warriors' slim room against the salary cap. Though Jason Richardson is a popular team leader, he was a frequent subject of trade rumors even before his inconsistent playoffs.
But with the cheers of their yellow-clad crowds still ringing in their ears Wednesday, the Warriors believed everything will be all right as long as Nelson is back.
``We had so little time to come together around the All-Star break, and we did it - we made the playoffs,'' said Monta Ellis, voted the NBA's most improved player. ``I see great things in our future.''