OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Don Nelson settled into a chair at the Golden State Warriors' training complex, adjusted his blue-and-gold polo shirt and heaved a happy sigh.
There's clearly nowhere else the 67-year-old coach would rather be at the start of another NBA season. But Nelson acknowledges he was reluctantly willing to walk away from the once-woeful Warriors this summer over a few million dollars.
In a lengthy interview Wednesday, Nelson said he would have been just as heartbroken as Warriors fans if he hadn't reached a compromise on his contract stalemate earlier in the month so he could return for the next period in probably the final revitalization project of his career.
``I hate negotiations,'' said Nelson, whose summer also included legal wrangling over his contract with his previous employer, the Dallas Mavericks.
``They're never fun, but they're necessary, so I was ready to go,'' he said. ``I was hoping for two (guaranteed years), but you don't always get what you want in life, and I felt the right thing to do was accept their terms and come in. ... I thought it was time for somebody to blink first, and it was me.''
Nelson's new deal raised his salary for this season and 2008-09 from $3.1 million to $5.1 million - but now the final year of his original three-year contract is at the team's option. The deal puts Nelson among the league's top 10 coaches in salary, which he said was his reason for negotiating.
``I just couldn't do the job because I felt underpaid for that number,'' Nelson said. ``I didn't want it to go into training camp. They stepped up (and) paid me what I thought I should be paid for a year.''
The Warriors have offered little public comment on the negotiations beyond expressing their excitement at Nelson's return. Nelson, who went 42-40 last season and ended the Warriors' 12-year playoff absence, has 1,232 career coaching victories, the second-most in NBA history.
And if Nelson can come close to the job he did with Golden State last season, picking it up won't be a problem. But not even Nelson is certain he can replicate the Warriors' feel-good run to the second round of the playoffs, a historic opening-round upset of the top-seeded Mavs.
``I would hope that we could pick up where we left off, but I don't know,'' Nelson said, citing the Warriors' offseason personnel changes. ``Our nemesis is rebounding. Until we become a better rebounding team, I don't know that you can (be one of the NBA's best teams). I think we can be a good team. I don't know how dominant we can be unless we rebound better.''
Golden State opens training camp in Oakland on Monday before flying to Hawaii, where they'll spend nearly two weeks concluding with two exhibitions against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nelson said he'll miss Jason Richardson, traded to Charlotte on draft night in a deal that landed raw rookie forward Brandan Wright, who probably won't play much early. Though Richardson sometimes struggled to fit into Nelson's run-and-gun style, the coach will miss his tenacity and leadership.
While Wright will come along slowly, Nelson expects bigger things out of Marco Belinelli, the 18th overall pick. Nelson even said the Italian scorer could be the Warriors' starting shooting guard on opening night with Stephen Jackson suspended for seven games for pleading guilty to a felony count of criminal recklessness in Indiana.
Nelson, who kept working on draft preparations and scouting the Warriors' summer-league teams despite the uncertainty over his contract, has been impressed by Belinelli's readiness for the NBA after five seasons as a pro in his native Italy.
``The guy has got stardom written all over him,'' said Nelson, who's already scheming with his assistants to find novel ways to use Belinelli's pick-and-roll proficiency. ``I just think he's that good. ... I think the sky's the limit for this guy, from what I've seen.''
The Warriors' roster is another eclectic mix of holdovers, recently-acquired veterans and untested youngsters around Baron Davis, but Nelson seems fundamentally optimistic about their chances to improve on last season's 42-win campaign. He also enjoys his Bay Area lifestyle a bit too much to head home to Maui and retirement just yet.
``My wife would have divorced me if I hadn't signed,'' he said. ``She's got grandkids here. ... I wanted to coach this team. It's like a perfect scenario. I love this team.''

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