Fork ‘Em: Golden State Warriors

Don Nelson

As teams get eliminated from the 2009 NBA playoff picture, Fork 'Em figures out what went wrong.

Stuff definitely went wrong for the Golden State Warriors this year. The only real question is whether the trouble started when Baron Davis left or immediately afterward.

There will be an eternal debate in the Bay Area about whether or not the Warriors should have kept Davis, or at least made a better effort to keep him. Instead, Davis signed with the L.A. Clippers in July, and the Warriors' 2008-09 was irreparably altered.

One side will point to the Warriors' 25-47 record as proof that Davis' departure was the first thing to go wrong for Golden State. The other side, however, will point to what Davis is doing -- or not doing -- in L.A., and maintain losing him was the best thing to happen to the Warriors.

Warriors fans might be in disagreement over Davis, but there is far more consensus about what sabotaged the team's season after that. The perception in WarriorVille is that at the very least Davis' departure set off a chain of events that brought them to where they are now.

Facts are facts, and the bottom line is that two years ago the Warriors won 42 games and last year they won 48. This year's Warriors might not get to 30.

Looking back, the Warriors likely would have been able to live with Davis leaving, and with a little different vision might have actually had it work to their advantage. But in the hours and days after Davis signed with L.A., the Warriors made a string of head-scratching offers before winding up with Corey Maggette.

The Warriors threw as much money as they could muster under the salary cap at Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand, free agents at the time, but both balked. Instead, the Warriors settled for Maggette, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

Until you realize Maggette was given a five-year, $50 million deal. Or put another way, tons more than any other team was offering. Maggette is a top-notch scorer and he can be useful if used the right way.

But a team with deficiencies like the Warriors needs more from a player making $9 million-plus.

Monta Ellis did the Warriors no favors when he hopped onto the seat of a moped near his home in Jackson, Miss., later in the offseason. Ellis got into an accident, injured his left ankle and missed the first half of the season.

When he did return, he wasn't the same player. Only now is Ellis showing the form that made him one of the most dynamic young perimeter players in the league. The plan last summer was to have Ellis begin assuming the point guard duties since Davis wasn't going to be around.

That idea had to be shelved, and instead the Warriors used DeMarcus Nelson, C.J. Watson, Marco Belinelli, Jamal Crawford and Stephen Jackson at one time or another at point.

Suffice it to say, the dropoff at point guard for the Warriors this season was devastating.

At the start of the regular season, the Warriors extended the contract of coach Don Nelson but elected to pass on extending the contract of president of basketball operations Chris Mullin.

The move was curious to say the least, and the end result was that Nelson wound up with a lot more front office power. Although he claims he's not in on personnel decisions, it's clear Nelson has a very big say decision-making.

A few weeks into the season, the Warriors gave Jackson a three-year contract extension, and it was hard to find a rhyme or reason for it. Jackson's contract was set to expire at the end of the 2009-10 season, which would have made him a very attractive potential piece for title contenders and playoff teams at the deadline.

But Jackson with five years remaining on his contract is looked at a little differently around the league, and the smart move for the Warriors at this point would be to presume they'll have him around for a while.

By themselves, the extensions of Nelson and Jackson shouldn't have been killers. But extending Nelson and not Mullin set up a strange front office dynamic, and things further deteriorated when it became obvious that Mullin had nothing to do with Jackson's extension.

There are positives. Anthony Randolph is one of the NBA's most intriguing rookies, and there are some very nice young pieces: Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright and Anthony Morrow.

Problem is, there remains a glut of high-scoring veterans -- Jackson, Maggette and Crawford -- on the roster and that overlap creates on-court chemistry issues. It's one of the reasons Nelson took off his coaching hat and put on his GM hat and told Crawford to opt out.

The Warriors say they like their young players, and there's a lot to like. But they're going to have to have a better offseason than last year to make room for them.

Fork 'Em: Golden State Warriors originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Fri, 27 Mar 2009 13:45:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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