Warriors' Nelson will return next season
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Don Nelson will be back on the Golden State bench next season.
Nelson reiterated before Tuesday night's final home game against the Jazz he would return next season to fulfill the final year of his contract for the Warriors, and general manager Larry Riley said that would be the case barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Last week in Minnesota, Nelson earned his 1,333rd victory to move him past Lenny Wilkens for the top spot on the NBA's wins list.
So, why come back at all for one more year? Nelson, who turns 70 on May 15, likes his young players and wants to keep helping them develop.
His first two summers back with the Warriors, Nelson returned to his offseason Hawaii home on Maui and pondered retirement before deciding to continue coaching.
"I really like the players in the other room. I think they play the game the right way," Nelson said. "There's a very strong bond in there, especially with our younger guys. ... There's a whole lot of positives going on in the other room. My motivation is to do a good job and develop the team and do what coaches do -- and I'm under contract to do that."
It's been another drama-filled season for the Warriors, starting with former swingman Stephen Jackson's demand for a trade, which he eventually got in a swap with Charlotte in November. In addition, there have been so many injuries Nelson often had only eight available players -- and Golden State used only six in a remarkable win at Dallas on Nov. 24. The team regularly relied on D-League call-ups, too.
Nelson wasn't even there for that win, quarantined at home with a lengthy bout of pneumonia. Riley is convinced Nelson is perfectly healthy again and ready to tackle another rigorous year.
"It would take something that would be uncharacteristic or an oddity," Riley said for Nelson not to return. "He's done a really good job embracing this bunch, particularly down the stretch."
The Warriors had won five of their past eight heading into Tuesday. They finish the season Wednesday night at Portland.
While owner Chris Cohan has formally put the franchise up for sale, Riley and Nelson are proceeding as if everything is the same for now as they prepare for the NBA draft and build next season's roster. Riley has already begun brainstorming some ideas of who might replace Nelson after next season.
Getting 7-foot center Andris Biedrins back healthy and with a more effective free throw technique will be a key step for this young team. The Warriors' run to the second round of the playoffs in 2007 is the organization's lone postseason trip since 1994 in Nelson's first stint as coach.
Neither Nelson nor Riley would rule out this team from making the playoffs next season, though they are realistic.
"We've got a lot to do before that," Riley said.
Said Nelson: "It's a tough mountain to climb. Is it possible? Yes. ... Certainly some of the incumbents are going to have to fail and fall for the young teams to get in."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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