The Golden State Warriors: Jesus Christ on a stick, where do I start?
Potential NBA owners and General Managers already know what all potential improv teams and coaches stand to learn from observing the Golden State Warriors for, oh, about 5 minutes.
This is NOT how to assemble a team. But the only way you could make it worse is if you put an absolute madman asshole in charge. Not once but, twice.
Don Nelson is currently the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He was also their head coach back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when he had some triumphs with a group of young, star players affectionately nicknamed “Run TMC” (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin).
Who feels old for getting that reference?
Nelson’s 1st time around was so poisonous that not only was he fired but lawyers were unleashed by both management and Nelson. With apologies to George Carlin’s views on married people who get divorced and then re-marry, this milk was DEFINITELY not going to be fresh tomorrow. This time around isn’t much better as one of the most recent things Nelson did was play office politics and get his current GM fired over the summer and replaced with a sycophant? That GM he pushed out? Chris Mullin.
So what happened to change things in San Francisco?
Don “Nellie” Nelson is an amazingly fantastic coach. Given the nickname “The Mad Scientist”, Nelson has been instrumental in implementing a lot of the innovation in today’s current NBA. The style of basketgall (that was a typo originally but I think it is very befitting considering the subject matter so, fuck it, it’s staying in); the style of basketgall Nellie promotes is extremely fun and exciting to watch and is dependent upon eschewing quite a bit of the accepted norms in professional basketball.
Nelson has given the world the “point forward” (the point guard, traditionally one of the shorter players on the team, usually runs the offense; in “Nellieball”, a taller player, a forward, will be responsible for those duties), starting line-ups predicated on mismatches and offenses that treat the basketball like a hot potato; the faster you shoot the ball, the faster we can get it back so we can shoot it again.
Nelson is one of the few professional basketball coaches to ever win over 1000 games (Hell, he’s only a few wins away from being the NBA coach with the most wins of all-time) which sounds impressive until you realize that he’s lost nearly that many games as well. For as exciting as “Nellieball” is to watch, for those actual participants the results leave a lot to be desired. The old adage in the Association, the conventional wisdom, is that “defense wins championships” and there is no room in “Nellieball” for defense. Shockingly, he has yet to win a championship.
In fact, Nelson actively recruits players that are so averse to playing defense it’s as if they had it removed from their DNA by Dr. Otto Octavious. But this is not the greatest flaw to Nelson’s design.
(NOT Don Nelson)
Don “Nellie” Nelson is an amazingly fantastic coach but he is absolutely abysmal as a human being. This petty, vindictive, insincere, mind-game playing, politicking douchebag has lain to waste nearly every team it has ever been his miserable misfortune to coach. I’m convinced this prick will die either penniless, alone or both.
Now, if you’re an improviser reading this and wondering how a man like this continues to be employed as a professional basketball coach (and what the correlation is to improv), I encourage you to take mental stock of the people in your theater or improv scene and see how long it takes you before your mind fixates on that dude that makes this sound super familiar. That was fast wasn’t it?
Maybe he is that guy that’s been around for a long time on the scene. Maybe he was a part of developing a lot of the performance forms that were groundbreaking at the time and that we take for granted now. Perhaps he was a major player in one of the larger markets but has now moved to your town.
Does he drink a lot and loudly proclaim to anyone who will listen how much better it used to be back in the day or how no one appreciates his genius? Is he moody and sulky, bitter that others he deems less talented than he have achieved a higher status? Or does he walk around with an air of confidence that belies his actual concrete accomplishments?
Are a lot of the people he coaches young, beginning improvisers that hang on his every word and repeat it as gospel simply because he is their first ever coach or they simply don’t know any better? Are the teams he coaches the kind of teams that go big, fast and work “blue” at every opportunity? Has he alienated himself from nearly every person in your improv scene yet somehow has managed to endear himself to the powers that be so that the idea of him going away seems impossible?
Or had he, through pure Machiavellian cunning, assembled a tight circle of apologists or disciples that will allow him to remain untouched by outside opinion? When not given a wide berth, are people cordial to him only to spit his name through their teeth when he leaves, sure in the fact that they can’t trust him as far as they can throw him? Or is he the kind of guy that somehow seems to fail upward?
Yeah. I’m talking about that guy.
Now take any of those attributes individually and we can probably recognize those flaws in ourselves. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of at least a few of them at any given moment in time.
Now add all of those together in one giant stew and you find yourself with a giant, steaming bowl of Don Nelson Du Jour.
(Mmmm. Don Nelson Soup.)
