» Blog Archive » Warriors back on the road to nowhere?
  • Nov

    One of my favorite pieces from any NBA writer last season came from ESPN’s J.A. Adande, sizing up the Suns in the wake of their February acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal, and what it meant for Phoenix.

    Under Mike D’Antoni’s theory of basketball, a team should need only 7 seconds to get a shot off. Under Shaq’s theory of basketball, 7 seconds is the bare minimum to creep his way past the half-court line. The two views were patently incompatible, a fact Adande — spinning off the revolution once promised by D’Antoni’s system — wryly noted by saying, “La revolucion esta muerta.”

    There’s a little bit of that same “end of an era” vibe to the Warriors’ decision not to pick up the fourth-year option on point guard Marcus Williams.

    It’s not that Williams is likely to blossom into an All-Star next season for another team. But ridding themselves of Williams in this fashion, with no regard to salvaging even the slightest hint of value, highlights the fact that the apparent tug-of-war between team president Robert Rowell and executive vice president Chris Mullin for control of the franchise’s direction is threatening to take the team on a road to nowhere.

    It’s one thing to have a coach come in and decide that he doesn’t like a certain player. Happens all the time.

    To decide that a player whom you’ve just acquired a few months earlier — at the probable cost of a future first-round pick — is not worth a single season at $2.1 million is unusual.

    To decide that without seeing the player participate in a single regular-season game on your behalf is just ludicrous.

    Even Patrick O’Bryant, whom Nelson had no use for from the jump — and vice-versa — had a full season to prove himself before the team decided to deep-six him by similarly declining their option.

    It’s kind of astounding to look back at the volume of players who have failed, in two short years, to live up to Nelson’s standards. One item from Al Harrington’s various pronouncements on Tuesday that I really do believe is something he told Marcus Thompson II:

    “We all know how Nellie is. We all know his history. If you’re not one of his dudes, you ain’t never going to be one of his dudes.”

    O’Bryant can back that up.

    So can Ike Diogu.

    And Troy Murphy.

    Or Adonal Foyle.

    Even Sarunas Jasikevicius.

    And Kosta Perovic.

    Heck, even some guys who started out as Nelson favorites — hello, Matt Barnes — ended up buried. Williams is just the latest victim on Nelson’s discard list.

    The coach has consistently derided Williams, even on the days when Williams played well in practice. A couple weeks ago, Williams was draining shots from all over the floor, busting up DeMarcus Nelson, and the coach responded with: “I don’t need him to score.”

    OK, but — even though Williams has played poorly on defense — he’s the one healthy point guard on the roster who can fill some of the scoring void left by Baron Davis and Monta Ellis, so why not take advantage of his strengths? Isn’t that the point of Nellieball, to maximize and exploit mismatches?

    When the Warriors made their best move of the past three years – the January 2007 trade of Murphy, Diogu, Mike Dunleavy and Keith McLeod to the Pacers for Jasikevicius, Harrington, Stephen Jackson and Josh Powell — it came about from the confluence of three competing drives:

    ** Rowell’s desire to shed the big-money extensions that were threatening to hamstring the team for years to come.

    ** Nelson’s instant dislike for most everything Murphy and Diogu did on the floor.

    ** Mullin’s ability to wamboozle Donnie Walsh into giving him two shorter, cheaper contracts — and two better players at the same time.

    The whiplash nature of Marcus Williams’ tenure in Golden State is a sign that members of that triumvirate are now pulling in opposite directions. And that ever-so-brief dalliance with relevance?

    Looks like it’s esta muerta.

    – Geoff

18 Responses to “Warriors back on the road to nowhere?”

  1. Isn’t another explanation that the Williams trade was made in desperation, and as soon as they saw him play, everybody agreed it wasn’t going to work out?

  2. What desperaton? When they made the trade, Monta Ellis was still healthy and set to play 35 minutes a night at PG.

  3. Excellent analysis, Geoff! Thank you!

    I’ve always been leery of Nelson’s treatment of certain players. Al’s quote sums up what we’ve seen in Nelson all these years.

