Nelson, Bonds, King. . . and More
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 01, 2006

NBA COACHES often talk of their commitment to the fast break. Don Nelson actually follows through on his statements.

We know that from his previous stint with the Warriors, and Nelson, who played in the ultimate fast break offense with the Boston Celtics, is preaching the same gospel with the Warriors again. He warned players that they had to lose weight and be in better shape to run his offense, and in the exhibition season, they averaged 115 points a game.

We’ll see how it all plays out, starting tonight against the Lakers, but we know one thing for certain: It will be a much more exciting season than the ones since Nelson was fired.

Nelson is a master at maximizing his team’s advantages and minimizing its disadvantages, with unusual lineups. Last spring, I talked to Chris Mullin (I was doing the story for his Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame plaque) and he said about playing for Nelson, “A lot of times, I would look at our lineups and wonder how we could ever win, but somehow, we did.” Mullin recalled those “TMC” years fondly, so it wasn’t surprising that, as head of the basketball operations, he brought Nelson back.

Much of Nelson’s Warriors strategy, then and now, was predicated on the fact that he never has had a reliable big man in the middle, so he couldn’t play a conventional strategy. He thought he had one when he traded for the draft rights to Chris Webber but their feud became a power struggle that led to his firing. Nelson couldn’t bend in that situation, but Webber’s career, starting with his undergraduate days at Michigan, has proven him to be a great talent but a very difficult personality. If you called him TO in basketball sneakers, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

Now, Nelson is very enthusiastic about this year’s No. 1 pick, Patrick O’Bryant, but O’Bryant is very green. Just finding minutes for him this season will be difficult, so he’s not likely to be an important part of the puzzle before next year.

So, the Warriors will play small, and it will be a struggle to get to the playoffs, playing in by far the stronger conference. But, it will be exciting. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

BONDS UPDATE: An article in The Chronicle during the World Series talked of a possible “collusion” between major league baseball teams that would keep Barry Bonds out of baseball next season, unable to resume his drive to become the all-time career home run leader. Earlier this week, Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris, claimed that several teams had inquired about Bonds since he had declared for free agency.

Which story are we to believe? Probably, neither one. Chronicle writers, all on the “steroids are the end of the world as we know it” bandwagon, seem determined to run Bonds out of baseball. Borris bviously has the opposite motive, wanting to create a market to get Bonds the highest salary.

It still makes the most sense for Bonds to re-sign with the Giants. He has a history with them, and Giants fans – at least, those who pay their way in to see him – want him to return. If he went to another team, his box office appeal wouldn’t surface until he got close to Hank Aaron’s record. Meantime, he does have a lot of baggage, and it’s hard to see another team being willing to deal with all those issues. Even for an American League club, which could use him as a DH, he no longer is a good enough hitter to make it worthwhile.

But, a deal to return to the Giants would have to come soon. The Giants have so many roster issues to deal with, they can’t wait long for the Bonds situation to be resolved.

RAIDERS DEFENSE: The decision to concentrate on defensive backs in the draft has started to pay off for the Raiders. Their ballhawking defense is responsible for their two consecutive wins, especially the second one over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has also done a masterful job of mixing up formations and creating maximum confusion. That was especially evident in the Arizona game, when Cardinal quarterback Matt Leinart was continually changing plays at the line of scrimmage and never looked comfortable in the pocket.

But, let’s not get giddy here. The two teams the Raiders beat have only three wins between them. The Steelers have only their name and uniforms in common with the team that won the Super Bowl last season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not been the same following an offseason motorcyle accident, an emergency appendectomy before the season and a helmet hit which left him unconscious in the Steelers game against the Washington Redskins. He was cleared medically to play against the Raiders but I think coach Bill Cowher should have kept him out. Roethlisberger looked very shaky.

Perhaps to try to take the presssure off their quarterback, the Steelers had a very simple game plan, most of the time running on first and second down. But too often, what that meant was that they had long yardage on third down and had to put Roethlisberger back in the Shotgun, where he was a sitting duck for blitzing Raiders defenders.

Of course, that was pretty much the Raiders offensive game plan, too.

KING IN HOF? Bill King is on the final ballot for inclusion in the broadcasters wing of the baseball Hall of Fame, which I find ironic because I think King’s baseball announcing, though good, was nowhere near the work he did in football and basketball, with the Raiders and Warriors. I was partial to the work he did for the Raiders; others argue for his Warriors broadcasts.

But, kudos to the A’s for campaigning for King, with frequent replays on their message boards of his most memorable calls. Neither the Raiders nor the Warriors have done that.

49ER UPDATE: No comment.


LETTERS: I've updated this section.

TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! Looking ahead to the holiday season, tickets will be available through the links on this site for bowl games, including the Rose Bowl, where we hope the Bears will be. There are also popular holiday programs, including Radio City Christmas, Wicked and Jersey Boys.

Cal football tickets will be available on this link as well as tickets for these big college football games:
--Michigan at Ohio State
--Notre Dame at USC
--Auburn at Alabama
--Nebraska at USC
--Texas A& M at Texas
--USC at UCLA.
Tickets are also available for NFL games and these hot concerts:
--Barbra Streisand, through November 20.
--Mariah Carey, through November 10
--Red Hot Chili Peppers, through December 17.
--Pearl Jam, through November 5.
Tickets are also available for the Rolling Stones tour.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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