Just like when I wrote about the Chicago Bulls, if you suck long enough in the NBA, you are given the opportunity to stack up on a lot of new, young talent. Unlike the Chicago Bulls who make a habit of drafting based on collegiate success, the Golden State Warriors, who have let Don Nelson position himself into power through shady, underhanded backroom power plays, draft players that fit the “Nellieball” style but also with the added benefit (?) of being immature and completely unprepared to deal with the cunning mindfuck that is playing for one Don Nelson.
Now, I don’t blame the players in this scenario at all. Most of them are extremely talented and exciting prospects. Anthony Randolph, a young power forward/center from Louisiana State University, may very well end up being a Top 10 player in the League; that he almost seems to have been born to specifically play in Nellie’s system should make his arrival in Golden State a (wait for it….) slam dunk.
The problem is, again, Nelson. It seems the “Mad Scientist” is incapable of sharing the spotlight with the people, who you know, actually play the games. He will grind down his young players, yanking their playing time and alternately berate and condescend them in private and publicly. Inexplicably, players will be pulled from a game for the minutest infractions and will be given little to no explanation.
Nelson is almost always with teams that are young, rebuilding squads which he seems to have no patience for and can’t deliver the winning record he believes he deserves. He will give up on players or put them in his doghouse almost at random. He’ll jerk around a young player for “not playing the right way” and then be almost pathologically unable to explain the “right way” to that young player who so desperately needs his guidance.
For god’s sake, it’s “Nellieball”: If there are no rules that would apply to how basketball is traditionally played, how in the holy fuck are these young guys going to know how to do it? What part of “damn the torpedoes and jack up as many shots as humanly possible” is playing it the right way? When I watch Nelson in post-game press conferences bitch about how the team lost the game because their defense was poor, I laugh The Laugh of the Damned.
Hey, chucklefuck, you haven’t run a practice that focused on defense in nearly three decades and YOU’RE THE COACH! When were they supposed to learn about defense? On the bus ride to the stadium?
This is akin to an improv coach cursing out his team after a show because there were no real relationships when he’s only devoted every single rehearsal to pace and one-liners.
We’ve all seen these improv teams perform. They are loud, fast and funny. They go “big” in a heartbeat. They blurt out racial epithets as punch lines and go for the shock value like it is going out of style (which it has by the way). They never met a scene that they didn’t think could be improved by a ton of walk-on characters and devolving into a mass of shrill, screaming jackasses.
It might be fun for awhile. One might even enjoy the team ironically for the “It’s-So-Bad-It’s-Good-Factor.”: I once watched such a team from the balcony at iOWest with some of my friends who had decided to turn the show into a drinking game; every time a dick joke was made, you drank. The waitress had to come back three times and I was drunk 15 minutes into their show.
But eventually the whole thing sours. The rest of the teams start to view teams with that style of play as an embarrassment to the theater and detrimental to the work overall. Anytime a non-improviser friends says to you “most/all improv sucks” they probably only saw one long form improv show in their life and it was probably THAT team of assclowns.
Similarly, whenever a casual basketball or sports fan says that the NBA is just a bunch of spoiled, selfish thugs who just want to dunk and jack up 3 pointers, they will point to the Golden State Warriors as an example. Congratulations, Denver Nuggets! Now that you are winning consistently and have reached the elite echelon of the Western Conference, you’re off the hook! Woo hoo! Don’t party! Please. Don’t.
Or even worse, when a person says they prefer college basketball to professional basketball because the teams play a more “team oriented” style or the game is “purer” I turn red like Chairman Mao’s little book.
Look: professional basketball will always, ALWAYS, be better than college basketball. That’s the truth. Please don’t mistake nostalgia for your alma mater as a substitute for talent, athleticism and expertise. You are watching inferior basketball. Accept it. The worst player in the NBA would absolutely dominate any college game you put him in. And if you think the college game is “purer” in any sense of that word you are being willfully naïve. The benefit of being a professional basketball player is that you get paid above the table, you feel me?
Not quite as analogous, as short form improv definitely has its benefits and heroes, but anyone who tells me they prefer short form to long form improv I consider that person to not be a terribly deep thinking person. When I’m challenged on this topic, I usually request for that person to regale me with the tale of that short form show they attended about “betrayal”. That usually does it.
But Don Nelson isn’t done ruining the team that San Franciscans root for in their fair city!
Asides from the wealth of young talent whose confidence he spends most of his waking life ruining, Nellie also likes to bring in veteran players in free agency that will provide, in this environment, the worst example of how to conduct oneself as a professional!
Hey, young draft pick for the Golden State Warriors, worried that Coach Nelson has provided zero instruction for how to play the game at the next level?