    To your bigger point, it seems as though Mullin will enjoy his free box seat and salary this season, and then its audios muchachos. Haven’t heard much from him since summer, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be saying much for the rest of the season. Ceasar, Crassus, and Pompeii are indeed down to two.

  4. Nellie isn’t the right coach for a young team. He is better suited for a veteran team. He is always going to say, “I thought we had a chance to win this game, thus the short rotation…”

    Only hope for a championship in the Bay Area is the Sharks and they always choke in the playoffs.

  5. funny how all these guys that end up in Nellie’s doghouse can’t play.

    if marcus williams starts running the offense and distributing the basketball and limiting his shots to open jumpers and open lanes instead of thinking he’s Baron, i’d bet money that he’d “magically” find himself out of the doghouse.

    the guy just doesn’t understand the limits to his game. it’s as if Andris, in practice, was lighting it up from 15-24 ft (apparently, he hits 3’s in practice), that doesn’t mean that he should be taking those kind of shots during a real game..

    though i’m surprised he doesn’t get in for 5-10 minutes a game, there’s a reason why the nets would rather have keyon dooling backing up Devin Harris.


    2007-08 season: Williams is what I call a basketball narcissist: He keeps calling his number despite horrid percentages and bushels of turnovers. If he ever decides to chill out and become an actual point guard there’s enough talent here to turn into a real player, but who knows if the light bulb will ever come on.

    It’s hard to overstate how harmful Williams’ me-first offensive tendencies are. He used a ton of possessions and used them horribly, ranking in the top third of point guards in usage rate but sporting the third worst turnover ratio at his position and a sub-50 true shooting percentage. He ranked 58th out of 71 points guards in pure point rating, even though, theoretically, he’s supposed to be a natural point guard.

    About the only positives were his improvement to 38.0 percent on 3-pointers, which would make him a useful spot-up guy if he’d stop trying to drive 1-on-5 so much, and the sixth best rebound rate among point guards.

    Scouting report: Offense isn’t Williams’ only problem. He was out of shape and was routinely blistered by opposing point guards last season, which is why 38-year-old Darrell Armstrong was able to eat into his minutes even though he was about the only player in captivity who made worse decisions than Williams at the point. New Jersey was phenomenally bad on D with Williams playing, giving up 9.0 points more per 48 minutes than with him off the court.

    A left-hander with a great feel for the game, Williams actually could be pretty good if he decided to be a pass-first player. Scouts compared him to Mark Jackson coming out of college — yes, seriously — and if he gets in shape and gets his head on straight, there’s still an opportunity for that caliber of player to come out. But he’s a poor finisher and only a middling shooter, so if he’s trying to score 20 a night it’s not gonna work.

    2008-09 outlook: The Nets traded Williams to Golden State for a lottery-protected — heck, lottery embalmed — first round pick that might not even be a first when all is said and done and likely won’t be theirs for at least a few years.

    He’ll begin the year with the backup point guard job, just as he did in New Jersey a year ago, but I don’t expect Don Nelson to be any more tolerant of Williams’ selfish play than Lawrence Frank was. If he can get in shape and focus on passing he’ll have a nice year, especially since Monta Ellis will be out of the lineup at the start of the season; otherwise he might find himself again kicked to the curb for a veteran retread with a fraction of his talent.

  6. long-suffering Warrior fan

    Amazing that a guy who impressed Cohan by cleaning bathrooms as an associate A.D. at Cal Poly is now single-handedly destroying our favorite local pro basketball team.

    The only silver-lining I can see is that possible the perfect storm of a horrible team, cheap ownership and a bad economy will force Cohan and his crony Smithers (a.k.a. Rowell) to sell the team to an owner who wants to be in the business to win a championship.

  7. Howl: The problem isn’t just that Nellie makes snap judgments about a guy — hell, it was good thing he made a snap judgment about Troy because it shook the franchise out of its opinion that he would eventually be a $10M/yr player.

    The problem is, all of those other guys were either here when Nelson arrived, or (in the case of Jasikevicius) necessary to make the larger deal work.

