Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2007
One night was all it took to turn a 67-year-old coach supposedly contemplating retirement into someone who sounded like a giddy child ready for anything but.
"Let's put it this way," Warriors coach Don Nelson said Friday. "If it ends up that I don't come back, we've really done wonders. I'd walk away and be very pleased. But now, you'd also kind of like to see it develop a little more. It's a really exciting time."
Nelson still won't officially commit to coming back next season or to a decision deadline, but as he packed his car for a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe, he was clearly thrilled with Thursday's draft dealings.
By sending franchise stalwart Jason Richardson to Charlotte for the rights to Brandan Wright, Warriors vice president Chris Mullin engineered his second big roster and salary cap makeover of the year.
And there's a chance -- albeit small -- that a third could be coming. The Warriors had "substantial discussions" with Minnesota this week and aren't counting themselves out of the Kevin Garnett sweepstakes, according to a league source.
It isn't clear how close they came to pulling off a multi-team deal Thursday, but the odds of a Garnett trade diminished once Richardson and his hefty salary were first dealt away.
Though the Warriors received a $10 million trade exception in the move, it cannot be combined with other salaries to match Garnett's, so they now have to construct a deal involving separate high-priced transactions with the Wolves, or involve a third team.
Regardless of what happens on the Garnett front, however, it's almost certain that Nelson will be coaching. Mullin has consistently said he believes Nelson will be back -- "He's been here every day, driving me crazy," he joked Thursday -- and Golden State's free agents are operating under the same assumption.
That appears to be just fine with Nelson after a wild night. The coach said the Warriors were high on Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Jeff Green, Joakim Noah and Wright, and confident that at least one of those players would be available when Charlotte made its No. 8 selection for the Warriors in their pre-arranged deal.
All but Wright and Noah were off the board when Charlotte picked, and Nelson believes Wright has unlimited potential. While Yi's agent could still ask for a trade from Milwaukee, the Warriors seem to prefer Wright.
Nelson expects Wright to indeed receive some playing time while he develops physically, and was also impressed by first-round pick Marco Belinelli of Italy, whom he deemed more NBA-ready than Wright after five pro seasons in Europe.
Still, the excitement over the arrival of the new draft picks was dulled by the loss of Richardson, who anchored the Warriors for the last six years. His sudden departure caught teammates by surprise.
"He's pretty much been the face of the organization," said Warriors forward Matt Barnes, who becomes a free agent Sunday. "It meant everything for him for the team to do well and for us to make the playoffs. And for him to be traded after that, it's definitely a shock."
"It's very difficult for Mully to make this move," Nelson added. "It was just such an important move to make for our franchise. Once you get up into that real big money, you're vulnerable as a player to be moved, and every once in a while, that has to be a factor."
Briefly: The Warriors extended qualifying offers to Mickael Pietrus, Kelenna Azuibuke and Josh Powell before today's deadline, giving Golden State the right to match any offers the players receive in free agency. As expected, Zarko Cabarkapa was not tendered, so his Warriors days are likely done.
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