The Golden State Warriors are quite obviously entering a transitional period. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will officially take over the team as owners some time in October, when the NBA’s Board of Governors will presumably ratify the Chris Cohan’s sale of the franchise, and Lacob has already made it clear that he prefers to field a tough, defensive-minded team rather than the shambling offensive jubilee of the Don Nelson years. Guber, whose Mandalay Entertainment has produced such fine films as Into the Blue, presumably prefers a team of hot women clad in tiny blue bikinis or with their arms bitten off by sharks (whoops, SPOILER ALERT).
Lacob’s vision for the Warriors has already begun to be realized — just look at their recent two-year deal for Louis Amundson. The former Sun was a great energy player off the bench for last year’s Western Conference finalists, but as noted by Tim Kawakami, he’s not Nelson’s type of player. In other words, he can’t shoot at all, and Nellie can typically only stand to play one of those guys at a time. With David Lee and Andris Biedrins already on the roster, it’s likely that Amundson won’t get many opportunities to play.
Of course, Nelson probably won’t be with the team much longer. Lacob and Guber are almost certain to go in another direction, potentially before the end of the season. They don’t owe Nelson anything other than money, and he’s a symbol of the previous regime.
The problem here is that if Lacob and Guber don’t take over until October, that doesn’t give them much time before the beginning of the regular season to find a new replacement. While they almost certainly want to get rid of Nelson as soon as possible, doing it so close to the beginning of the new campaign — and possibly even during training camp — would create a series of unwelcome distractions and problems just as everyone was trying to forge an identity for the 2010-11 squad.
So expect Nelson to run the Warriors for at least a few months. In that time period, expect a lot of comedy, because the NBA’s foremost mad scientist has been given a surprisingly standard roster with which to concoct his lineup experiments.
Nelson loves shooters, and shooters are typically guards. But the Warriors are very thin at guard, with only Jannero Pargo (and the 6-6 Reggie Williams, if you want to classify him as such) standing in as sharpshooting backups to Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. At wing, things are much thinner: prospective starter Dorell Wright took only two threes per game (shooting well at 38.9%) in about 20 minutes of action last season, while likely backup Rodney Carney can’t shoot at all.
So, unless Nelson wants to get completely goofy and play Wright or Williams at the four, the Warriors are almost guaranteed to play two non-shooters on the bulk of their possessions next season. This situation will surely frustrate Nelson to no end; his probable last coaching job won’t allow him to go out with a bang.
There are two ways this could go. On one hand, Nelson will lose whatever’s left of his mind and trot out the weirdest lineups ever seen on an NBA court. I’m talking full-on craziness unseen since the days before the Minneapolis Lakers even decided what positions were. Or maybe Nelson will go in the other direction, realize he has no hope of innovation, and openly weep during games. Fortunately, I hear assistant Keith Smart has a great shoulder for crying on.
I’ll be watching with interest. Here’s hoping local broadcasts train a camera on Nelson at all times, because there’s no telling how he might act before Lacob and Guber pull his plug.