Will Nellie Stick Around? Should He?

The clock’s winding down on Golden State, and as we’ve known since last fall, a summer of myriad decisions has arrived for the Warriors. Baron Davis can become a free agent. Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins are free agents. The club picked up Don Nelson’s $5 million option to coach in 2008-09 … but he hasn’t yet indicated whether he’ll be back. The three-headed bench monster that is Pietbarnesubuiketrus can fly away. Patrick “The Notorious P.O.B.” O’Bryant is a goner. Stephen Jackson is considering running for Congress. The uncertainty is almost unsettling.

Nelson’s decision could affect the lot of others. A Nellie retirement could lead to big contracts for Ellis and Biedrins (likely to happen either way), which would restrict Golden State’s desire/ability to extend Boom long term to big dollars. (Monta and Beans are both 22, Baron turns 29 today. Happy birthday, Boom.) Add in that first-timer Keith Smart would likely take over for Nellie, as well as the missed playoffs this year and the proposed ascension of Portland … the bright Oracle crowds don’t look like a good bet for May 2009, do they? Baron’s not going to get $15 million anywhere. But he could certainly opt out and try, a decision made easier if fun-lovin’ Nellie’s not around.

If Nellie’s not here, and Baron’s not here … why on Earth would Jackson stick around? Jack’s older than Baron and even further into the “veteran on a good team — not a rebuilder” niche. After a rather remarkable 18-month run in Oaktown, suitors will pop up for Jack in the trade market. If Chris Mullin thinks he isn’t a fit with a less competitive but young and fierce core, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shopped.

In all likelihood, this won’t come to pass. Baron’s unlikely to opt out (especially with Gilbert Arenas floating around), and Golden State can pay Ellis and Biedrins whatever they please as they are both restricted free agents. This very core (minus either Barnes or Pietrus, or both) could return, and Nelson could give it one more effort. But Nellie’s an unpredictable guy. He’s the domino, so we’ll be watching his comments until he announces a decision.

URLFAN
4/17/08