A Daily Babble Production
Don Nelson is nothing if not original. At least in the portion of the world that exists outside San Antonio.
Earlier this month, Gregg Popovich opted to sit Tony Parker and Tim Duncan out of a game in Denver simply for the sake of resting them. He made no injury excuses. With the Spurs playing the tail end of a back-to-back after an overtime game in Golden State, he let his squad play without Duncan, Parker or Manu Ginobili, who had a hip injury. The Spurs fell to the Nuggets, but Pop no doubt believes his players will benefit from the time off come the postseason. Or he just likes ticking off the league office, NBA TV and paying customers.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Janny Hu, Nelson will be taking a page out of that book tonight against Charlotte, only under completely different circumstances. Nelson said Thursday that Jamal Crawford will not play against the team he lit up for 50 earlier in the season:
"I'm going to give Jamal a day off against Charlotte so I can play some of the younger guys," coach Don Nelson said Wednesday. "I'll do that periodically because I have a logjam at the '2,' and it's probably better not to try to play everybody."
Nellie's Golden State Warriors last played on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. They have Saturday off before hosting Utah on Sunday. At 20-37 and 14 games out of eighth in the Western Conference, resting Crawford for the stretch run is hardly a priority.
Since arriving from the Knicks in late November, the 28-year old Crawford has played in 40 of 44 games. He has no reported health issues at present. The combo guard is logging 38.2 minutes per game, second on the team to Stephen Jackson. His 19.0 points and 4.5 assists per game rank third and second respectively on the Warriors. For the season overall, Crawford's 54.6 percent true shooting figure is the second best of his career. While he still doesn't guard anyone and is prone to bouts of chucking, Crawford has been one of the best players on this squad this season, and his physical effort has been consistent.
Yet his unconventional coach will sit him tonight. Especially when one considers Crawford's reaction, it makes just about perfect sense.
As Nelson says, he does have a bunch of guards, including youngsters Marco Belinelli, C.J. Watson and Anthony Morrow. That's in addition to Crawford and the currently injured Monta Ellis. Of that group, only Crawford is beyond the age of 24, and only Crawford and Ellis have as many as two full years of experience in the Association. Kelenna Azubuike has spent some time in the backcourt this season as well, though he plays more often at the three. If ever there were a time to play the kids and possibly risk sacrificing a few wins in the process, it's in the midst of a year in which the Warriors are going nowhere fast. Rest assured, they are indeed going nowhere, and aside from draft position jockeying, the last 25 games have already been rendered effectively meaningless. If the Warriors play well without Crawford, it will be good for the morale of the neophytes. If they continue to lose, it will be good for the team's lottery chances.
At this point, the team knows what it has with Crawford, and it will be up to him to decide if he will exercise his $9-plus million option next season. If he doesn't, the Warriors will be able to live with the extra cap space. Meanwhile, even though he is only 28 and not injured, playing close to 40 minutes per game for the fastest-paced team in the league will take its toll eventually. It can't hurt Crawford's legs to have a night off here and there.
The only apparent question would be how Crawford would handle this. The Warriors don't need any off-court distractions in what has already been a nightmarish campaign. But at least in public, Crawford reacted as a true professional on Thursday. Hu reports:
"Coach Nelson's been around 30 years. He's won 1,300 games. I'm not going to question what he's doing. He wants to play young guys and I understand," said Crawford, who won't get a chance to duplicate his 50-point outing against Charlotte on Dec. 20.
"They worked really hard this year and they should be rewarded for that. They play 3-on-3 every day. Everybody's in the weight room busting their butts. So I'm happy for them."
I'm having a hard time remembering the last time a coach sat out one of his best players in a game this early in a losing season simply for the sake of sitting him. If anyone else has any recollections that I'm missing, feel free to drop the knowledge in the comments. No phantom injuries to protect a tanking scheme to be found here, nothing but the bluntness that is Don Nelson's hallmark.
The Warriors' season hasn't been a good one. But Nellie's presence ensures that it is never boring.