By Geoff Lepper
OAKLAND -- There were times last season when Warriors coach Don Nelson told guard Monta Ellis not to attempt a shot all practice long, in order to work on his passing ability.
Monday, it wasn't just Ellis getting such treatment. It was the entire Golden State roster.
For the first time since coming back as the Warriors' coach in August 2006, Nelson dusted off his set of extra-defender drills. Where the Warriors ordinarily run various groups of players up and down the court in four-on-four or five-on-five battles, Monday the offense went four-on-five or five-on-six.
The point was to make it so much harder for someone to dribble-drive their way to an open shot in the lane that Nelson's players would have to sharpen up their skills at making quick, precise passes meant to free up their teammates.
"There's nothing easy out there with the extra defensive man," Nelson said. "Five against six, there's not many holes there. I just wanted to crowd it up and make sure we moved the ball. I think we've been getting away from that a little bit."
The Warriors have been concerned that their half-court game is stale and too dependent on the one-on-one skills of such stars as Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Ellis. That apprehension was part of the reason Chris Webber was brought in; with his preeminent passing skills from the power forward and center positions, delivering easy layups as rewards for teammates who move without the ball, Nelson thought his players would begin to show more verve.
But despite a season-high five assists for Webber in the Warriors' 117-110 loss to Atlanta on Friday, things haven't quite turned out as planned.
"I would like everybody to move more," Nelson said. "It's not only ball movement. It's body movement as well. ... I don't think we move our bodies enough, with what a great passer that (Webber) is, and how he can find people."
So Nelson stationed rookie center Kosta Perovic under one basket Monday and second-year man Patrick O'Bryant under the other, giving them instructions to clog up the lane.
"A lot of times, we get stagnant as far as coming down and just going one-on-one and trying to beat two guys," Jackson said. "We play better when we move the ball and we need to play good team ball, get everybody involved these last 27 games."
Forward Matt Barnes pointed out that the unpredictability of a team with solid ball movement was a hallmark of the Warriors' 16-5 finish last season.
"You knew Baron was going to be consistent and Jack was going to be consistent but anyone else could have had 20 or 30, so that's why we were so hard to stop," Barnes said. "We get back to moving the ball and creating shots for other players, we'll be all right."
In crunch time, however, the ball will continue to gravitate to the Warriors' best players.
"I know in the fourth quarter, we do a lot of one-on-one because me and BD want the ball in our hands to make plays, even Monta," Jackson said. "So I just think the biggest thing for us is to figure out that fine line, when it's time to go one-on-one and when it's time to share the ball."
Notes: Jackson participated in his first practice after sitting out two games because of a sprained left ankle and declared himself good to go tonight. But that's not the only problem with the foot; Jackson is also still troubled by the fracture on his left big toe, something that's he's been playing with for more than a year and that he thinks will need taking care of this summer. "I think I'm going to have to put my foot in a boot to heal that fracture, but it's not bad enough to where I can't play with it," Jackson said. ... Monday was the fourth day without an official timetable for center Andris Biedrins' return. Team spokesman Raymond Ridder said the club can't predict when Biedrins would be back until he recovers enough to begin the rehabilitation process. Ridder described Biedrins' surgery as routine and said, "there's nothing to lead us to believe it will take significantly longer than" other pro athletes who have returned from appendectomies after roughly two weeks.
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