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Nelson Has Hands Full Managing Golden State Warriors' Roster

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 30:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game on March 30, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Ray YockeContributor IAugust 14, 2009

The Warriorsoutdoor preseason game against the Suns is a mere eight weeks away, and they couldn’t be more prepared.

The Warriors already play an outdoor pickup game style, and when they visit Indian Wells they’ll bring another trademark of the street game with them: a sideline full of fidgeting hoops players, all waiting impatiently for their chance to get on the court.

Currently, Golden State is carrying eleven players with rightful claims to playing time: Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Anthony Randolph, Stephen Jackson, Stephen Curry, Anthony Morrow, Ronny Turiaf, Brandan Wright, Corey Maggette, Kelenna Azubuike, and C.J. Watson.

And now that Rob Kurz is gone, Don Nelson’s mandatory flunky minutes are up for grabs, so pencil in ten minutes a night for Devean George as well.

George came over from Toronto in exchange for Marco Belinelli, who collected dust in Oakland even in a 29-win season. Not having to stare at a wasted first-round pick makes Golden State’s bench less unsightly, but it doesn’t make it any less crowded.

Nelson’s rotations are limited to the few players he trusts (usually one or two guys) and players he runs out there only because the NBA mandates it (another six or seven guys). The remaining Warriors will find playing time hard to come by, even taking Maggette’s annual injury break into account.

It’s nearly impossible to predict playing time when Don Nelson is involved, but three Warriors can expect to get acquainted with the far end of the bench: Curry (because he's a rookie), Wright (because he’s tall), and Watson (because he's C.J. Watson).

Azubuike’s minutes are safe, if only so Nelson can continue sticking it to Mark Cuban; the tale of how Azubuike came to be a Warrior instead of a Maverick was the best origin story of the summer. The Nelson-Cuban legal transcripts are also evidence that Nellie’s still one of the sharper tools in the shed, which is reassuring for the Warriors.

Randolph may get a look at power forward in an attempt to manufacture more minutes for the wing players, but his sleight build will eventually return him to small forward. Nelson has tinkered with position changes in the past, most notably with Troy Murphy and Monta Ellis, and neither experiment lasted very long.

However, the Warriors appear determined to give Ellis another chance at point guard this season, and any progress on his part could create a domino effect. If he can pull off a reasonable point guard imitation, the starting two-guard spot would be freed up, creating more minutes (and shots) for the rest of the team.

Ellis developing into a point guard would also address Golden State’s lack of star power.

This may be the deepest Warriors team since Nelson returned in 2006, but without a leader or go-to guy, they’re merely Wu-Tang without RZA. Project Mayhem sans Tyler Durden. The Foot Clan minus Shredder.

Randolph needs another year before he reaches that level, so this may be Ellis’ last chance to become that player for Golden State.

Expectations are high for Ellis, not only because the point guard position naturally lends itself to leadership (here’s to you, Stephon Marbury), but because the Warriors’ last BMOC also happened to play there.

Fortunately for Golden State, they have experience on their side—this isn’t the first time Nelson’s needed to replace a star point guard with square pegs and round holes.

In Dallas, Nelson was forced to replace Steve Nash with a novice Devin Harris and Jason “Shoot ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” Terry. Nelson made it work, coaching the 2004-05 Mavs to 58 wins and the second round of the playoffs. A repeat performance of 2004-05 would qualify Nelson for sainthood in the Bay Area.

He’ll have his hands full, coaching a team that just a year ago produced tons of scoring, very little passing, and as little defense as possible.

Sounds almost like a street ball team, doesn’t it?

The Oakland Sports Examiner: New columns every Tuesday and Thursday.

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