- Chris Broussard, NBA analyst
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In an effort to get Golden State's disgruntled swingman Stephen Jackson traded as soon as possible, Jackson's agent, Mark Stevens, has gone on the offensive, attacking the credibility and character of Warriors coach Don Nelson.
In a telephone interview just moments after the Warriors lost to the Sacramento Kings Sunday night, Stevens lambasted Nelson, criticizing everything from his trustworthiness to his coaching ability. Leaving few stones unturned, Stevens gave his take on some controversies in Nelson's 31-year NBA coaching career.
"No one trusts Don Nelson," Stevens said. "When Nelson was in Milwaukee, Wayne Embry trusted him and brought him in, and he betrayed Embry. In Dallas, Mark Cuban took damn good care of him and his son [Donnie Nelson Jr.], and he betrayed Cuban. In Golden State, Chris Mullin hired him and trusted him and Nelson backstabbed him by reaching out to president Robert Rowell and blaming Mullin for everything that was going wrong with the Warriors."
Stevens was referring to claims by Embry, the first African-American general manager in professional sports, that Nelson made a racist remark after Embry gave him his first coaching position with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s. Nelson vehemently denied making the remark.
Nelson sued Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, after Nelson was hired to coach the Warriors in 2006. Nelson, who resigned as the Mavericks coach in 2004, sought deferred money he claimed to be owed from Dallas' previous owner, Ross Perot Jr. The feud turned ugly and an arbitrator ruled Cuban had to pay Nelson $6.3 million.
Mullin, who played for Nelson during the coach's first stint in Golden State in the 1990s, hired Nelson to return to the Warriors after Mullin had become the club's general manger. But the relationship between Mullin and Nelson soon soured and Mullin's contract was not renewed after last season.
Stevens did not hide his motives for disparaging Nelson, who needs just 23 wins to move past Lenny Wilkens as the NBA's all-time winningest coach. He wants Jackson, who demanded a trade over the summer, out of Golden State as soon as possible. While the Warriors have said they will seek a trade, Stevens, and presumably Jackson, has grown tired of waiting.
Nelson declined to discuss Stevens' comments when asked about them before Monday night's home game against Minnesota. But he said he's still open to trading Jackson.
"We're trying to accommodate him," Nelson said. "If we can get a good deal, we'll do it. I said that over a month, month and a half ago."
When Jackson made his initial request in August, he said he wanted to be traded to Cleveland, New York or any of the three teams in Texas (Dallas, San Antonio and Houston). Jackson was fined $25,000 by the league for publicly requesting a trade.
Now Stevens says anywhere will do.
"I just want him out of there now," Stevens said. "It doesn't matter where. At this stage, something has to be done. It can't get any worse."
Cleveland, Miami, Denver and Charlotte have been mentioned as possible destinations for Jackson.
As recently as October, Jackson was a Warriors captain. But during a preseason game against the Lakers, Jackson picked up five fouls and a technical in fewer than 10 minutes and was pulled from the game. He had a testy exchange with Nelson on the floor and was sent to the locker room. He was then stripped of his captaincy.
Stevens said his anger over his client's situation grew while he was watching the Warriors lose 120-107 to the Kings. It was Golden State's fourth loss in five games this season. Jackson led all Warriors scorers with 21 points.
"I'm disgusted with the quality of Nelson's coaching and with the lack of trust his players have in him," he said. "Nelson is the winningest coach in NBA history to never have coached in the NBA Finals, let alone won a championship. Yet he keeps getting jobs despite being 69 years old."
Jackson came to the Warriors in a 2007 trade with the Indiana Pacers. No stranger to controversy himself, he was suspended 30 games for his role in the 2004 Pacers-Pistons brawl at The Palace at of Auburn Hills. But he's put up his best numbers for the Warriors, last year averaging 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
Stevens blamed Nelson for the breakup of the promising Warriors team that upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. The breakup of that squad is one of the main reasons Jackson wants to go elsewhere, according to his agent.
"Chris Mullin wanted to re-sign Baron Davis, but Nelson nipped that in the bud," Stevens said. "Then he helped put together the trade that got rid of Jason Richardson. Then the Warriors lost Matt Barnes. Nelson loses the trust of all his players."
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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