    The Warriors actively sought out Williams and gave up a potential first-round pick for him (and if you think the lottery protection makes it all OK, don’t forget that Anthony Randolph just fell into the Warriors’ laps at No. 14).

    You make a bad choice in the draft, that’s one thing. To go after a guy who already has two seasons in the league, scout him, examine his game inside and out — and then dump him after a month of practices and ZERO regular-season games is just plain loco.

  8. BAU, Business As Usual.

    Nelson strikes me as a coach who knows the NBA game but can’t coach NBA players as well as a Phil Jackson who can keep a team’s attention and work with a broader range of personalities.

    Cohen is an ideal owner of the Harlem Globetrotter’s Washington Generals, the foil for NBA franchises to rack up wins and an occasional playoff team that never goes anywhere.

  9. Lepper-
    Nice article- Thank you for finally addressing this. I want to see Bay Area writers start holding Rowell accountable. He was a big reason for why we sucked up until 3 years ago and he is going to be a big reason we suck moving forward if he keeps with his recent moves.
    The one point I will contend though is that I didn’t think that Murphy, Diogu, Dunlevey or Sarunas were worth the paper their contacts were written on. I think Nellie gave those guys chances and they couldnt produce. Especially Murphy and Dunlevey.
    I do think he mishandled the Patrick Obryant situation and feel that he could have played that guy a little more to see if there was a spark. Additionally- I think his at least needs to try to see what Williams brings to a real game.
    All the stuff you mention was last year- the Warriors knew this when they went after him, they had the stats and the tape and they didnt just throw a give away 2nd rounder. Its a first round pick. Now he is a warrior for this year at least, so they should at least find out how he can contribute. If he is selfish and lazy- then it is far too early to write him off as a 3rd year pro. There have been other PGs that havent exactly sparkled right off the bat but have done well as time progressed. Also- I gotta think that if he came into a game and started calling his own number each time down the floor, Jack, Maggette and Harrington would have something to say to him when it was all said and done.
    Bottom line- it is as simple as this: give him 10 minutes and see what he does and brings. If he blows it - then yank him. Give him 10 more- if he does it again- yank him and bench him for a game ore 2- but burying him at this state is way premature. And- if the plan is to not play him- a first round pick was wasted when they could have looked in the NBDL for the most current “CJ Watson”.

  10. Nellie is locked into last year’s death spiral already. At this rate, he’ll play his six rotation guys into the ground before Monta returns. Except for a measly eight minutes for BW, no young bigs play — or learn how to play NBA ball. So when the starters drop — or cease playing D, as last year — there’s no one ready to help. And the team will ALWAYS be weak and tired at game’s end.

    Nellie, you’re just killing us. You can play a nine-man rotation. Just do it! I’d much rather lose games with guys learning — and becoming a real team — than lose games like these two, where you just know the guys are gonna run out of steam at the end. This stubbornness is a real sickness.

  11. Marcus Williams averaged 11.1 pts/6.5 asts/4.0 rebs as a starter for the Nets. The guy is a servicable PG, if Nellie can’t find a way to utilize him then thats on Nellie, I’m sorry. I love Nellie but he is a stubborn s.o.b. sometimes. You telling me he can’t find even 8 mins a game at PG for MWill to give Jack some rest? Goodness.

  12. Perhaps Nelson is setting up the table for his eventual take over as GM or to bring in his son Donnie over from the Mavs. He needs to get Mullin out of the way and he’s been stealthfully undermining many of his moves to prove his incompetence and to insure that Rowell and Cohan lose confidence in Mullin and decide not to bring him back.

    Mullin has done an average job, but I’m not a big fan of most of his moves (particularly the moves he couldn’t get done) so hope he doesn’t come back as GM. The premature discarding of Marcus Williams (and their future 1st Rounder as a result) is the final nail in the coffin.

    I’d love to hear what Mullin thinks about what’s going on. I believe you’re right (as well as the other local sports writers) and Nelson is blindsiding the man who brought him aboard in the first place. Cutthroat. Please continue to dig deeper on this subject.

    Continue the great work!

