Unlike the possible premature Stephen Jackson extension, I'm all for extending Don Nelson's contract so he's around for at least 3 more years. Mullin was hit and miss (mostly miss early on) and didn't really put it together until he convinced Nelson to rejoin the Warriors as head coach. Nellie's eye for talent and ability to evaluate players helped Mullin for the most part. Mullin has shown improvement in the GM department and a lot of it has to do with Nelson's input.
They were a solid duo, but not perfect. Mullin is well liked among fans, fellow GM's, and players, but he has had trouble dealing with the financial aspects of the job. Nelson was able to convince Mullin to cut ties with many of his early bloated signings [Murphy, Dunleavy, Fisher, Richardson (a little overpaid), and Foyle (grossly overpaid)] but also undermined him by refusing to give some of his draft choices and acquisitions much opportunities on the court to develop even with the largest of leads when it was clear that the vets needed all the rest they could get in preparation for a late season playoff push. Nelson had little patience for talented players that did not exhibit mental toughness or basketball acumen and tended to write off players early - sometimes a good thing, sometimes not.
Don Nelson's penchant to quickly 'evaluate' and discard young players could be a byproduct of a mentality that he will not be around much longer to reap the rewards of the growing pains that come with the development process. He claims that he is not playing the young guys like Wright, Belinelli, and O'Bryant because he did not want them to be embarrassed. On the contrary, when they were given the opportunity to make more than just a cameo appearance, they were able to hold there own and then some. What was more embarrassing was the way the veterans ran out of gas down the stretch. Had Nelson been willing to go deeper with the bench, the vets would have had more in their tank to finish stronger. Perhaps now that Nelson knows that he is wanted and assured a position for at least 3 years, he'll appreciate the importance of true development (patience, playing time, trust, and encouragement) and will not over-work the veterans when the younger group could do just as well, if not better.
Nelson quote from Janny Hu, Geoff Lepper, and Tim Kawakami interview:
-Q: Does the extension change your approach to this season?
-NELSON: No, I think it doesn’t. Because I’m strong enough to be on a one-year deal and not worry too much about not doing the right thing or trying to win more games than I should or put pressure on me or the team.
I was going to do the same job no matter what. I was going to do the right thing and work my butt off coaching this team and there’s more development this year with our younger guys.
It just puts me in a broader picture. And it’s not me doing it for somebody else now. It’s developmental kind of stuff, that hopefully I’ll be on the dividend side of some of that.
From this quote, I get the sense that he will show more patience, will not try to win every minute of every game by running the vets into the ground again, and take a broader approach when it comes to minute distribution between the young and old of the team. One good thing about Nelson getting an extension is that we know that he is open to tanking if he knows that he will stick around to reap the benefits. He did it to land Chris Webber, so if things are going badly this season, he may be open to 'stealth tanking' (playing the young guys and sitting the vets for every little minor injury) in order to land a franchise changer like Ricky Rubio. There are a few quality players early in the draft but once you get past the first 8 or so prospects, it's considered to be among the weakest and shallowest fields in a long time.
Bottom line, Don Nelson is a well-respected basketball figure that will legitimize the Warriors organization whether he acts solely as Head Coach or moves up into the GM position that is soon to be vacated by Mullin. My hope is that he remains coach until he breaks Lenny Wilkins' record then works full time as General Manager in charge of discovering talent and targeting players that fit the Nellie-ball prototype.
I was indifferent about Mullin returning as GM next season, but with the immanent extension of Don Nelson, I feel much more confident that the Warriors haven't completely lost their senses and that they are NOT heading back down the path of irrelevance. The week is still young, however - we'll see how they handle the Stephen Jackson thing.
Nelson agrees to contract extension - Janny Hu
Nelson confirms deal is close, denies any interest in Mullin’s job - 48minutes.net
Don Nelson: Yes on two more years, no way on taking the Warriors’ GM job - Tim Kawakami
Sources: Nelson, Warriors discussing possible contract extension - ESPN