Iâ€™ll always love Don Nelson.
At least, thatâ€™s what I would tell him when I broke up with him.
Nelson is the Warriorsâ€™ college girlfriend. It was a great run â€“ lots of beer pong, Family Guy and tons of scoring. But they grew apart and wanted different things â€¦ they needed different things. So the two sides went their own way. Nelson had a fling with New York before jumping into a long-term relationship with Dallas. Meanwhile, Golden State flirted with lots of different coaches but never settled down; never found true happiness.
After Nelson took some time to himself following a rough breakup with the Mavericks, the Warriors and ole’ Don started to chat. The imagined text conversation between a personified Warriors organization and Nelson probably went something like this â€¦
Warriors: Hey Don-Don, itâ€™s me.
Don: Sorry, I got a new phone. Who is this?
Warriors: Itâ€™s me, Warriors. Iâ€™ve been thinking about you.
Don: Donâ€™t do this â€¦
Warriors: I think we can have what we used to have; I think there is something special between us.
Don: Youâ€™ll just hurt me again. Iâ€™ve seen your MySpace. How many coaches have you been with since we called it off? Mike Montgomery, seriously, isnâ€™t he in college? Grow up.
Warriors: Did I mention we just drafted Patrick Oâ€™Bryant?
Don: OK, Iâ€™m in.
Things got off to a hot start. Everyone was talking about the Warriors upset of the Mavericks in the playoffs. Everyone was so jealous. The next season was more of the same. The Warriors missed the playoffs but did win 48 games. Then the flame began to flicker.Â Baron Davis left. Then Monta Ellis fell off his Big Wheel. Then Stephen Jackson remembered he hated everyone.
It became apparent that things werenâ€™t working out. This was a team in need of rebuilding with a coach refusing to develop players. But Nelson wore the pants in this relationship and things continued to wallow with his direction. Plus, could Golden State dump the guy just short of reaching his historic win mark?
Now, new ownership is in and Nelson is essentially begging that the team stays committed to him. Both sides know itâ€™s bad and everyone is getting hurt â€“ especially the kids, the fans, who keep buying “We Believe” T-shirts and showing up to watch Anthony Tolliver play 48 minutes.
Everywhere else in the NBA, loyalty is dead. Just ask LeBron who left his cold, boring broad in Ohio for the hot chick in Florida (also could have gone with Wade-Gabrielle Union here but that’s a bit too real).
So why are the Warriors staying loyal to Nelson?
Well, somewhere along the line, Warriors fans have to quit asking themselves, friends or random gas station clerks the question: â€œWhat are the Warriors doing?â€ Explaining the Warriors strategy is like Whoopi Goldberg explaining Mel Gibson â€¦Â â€œI swear the Warriors are a real good guy.â€
The truth is that Golden Stateâ€™s front office makes moves like a drunken toddler and crying over the franchiseâ€™s lack of direction or common sense is too draining.
I sat in on a Warriors practice towards the end of last season. Nelson doesnâ€™t do anything. He walks around in jeans and a t-shirt with a whistle around his neck, pacing around like an awkward middle school kid at a dance while assistant Keith Smart runs practice.
The two sides tried to make it work. They had some fun, but itâ€™s time to move on. The change in ownership makes this a perfect cut-off point. New direction, finding themselves, all of that stuff.
Nelson’s recent comments: â€œI’d love to coach another year, but I understand that it’s a possibility [I won't be retained]. I want to do what’s best for the organization. If I have to be a part of the change, I will understand.â€
What he meant to say was: â€œBuy me out of my contract and throw in a bottle of Grey Goose. Iâ€™ll be on my island.â€
Once the sale is final-final (lawyers do stuff), new ownership can start making changes. If Iâ€™m the Warriors, I initiate another text conversation:
Warriors: Hey Don
Warriors: What ya up to?
Don: Just being the winningest coach in NBA history
Warriors: Oh yeah? How about this? YOUâ€™RE history â€¦
Jimmy Spencer can be reached on his Twitter page @JimmySpencerNBA