  13. Why is any of this a surprise if you believe in the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Nellie is a very old dog and very set in his ways. No one reins him in as he begins the new season as he eneded that last; just as he doesn’t rein in Jax or Baron last year with any sense of discipline or mental toughness that makes a team a true contender. And now that Rowell has essentially emasculated Mully’s authority in a variety of embarassing ways, the culture of Nellie goes even more unchecked. Indeed, this is going to be a very long and frustrating season but also now for the next three years. The damn emperor is naked and the only guy who could possibly have told him to put on clothes is dangling in the wind.

  14. John: I wondered a few weeks ago about the possibility of reuniting the Nelsons here, so I talked to a couple of people in Dallas and was told there’s no chance of that happening.

  15. I think you are a good writer and I enjoy your work. But you have to admit that’s quite a list. The thing that you are missing is that he was right about all those guys. Can any of them play? I don’t think so. Nellie’s certainly drafted some losers in his time and lost a good player every now and then, starting with Alex English. He’s not perfect, to be sure. But the column is basically illogical. You just don’t have any names that offer real evidence for your theory. All of the guys on your list, with maybe one exception, are a step slow and have one-dimensional games. I don’t think he’s made a bad talent decision since he came back to the Warriors and the fact that, for going on two seasons, he hasn’t been given a long enough bench is hardly his fault. Even so, seems to me he’s about the only one in a couple of decades to make basketball a two-team game out there.

  16. I’m a big Nellie fan- but- with all of his goods come some bads: he doesn’t coach Defense, he doesn’t develop young players very quickly, he doesn’t know how to utilize a big man that has post skills, and he has a dog house that goes so far down the bench that the ball boy has a better chance of getting minutes than that player.
    At the end of last year he said that this season he was going to play some young guys even if it cost the W’s a few games. Well- they are 1-3 without playing them- so I don’t really think their record could be any worse had Wright, Randolph or Bellinelli received real minutes in the first 4 games ( Wright’s two appearances aren’t long enough to even count at this point). Against Toronto- I thought Wright looked good. He protected the ball, made the most of his opps, sunk his FT’s and was fearless in attacking the hoop ( even when JO sent him away). He should have gotten another stint in the second half. He earned it and we could have used him for sure when Turiaf fouled out. Bottom line- those guys gotta play, now.
    John- Mullin is the best GM Golden State has had since ….Nellie. Mullin made arguably the 2 biggest trades in Warrior history ( BD and Jack/Harrington) and made them at a time when Oakland needed it the most ( longest playoff drought in the NBA at that time). He also came within a secret Celtic handshake of landing KG last summer before Mchale gift wrapped him to his buddy in Boston (guess where Mchale will be working when Glen Taylor wakes up and fires his ass for the decade of ridiculous deals/drafts he has orchestrated?). The bad moves that Mullin started out with ( Dunlevey, Murphy, Foyle, Fisher contracts- Montgomery’s hiring) were all corrected once he realized that they were mistakes. Mullin’s learning curve is over. He played a nice game of hold ‘em with Petruis and Barnes and had the balls to move JR when he thought that he would be the last man standing in the KG hunt. Most writers are reporting that he wanted to pick up Williams option, just like he wanted to re-sign BD (at the 3 yr/$39mil deal ) but it was Smithers ( nice call-Long Suffering Warrior Fan) who over rode Mullin- as he did on the Ellis suspension as well.
    Mullin should be retained and left to handle the basketball side with little interferance and not pissed on by a wannabe like Rowell.
    David E- you are dead on- none of those guys have proven to be much more than they were when Mullin traded them-which wasn’t much. I can guarantee you that Indy would glady rather have Jack and Harrington back than be stuck with Murphlevey today.
    BOO Rowell.

  17. David E and M Square, good posts, but read Bob’s. He hits on the issue at hand and the stats back him up.

  18. Amen; Williams playing 5 minutes at PG in the 3rd could rest StakJack and probably leave him fresh enough to close out games.

    Nellie isn’t going to match up well against coaches that can coach the roster they have, not the roster they want.

    I doubt Nellie could have taken last year’s Celtics to the championship. He’d be making a point by benching and feuding with players.

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