Fret no more! He’ll bring in a potpourri of mercenaries, head cases and rejects that will stunt your emotional and professional growth to finish off the horrible mission he started! To wit:
Corey Maggette, an unrepentant gunner who the Warriors signed to a ridiculous 5 year/$50 million guaranteed contract, is all offense, all the time and is the epitome of the “me-first” player proponents of the college game would throw in my face. The good gentlemen at Basketbawful.com have a term for this type of player: A 20-10-50 Guy. He’ll get you 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 50 losses. Woof.
The improv equivalent of Mr. Maggette is the player that will sell out your scene for a joke at the drop of a hat, walk on to as many scenes as it takes for him to get the laughs his ego requires (or he’ll sulk afterwards) and will be unapologetic after a bad team show as long as he got his. As long as he gets to live the lifestyle of an entertainer and parlay that into interest from insecure women, he gives two shits about team success.
I remember reading an anecdote where after a double digit loss by Maggette’s team (where he rang up 20 and 10, natch), Kevin Garnett, on the other team, passed by Corey on the way to the locker rooms.
(Sneering) “Way to get your numbers.”
Ouch. I encourage all improvisers to direct this missive towards these types of players after a particular egregious show. An insincere “good show” just doesn’t have the same panache. I know it makes me smile when I have the opportunity to use it in earnest.
NOTE: You must also remember that the good gentlemen over at Basketbawful.com have also given Mr. Maggette the nickname “Bad Porn” as in “Sure, there’s penetration and scoring involved, but are you really enjoying what you are watching?” I’ve yet to find an appropriate place in improv to use this term but I’m working on it.
Stephen Jackson is a guy who would give you the shirt off of his back; now whether you actually needed that shirt or he was giving it to you to hold while he went absolutely ape-shit bananas on someone is another matter entirely. While he’s got his shirt off, you might want to take a gander at the large tattoo on his chest of the traditional Christian symbol of the “praying hands” whose design Mr. Jackson has improved upon by having the hands clasp a 9mm Glock automatic handgun.
And without going too much into detail about Mr. Jackson’s role in the infamous “Brawl at the Palace” (I kind of chalked it up to the aforementioned brand of, ahem, loyalty that Mr. Jackson subscribes to), the one thing you could always say about Stephen Jackson is that he tried.
He prides himself on playing defense, normally covering the other team’s best offensive player. He hits big, clutch-time shots. He plays hurt. He plays at maximum effort, night in and night out. He was made a team captain, an honor he was truly humbled by and appreciated it. He’s also an extremely intelligent and well read man. He read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. Dude, I haven’t even read that book.
So guess what happened? Go on. Guess.
Nelson fucked him. Hard and completely. Here was the absolute last guy (after mega-star Baron Davis signed with the Clippers, a team who’s blog post I’m alternately looking forward to and dreading) in Nelson’s corner and Nelson embarrassed the man by giving him a verbal beat down in Nelson’s car for 20 minutes during a practice. I shit you not.
Word around the campfire is that Nelson told a stunned Jackson that his coach thought he was letting the team down. The coach didn’t think his captain was leading by example. The coach thought Jackson was exaggerating his injury for, I (once again) shit you not,…..pity.
Larry Freaking Bird thinks Stephen Jackson is the toughest guy in the NBA, and Don Nelson accused of him of throwing a pity party?
Stephen Jackson does NOT want your pity. Here is a guy who has had one of the more dangerous upbringings and made something of himself in spite of the harsh environment of his youth. This was supposed to be his coach; the man who finally understood him as a man and we was so far off that Jackson wondered aloud if Nelson had been drinking.
Jackson didn’t even get out of the car to enter the practice facility. How do you think that worked out?
And so began the long process of taking any of the good will from the magical playoff run of 2007 and completely dismantling it by dismantling the team.
Stephen Jackson spent a long summer proclaiming that he would be willing to work anywhere but Golden State. He was eventually traded to the woeful Charlotte Bobcats early this season.
Remember Anthony Randolph? He’s on the trading block now. In fact, everyone is available now. Being a Golden State Warrior fan must be like…..I can’t even think of an appropriate simile.
Sports Illustrated just named The Golden State Warriors “The Worst Franchise of This Decade”. And the Warriors play in the same league as the Clippers! That’s like Hitler being the 2nd Worst Dude of 1943. How do you pull that off?
Easy. Hire Don Nelson.
When I first started this project, I said I would be focusing somewhat on the chemistry aspects of both improv and basketball as the need for everyone to be on the same page is so essential. You don’t have to like each other but you do have to respect each other and share a common goal.
But I don’t care what business you are in; if you have a guy like Don Nelson anywhere near you, things will go bad in a hurry.
The first or second time you hire him.
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