Q&A: Tim Kawakami from the San Jose Mercury (Part 3 of 5)

The Super Bowl's biggest winner (second only to the Giants' defensive line)? GSoM friend Tim Kawakami. He nailed it:

Haha you gotta love Tim!

Back to hoops. Make the jump for another segment of our Q&A that you simply do not want to miss. We've got Tim's thoughts on if the Warriors are better without Jason Richardson, the impact of Chris Webber starting on other Warrior players, and the Warriors' trade deadline activity.

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Golden State of Mind: You've been pretty critical of Jason Richardson's game in the past and a big fan of the draft day trade that sent him to the Charlotte Bobcats for Brandan Wright and a $10 million trade exception which the Warriors have yet to use. In early December you wrote that The Warriors are better without Jason Richardson, plain and simple.

When you asked Don Nelson if the Warriors were better minus J-Rich back then he said no. Do you think Nellie or his former teammates miss him now or do they think they're better without JRich? Do you still think the Warriors are better off this season without JR in the lineup?

Tim Kawakami (1/14/08): First off, Nelson told me he'd never say the Warriors were better without Richardson. But what's he supposed to say? He wants no part of downgrading such a pivotal part of the Warriors' recent past--someone who played so hard and was/is such a favorite of Chris Mullin's. Really, Nellie was saying that he wouldn't say it even if he wanted to say it. He has been plenty happy to say the team's better without Dunleavy/Murphy, but that was blatantly obvious. Richardson is more of a subtle thing and Nellie doesn't gain by saying it. So I'll say it.

Yes, they are better without him. Now they could've used Jason to start the season, no question, because they were without SJax AND Jason for seven games and that was tough. But once Jackson got back... I'm not sure I can see where the Warriors are hurt without J-Rich... Monta Ellis is playing more, and that's a different kind of scorer--as we saw in the Indy game, that's bonus scoring. Azubuike is fine in spot minutes and does a lot of the grinding stuff that Jason did. Belinelli might at some point hit some shots.

And the key part: Jason is just not a good defensive player. In Nellie's system, his medium-sized players must be able to switch and run and guard everybody--he switches screens, so he must be able to depend on his wings to guard bigs, smalls and mediums. But with Jason, he couldn't do that. He had to try to hide Jason on defense, and Nellie's system just can't deal with that very well.

Are the Warriors a good defensive team without J-Rich? No. But they're better than they were. And I never, ever just use the tired formula: Well, you lost 18 points a game and won't get replaced. It's not the points that get replaced, it's the SHOTS, and any added shots they get out of Monta, Azubuike or Pietrus are about the same or more efficient than the shots they were getting out Jason.

I thought that last loss in Portland was the first one I noticed they could've used Jason, but I'm not sure it would've meant much even there. He's a rhythm scorer, who needs the ball, and who can shoot you in and out of games--like Jackson, who does it better, if you ask me, because he can also pass and he can dribble to the hoop.

We haven't even talked about Wright yet. Who might be the key to a lot and who probably is a better big-man hope than anybody the Warriors could acquire right now.

And the $10M exception may never be used--it'll just go to pay the Ellis/Biedrins/Baron extensions. The Warriors really, really needed that money. They got Wright, the money and they got better... That's a good trade.


Golden State of Mind: Don Nelson recently declared Chris Webber his fourth permanent starter next to Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, and Stephen Jackson. What made Nellie make such a quick, bold decision before Webber even played a single minute for him this season? Who is this good news for? Who is this bad news for?

Tim Kawakami (2/5/08): I've learned never to be surprised by Nelson's roster declarations, particularly when they involve a new player. He loves his new toys, and I think putting Webber right into the starting line-up is only slightly more reasonable and permanent than his Dajuan Wagner fixation last year and Belinelli-Mania this year.

It's just typical. By the way, as I've written, I totally disagree with the Webber signing and though I'm not surprised that Nellie is starting him immediately, I think that's all part of his grand illusion: Nellie never thinks his current players are good enough, he wants to make sure we think they're not good enough so that if they succeed, it's mainly Nellie's triumph as a coach. Fine, he is a very good coach, unquestionably good. And a manipulator.

This is the exact psychological model we've always seen out of Don: He's has to be the underdog, always searching for new players, always burnishing his image as the giant-killer. He never wants to be the giant. You know, sometimes you should want to be the giant.

You think Chris Mullin wants Webber starting? I don't think so. I think Mullin was assuming from the outset that Webber would play 8 to 12 minutes, maybe more in the playoffs. So what does Nellie do right away: He's starting! Forever! 30 minutes! Webber is going to collapse if Don plays him 30 minutes. He's going to be terrible for 22 of those minutes, too. But if that costs Don some games, he doesn't mind too much. He's making a point.

Nellie's wonderful at rebuilding and re-organizing--he proved that last year; he's proving it now; my problem with this move is that I think it foreshadows Don being continually restless, and continued restlessness is probably not necessary for a team that is tracking towards 49 wins.

I think this is going to turn out very badly for Biedrins' minutes. I think Nelson is planning to cut Al Harrington's minutes--I think this move was made for Nellie to cut Al's minutes and for Nellie to make a point about how Brandan Wright is horrible right now (I TOTALLY DISAGREE)--but I'd bet that Webber is so poor shooting the ball that they're going to need Al out there on the floor with him. So that means Biedrins will see his time cut way back. Which I think is very problematic.


Golden State of Mind: With the Webber signing, CJ Watson being extended for the remainder of the season, and the Lakers getting Pau Gasol for basically nothing are the Warriors done dealing? Do you expect them to be quiet till the 2008 NBA Draft? Are they looking to cash in on the $10 million trade exception or on their youth (Brandan Wright, Patrick O'Bryant, Kosta Perovic, or Marco Belinelli) before the February 21st trading deadline? Are they targeting any of the big names rumored to be on the trading block (Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby, Andre Miller, or Sam Cassell)?

Tim Kawakami (2/5/08): We'll see if Shaq ends up with Phoenix, though I doubt that would trigger much panic out of the Warriors. It shouldn't, anyway. There's not much for the Warriors to do, I think, which is what probably led them to Webber--Mullin doesn't want to trade any of his guys except Pietrus, who isn't worth much, so if they're going to scratch Nellie's big-man itch, it had to be with a free agent. Therefore: Webber.

Maybe they move Pietrus for Elson or Villanueva, maybe not. I really don't know. I'll say this: I'm not sure Nelson can put his full faith into Azubuike as the main backup 2/3, so Pietrus does have some worth this year.

Just don't see the Warriors using the 10M exception unless they can get into one of the superstars and I think that's pretty much limited to Elton Brand and I don't see that happening. That 10M is allotted to Monta Ellis, Baron, Barnes, Biedrins... You know the list of free agents or possible F/As. They use all or some of the exception for new players and they're immediately into luxury tax, which Cohan will not do unless Mullin can tell him it'll lead to a shot at a title.

So no on Kidd, no on Bibby, no on Jermaine O'Neal. Mullin has always been intrigued by Artest (St. John's, remember), but he duplicates some of what they have and I doubt they'd give up much to get him.

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Also take a look back at the other Q&A's we've done with Tim:

Parts 4 and 5 coming at you soon!

Are the Warriors better off without JRich in the lineup this season? Who will be positively/ negatively impacted by CWebb? Do you think the Warriors are done dealing this season?

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