- Musings re Nelson's comments on using his roster
Many of us are frustrated Nelson hasn't played Wright or POB or Kaz etc. and he won't play his young guns unless he has no other choice (ie Kaz during Jax's suspension). Well, get used to it at least for the playoff push:
"Look, if we're going to be a playoff team, my veterans are going to get me there. Not my young players, including Azubuike. Their future's ahead of them," Nelson said. "Next year, they'll probably have more an opportunity as this team will change, slightly. Positions will open up."
While we ought not take one sentence as disproportionately predictive, particularly from Nelson, this does more than imply that we won't see much of the young guys this season but they are in the plan for next season. Positions will open up has to refer to Barnes and MP not returning. Baron, Jackson, Monta, and AB I would think are lock solid to return, and Harrington may not be easy to move without including a young player in a package. Assuming Webber is not returning, our long term needs haven't changed, and moving Harrington would require securing a big elsewhere. Nelson also is revealing that there is little likelihood that the roster will change dramatically - what you see is what you'll get for some time to come. Without Barnes and MP, we'll see Wright as a backup 4 and Kaz as a backup 2-3 next year. And next year's draftees will have to wait their turn ...
Back to this playoff run, even if Webber is the starting C at the moment, Andris Biedrins is still going to play what coaches refer to as "starter's minutes." Nelson remarked, "(Webber's) old. I thought he needed the warm-up time ... On paper, I think that an older guy having knee problems is better being warm when he comes in - it's not six times that he's going in and out." This is not only a concession to his knees, but also I'd wager Webber's ego. He turned down a chance to join the Lakers yet signs with the Dubs. If he were looking for a ring he wouldn't have done that.
Although Nelson put Al Harrington in the starting lineup, I don't think that is permanent at all - he's consistently said Harrington would be a natural 6th man, and we could start Webber and AB together, with perhaps Croshere or Barnes included in a rotation at the PF position. This suggests Barnes and MP are the backups at the 3-4 positions. Jackson & Ellis will still play big minutes - so the odd man out seems to be Kaz, despite his occasional flashes of brilliance this season.
Which brings us to what is Nelson's motivation to return next season? If there is little roster change in the works, if there is little chance we will be better than we are now sans the development of Wright, Kaz, and perhaps a re-signed CJ Watson - does Nelson come back? On the flip side, Mullin has to try to keep Baron, Jackson and Nelson as a package if at all possible - BDavis in the last year of a contract under another coach is potentially combustible, not to mention Jax. As much as we are enjoying not being stuck in the lottery anymore, we may be stuck in lower tier limbo for a while longer.