What If The Warriors Kept Gregg Popovich Instead Of Don Nelson
Maybe I've been watching too much Lost, but it's hard to watch the NBA Playoffs without fantasizing about how things might have worked out for the Warriors in a parallel dimension. A different draft here, a trade there, and the Warriors are perennial contenders instead of stuck on the NBA's version of a desert island.
The easiest "What If" scenarios involve players: not trading Mitch Richmond, reconciling with Chris Webber, keeping the We Believe squad together, but maybe the biggest change to our current reality would have been keeping Gregg Popovich. Just close your eyes for minute and imagine a world with Pop clutching championship trophies next to C-Webb and Latrell Sprewell....
In this reality the Warriors promote Popovich to General Manager after the '93-94 season, keeping him from going to San Antonio. Pop takes over a Golden State franchise that just won 50 games and features Webber, one of the league's most promising rookies, Sprewell and Avery Johnson.
When the war between Nelson and Webber erupts the next season, Pop fires Nelson and names himself coach (just like he did in San Antonio). After smoothing things over with Webber, Pop trades a petulant Tim Hardaway and hands the reigns over to an improving Johnson.
Pop gets that team to play defense, a startling departure from what was taught under Nelson, he ignores the suggestions of ignorant new owner Chris Cohan and even gets surprisingly effective play from an aging Chris Mullin. The Warriors slowly climb the ladder into the NBA's elite, taking home the first of multiple titles in the strike shortened 98-99 season.
Of course we know how this story really goes, the plane crashes on the island and the team spends the next 15 years botching trades, switching coaches and alienating the fan base. Instead of a string of championship banners, the team is left trumpeting Stephen Curry finishing second in the Rookie of the Year Race.
But for Warriors fans getting Lost in fantasy is the best thing we've got during playoff time.
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