So I’m seeing all these people linking to this new ESPN Interview with Don Nelson where he talks about his days in the bay
“They’re all behind me as far as I’m concerned. I’m at the stage of my career now that I can’t remember any of the bad things that happened. All the tough losses, all the ups and down … I can only remember the good things.”
and his limited days with Chris Webber
“it was clear that it wasn’t going to work out with Webber and I. So I begged [Fitzgerald] to keep Chris and let me go. [Gregg] Popovich was holding the [San Antonio] job open for me. All I had to do is make sure I was free. I knew I was going to get fired in Golden State, that’s the way things were looking, but they wouldn’t let me go. And then they fired me four months later.
They were also selling the team right around that time, so there were issues. I don’t know exactly how much influence that had, but I should have been the guy that left. Keep the star player, get a new guy in that does a better job of handling him and let me move on. I’d have gone to San Antonio and I’d probably still be coaching today.”
He did a good job of making himself sound like an old wise content man with no hard feelings. He made it sound like during his feud with Chris Webber he was so willing to graciously leave while the rookie of the year stays with the franchise. That’s more his story than history so let’s get in our DeLorean and revisit what really went down, Memento style, starting with a pit stop in 2008 when they were reunited 14 years after their divorce.
2008: THE REUNION
GM Chris Mullin wanted his ex teammate back on the roster and Nelson was fine with it.
“I’ve learned over the years, I’ve softened a bit through some of the experiences I’ve had. I look back at the time when Chris and I were here early in our careers. We were both pretty stubborn and I was maybe too tough and he was too young to see the positives I was trying to bring to the table. I’ve learned and I think he has, too. Hey, I’m an old man and he’s an old player.”
Nelson had Webber’s friend Matt Barnes contact him to see how he felt about the situation. Then Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson started calling Webber. On January 29th of 2008 Webber signed for the remainder of the season. CJ Watson gave up his number 4 which is how many points and rebounds Webber ended up averaging in his 9 games. He was waived 2 months later and then Webber announced his retirement ending his NBA career where he started it.
2006: DON NELSON RETURNS TO GOLDEN STATE
In August of 2006, the Warriors bought out Coach Mike Montgomery and brought Don Nelson out of retirement. It looked like a genius move by Chris Mullin as the Warriors seemed unbeatable for the remaining games of the season and upset his old team the Dallas Mavs in the first round. The next season, the We Believe Warriors had their best season since his last with Chris Webber.
During that 2006 Warriors press conference to announce that Nelson would be the new coach, he was asked about his past with Webber and he didn’t sound like the man we would hear from in 2008. “Do you look back with regret at what happened here with Chris Webber in 1994 and the way you handled it? Do you wish you’d done it differently? ”
NELSON: Well, this isn’t the only place that he’s had problems. So I think he had to work his way through that. If I would’ve known, I would’ve gone a different direction–maybe just drafted where we were and not moved up (from third to first in the 1993 draft), you know, something like that.
We might’ve got the same guy at 3. But at that particular time we were looking for one guy, one big guy, because we had all the other pieces. So that didn’t work out. But would I have done anything different? Sure, I would’ve done it different, if I could’ve. I would’ve picked somebody else. Everybody got unhappy, I got fired. I mean, sure, I would’ve done it different.
Now that sounds more like the Don Nelson I know and the situation I know of that went down in the early 90s. I don’t want to make this sound like everybody had issues with Nelson because for every Webber, Patrick Ewing and Mark Cuban story there’s a positive Baron Davis and Dirk story.
Just in case you want to know the story with Ewing. Patrick didn’t like Nelson’s anti-Pat Riley style of play in NY and then Nelson wanted to trade Ewing so they could make a bid for Shaq before he headed to LA. That failed and ironically, Nelson would create the failed “hack-a-shaq” strategy against the future Laker.
1993: CLASS, MEET CHRIS WEBBER
Outside of 1997 when they traded Chris Mullin for Erick Dampier and Sprewell chocking coach PJ, there’s not much to say about eventful happenings for the Golden State Warriors between 1994-2006 especially when it comes to the NBA draft.
We have draft milestones such as drafting Joe Smith ahead of KG, Stackhouse, Rasheed, McDyess, etc, etc, etc. Drafting Todd Fuller ahead of Kobe, Nash, JOneal. Drafting Adonal Foyle one pick before Tmac. Even when the Warriors draft a winner they will do something silly like trading them. Ex. Trading Vince Carter 15 minutes after drafting him for Antawn Jamison and of course trading Penny Hardaway for Chris Webber in 1993.
Having the opportunity to trade the #3 pick (Penny Hardaway) along with some future picks for the unanimous #1 pick (Chris Webber) that’s a once in a decade type of talent sounds like a great deal. Right? It was, because Chris Webber was everything we thought he would be, think upgraded model of Derrick Coleman, and he finished the season as rookie of the year. All of this almost didn’t happen because if it wasn’t for Shaq and Penny’s acting debuts in Blue Chips and Penny’s desire to play with the Magic, Orlando would of kept to their plan of pairing Shaq and Webber to become the most unstoppable front court in NBA history. 2 days before the draft, Penny requested a 2nd tryout with the Magic and he blew them away. So the stars realigned and Penny ended up Disney world and Webber ended up in chaos city.
The chaos began with Webber’s contract. This was the time when contracts started to get out of hand and there was a race to be the first $100 million player. Rookies also had a loop hole which has been closed that allowed them to opt out of their contracts after a year in the league and become restricted free agents. They inked him and he was a hit as soon as he walked out on the court. He was putting up great numbers and dominating Sportscenter with teammates Chris Mullin and Sprewell but there was a huge problem. He didn’t want to play how Don Nelson wanted him to play. Nelson wanted Webber to play center and be a post player and Webber wanted to run, shoot and make behind the back passes on the break. The combination of Webber’s immaturity and Nelson’s desires lead to lots of benchings and on the court shouting between the two. It then spilled off the court when Nelson supposedly was talking trash about Webber to his teammates. At the end of the season it was obvious to everybody within the organization that they couldn’t co-exist.
Webber took advantage of his opt out clause in his contract and threatened to leave if they don’t get rid of Nelson. Nelson offered to quit but Webber called it a stunt to get on the fan’s good side. The organization then traded for Rony Seikaly so Webber could play power forward but that wasn’t enough to please him. With no choice, the Warriors traded Webber to play with ex Fab Five teammate Juwan Howard in Washington for Tom Gugliotta and 3 future draft picks that turned out to be Todd Fuller, Keon Clark & Chris Mihm.
The Warriors struggled the next season and after a 14-31 start, Nelson was “given the opportunity to step down”. A few weeks later they traded Googs for Donyell Marshall and until they brought back Nelson in 2006 things just got worse and worse for the franchise.
Let’s return to present day and the winningest coach in NBA history is being rightfully rewarded for all of his accomplishments by being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Don Nelson looks and sounds happy and content with his past but I just want to make sure you know the history and not just his story.
1993 NBA Draft: Webber Selected #1
1993 NBA Draft: Chris Webber traded for Penny Hardaway & 3 Future draft picks
18pts vs the Hawks
NBA Rookie Game w/ Penny, Rider, Bradley
Dunks on Mark Jackson
Vs Orlando Magic; Amazing Finish
Famous Dunk on Charles Barkley
Golden State Webber Season Mix
2nd Playoff Game
Last Game as a Warrior in the 1994 Playoffs
Nike Barbershop Commercial w/ Sprewell (talks about dunking on Barkley)
Nike Barbershop Commercial Talks About His 1st Dunk