During WE BELIEVE Don Nelson could've run for Mayor of Oakland. He was flying high in the local media, national media, and the vast majority of fans' minds.
But something strange happened post WE BELIEVE. Caught in the middle of the Chris Cohan and Robert Rowell shadiness and Chris Mullin's incompetence as a general manager, Nellie took a ridiculous amount of lazy and dumb criticism from media talking heads and bandwagon fans who weren't 1/100th as knowledgeable about the game of basketball as he is.
It was silly.
Let's take a look at some of the silliness aimed at Nellie between 2008 and 2010:
SILLINESS: Nellie was Holding Back Patrick O'Bryant
This might've been the most egregious of the hater's hating. From the local media and some fans rantings, you would think that Nellie was holding back an All-Star center in Notorious P.O.B. History proved that wasn't quite the case for yet another Chris Mullin big man BUST.
Post-Nellie and the Warriors, O'Bryant was out of the league by the time he was 23 after stints with the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. POB's career averages look like an Andris Biedrins night in 2012- 2ppg, under 2 rpg, less than half a block. (Okay to be fair at least Biedrins can still rebound.)
SILLINESS: Nellie was Benching a Future Hall of Famer in Anthony Randolph
The national media at large really wanted to force a parallel between Nellie's handling of an immature rookie and sophomore player with poor fundamentals and low hoops IQ who was selected at the end of the lottery with a supremely talented #1 overall pick in Chris Webber. It didn't make any sense back then and it makes no sense now when you consider that the Anthony-Randolph-project has gone nowhere under 3 other high profile coaches (Mike D'antoni, Rick Adelman, George Karl) at 3 different NBA destinations.
It's funny when you look at Randolph's career rates and totals, but he actually peaked as a 20 year old under Nellie.
SILLINESS: Nellie was Benching a Ticket to the Playoffs in Brandan Wright
There was another raw, slender power forward that Nellie got a lot of criticism for not playing (those rare times when he was healthy) in Brandan Wright. For some reason people thought this young forward who didn't know what play was being run half the time was the Warriors ticket to the playoffs again after WE BELIEVE. Maybe Wright and as a consequence Nellie were feeling pressure in the aftermath of the absurdly inane draft deal that broke up WE BELIEVE and shipped away the super popular Jason Richardson, but it was just bizzarre to see all the hype for Wright.
It's funny when you look at Wright's career rates and totals, but he actually peaked as a 21 year old under Nellie. Sound familiar? (Okay I'll be fair and admit he could have a nice season this year on the Dallas Mavericks.)
SILLINESS: Nellie/ Larry Riley were Nuts to Draft *Another* Guard with the 7th Pick in the 2009 NBA Draft
It probably sounds unbelievable in retrospect, but a lot of media "analysts" and fans were quite distraught that Nellie and Riley selected a smallish guard out of a no-name basketball college so high in the lottery, instead of selecting power forward Jordan Hill out of Arizona.
Let's not forget that Nellie worked wonders for Stephen Curry's game. Late in Curry's rookie season under Nellie he was putting up All-Star numbers (22ppg with red hot shooting, close to 8 apg, 5.5 rpg, 2 steals). I haven't seen anything like that from Curry since. There was a system in place with Nellie to maximize Curry's talents, but the Warriors have gone away from it for 3 years now. Wny?
SILLINESS: Nellie Ruined Andris Biedrins
Let's set the record straight:
Andris Biedrins was a Nellie gimmick. He PEAKED under Nellie. Nellie made him $54 million dollars richer.
Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason Biedrins has struggled the past 3 years IS NOT because of the lame confidence excuse, but rather:
- Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson aren't around to drive to the lane and draw 3 defenders, so that Biedrins can make an easy uncontested dunk that even Adonal Foyle could finish. In other words, Nellie's schemes.
- Biedrin's poor fundamentals, lack of talent, and work ethic caught up to him.
- Biedrin's stubborn refusal to change his free throw stroke were an admission that he didn't care about getting better. Seriously, who turns down a lesson from Rick Barry? Say what you will about Barry's tone, but he's a Hall of Famer and the greatest free throw shooter in NBA history.
- Biedrins just doesn't love the game of basketball.
SILLINESS: Nellie was Bad for the 2010-2012 Golden State Warriors
As soon as the new ownership regime took over, they quickly made their first mistake. Nellie was unceremoniously dumped right before the season started. Nellie re-told the story on Chronicle Live of Biedrins being the main reason he was fired. If that is in fact true, you really have to question the Warriors ownership when it comes to making coaching decisions.
It would have been fun to see what Nellie could do with Steph, Andrew Bogut (if/ when healthy), David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush (get well), and Jarrett Jack- with Andris Biedrins on the bench or amnestied.
SILLINESS: Nellie Didn't Care at the End
I humbly submit this game from the archives into evidence:
- RECAP #82: Golden State Warriors 122, Portland Trailblazers 116- Golden State of Heart
- Warriors Game Day Links: Golden State Warriors 122 @ Portland Trailblazers 116 - Nellie forces 6-fouls-stay-in-game rule to protect injured players
Celebrate... Just a Little Bit Extra
Don Nelson will be honored at Wednesday's night home game against the Atlanta Hawks.
I'll be cheering because this man is the mastermind behind the only fun and winning basketball the Golden State Warriors have produced since 1986. But I'll be cheering extra loud because it was unfair how (some) people's agendas made the final years of Nellie's NBA career filled with unnecessary, silly drama.
I know there was at least these great moments:
- RECAP: Golden State Warriors 113, Toronto Raptors 112 - Don Nelson ties record on Easter Sunday...this is almost biblical, wouldn't you say?
- Warriors Game Day Links: Golden State Warriors 113 @ Toronto Raptors 112 - Don Nelson ties Lenny Wilkens in wins
- Golden State Warriors Make History! Don Nelson gets win #1,333 for most head coaching wins in NBA history
- RECAP: Golden State Warriors 116, Minnesota Timberwolves 107 - Congratulations Nellie!
- Warriors Game Day Links: Golden State Warriors 116 @ Minnesota Timberwolves 107 - Nellie stands alone: 1333 wins
but the man deserved to go out better.