OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Don Nelson knows his bosses would probably prefer if he stayed a little more upbeat.
Not to the extent that the veteran coach would gush about the Golden State Warriors' playoff chances, yet certainly more optimistic than already ruling them out of the mix in early December - a mere 18 games into the NBA schedule.
Nelson, though, considers himself a realist. He's been around this game long enough to recognize his young roster will be overmatched on more nights than not this season in the talented Western Conference. He has rebuilt franchises at every stop, including twice now in the Bay Area with the Warriors.
``They would probably want me to be more positive. But I kind of have to say it the way it is,'' Nelson said. ``That's the way I see it. We're going to get better but I think there are too many obstacles really to have that as a goal this year.''
on can't envision nearly that number of victories this time around.
Especially considering the Warriors watched dynamic point guard Baron Davis depart for the Los Angeles Clippers in July. And especially considering they still don't have high-scoring guard Monta Ellis - signed to a lucrative $66 million, six-year deal after he averaged a career-best 20.2 points last season - back from a serious ankle injury he got in a summer moped mishap. It cost him a 30-game suspension without pay from team president Robert Rowell.
``I think we knew we were in trouble when Monta went down,'' Nelson said. ``Monta's the wild card. I really don't know when he's coming back. I don't know how long it's going to take. Once he gets on the court, it doesn't mean he's going to be the Monta of a year ago. It's still probably going to be a month or so before he can get up to speed.''
When the season began, Nelson figured he'd have a good gauge of his team by the 30-game mark. It turned out to be much sooner. He hardly expected to have to depend on his young players so much so soon, needing them to learn on the court.
on things, not playing again until Friday at Houston.
It was last Saturday, when the Warriors lost 138-125 to the Knicks in New York, that Nelson acknowledged he didn't have a playoff team. He reiterated his point Monday.
``If you look at our team last year, we were really good,'' Nelson said. ``We didn't make the playoffs last year and we won 48 games. This team isn't nearly as good as that one. How would we expect to make the playoffs with this team when we didn't do it last year? And we had a lot of veteran players on the team. To me it's just common sense. That's why I said it.''
Not that those comments have sat too well with his players. The Warriors were clearly frustrated after their collapse Monday at home to Miami in which they blew it down the stretch in both regulation and overtime.
``That's the thing, he done said that before. What can we do?'' leading scorer Stephen Jackson said. ``I don't even pay attention to it. That's his opinion. My opinion doesn't matter, just like his doesn't. You gotta live with it.''
Nelson even left the bench more than 10 seconds before the final buzzer sounded Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Nelson recently received a two-year contract extension taking him through the 2010-11 season and said he plans to honor the commitment. Yet Golden State could have a tough time greatly bettering this roster during the remainder of his tenure. The Warriors are tied to long-term money with Ellis, Jackson, Corey Maggette, Andris Biedrins and newly acquired Jamal Crawford.
Crawford hasn't won since coming to the Warriors in a Nov. 21 trade with the Knicks that sent disgruntled forward Al Harrington to New York. Harrington went off for 36 points and 12 rebounds against his old team Saturday.
Crawford, meanwhile, missed a running jumper as the buzzer sounded Monday, a rare down moment during his 40-point, seven-assist performance.
The Warriors failed to secure key rebounds and blew chances on the offensive end. Afterward, Nelson could only say that his team let this one get away - again. Patience, he is quickly finding out, is important right now.
``It's not new to me. You have to have an understanding that you can struggle,'' Nelson said. ``You just don't want to struggle more than one year at a time if you can help it. You can resolve things and build a team in which you're a contender.''

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