When Warriors VP of Basketball Operations Chris Mullin was asked if he thought he did a good job in his tenure, he replied, "Pretty good, so-so."
That's a refreshingly self-deprecating answer right? His contract is over after this year, and the final verdict will probably be even harsher than that.
The fact is that Mullin failed to advance the financially-healthy team he inherited into the upper echelon of the NBA. This is hard to imagine, as amazing performances from NBA bad boys Baron Davis and Steven Jackson catapulted this franchise into the international spotlight.
With a legendary coach in position last year, expectations were high. But Mullin failed to bring the two or three veterans needed to make a serious run at the playoffs. Chris Webber? Really?
The leadership void was apparent when Steven Jackson surprisingly told reporters on Thursday that his co-captains Baron Davis and Matt Barnes' contract gripes were "cancers" in the locker room down the stretch last season. Apparently, Jackson claims that his own contract gripes expressed a month earlier to the media would never enter the locker room. He also swore that the team is better this year. So, maybe a career in politics is not out of the question for Mr. Jackson.
Mullin was found asleep at the wheel this offseason. After being outplayed by Baron Davis, he flailed about awkwardly, flirting with Brand and Arenas. In the end, he overpaid for two veterans with only slightly above-average NBA skill or potential.
Don Nelson does not play rookies not named Webber or Hardaway. He does not have NBA-ready talent to work with. It's hard to judge his ability to teach rookies. He so grossly over-estimated Bellineli's ability last year that it was embarrassing to watch the Oracle buzz up when Marco touched the ball.
Any success that Mullin had was by accident or luck. He misread Al Harrington's effectiveness, but got a future team captain in Steven Jackson. Monta Ellis fell into his lap in the second round. He gave up very little to acquire Baron Davis, but ultimately refused to make him the franchise cornerstone.
Nelson will have a tough time pursuing his all-time coaching-wins milestone this season. He doesn't have a difference-maker in his chamber anymore. He'll have to create matchups and tolerate rookie mistakes. I think he'll be loose, and hand over the reins to Keith Smart before the All-Star break.
On the bright side, the sooner a commitment to developing rookies and second year players the better. The adrenaline shot that Monta Ellis brings could come at a great time. Nelson will be tickled with the progress of both Wright and Randolph come January, and the Oracle will be rocking with the best fans in the NBA.
But, that's not what was supposed to happen to complete the "We Believe" era. A new, unnamed era begins now, in 2008.
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