Robert Rowell has made official his takeover of the Warriors’ front office, taking it upon himself to sign Don Nelson to a two-year extension worth about $12 million. It’s obviously a great move for the Warriors to retain their only good coach from the past 20 years (besides Rick Adelman, who never really had a chance in his short stint in Oakland). The Warriors need the stability, and it’s not like anybody else as good or better is available.
However, Rowell’s sudden move to extend Nelson’s contract and not include Mullin (who’s in the last year of his own contract, just like Nelson was), shows that the owner of the most famous flattop in Bay Area history has seen his responsibilities dwindle to watching Euro League games and swimming laps in his pool in Danville. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Read what Stephen Jackson had to say about the relationship between Rowell and Mullin, from Janny Hu’s article in today’s Chronicle.
“I hate that something is going on, especially that it’s out in the air like that, but I just hope it works out for everybody, because I have the same amount of respect for all of them,” said Jackson, who bypassed Mullin in asking Rowell for an extension.
While the putridity of the Twardzik and St. Jean eras made Chris Mullin seem like a godsend for the Warriors, I’m not ready to cry about Mullin’s impending departure just yet. Let’s take a look at his most important moves in chronological order since the Warriors hired him in April of 2004.
— Fired Eric Musselman and replaced him with Mike Montgomery: Bad move (Musselman needed to go, but Monty was overmatched from the beginning)
— Drafted Andris Biedrins with the Warriors only pick in the Draft: Good move (players drafted immediately after Mystic: Robert Swift, Sebastian Telfair and Kris Humphries)
— Signed Jason Richardson to a six-year, $70 million extension: Good move (20 pt/game scorers don’t grow on trees)
— Signed Troy Murphy to a six-year, $58 million extension: Bad move (Troy didn’t seem to work out a lot after signing this deal)
— Signed Adonal Foyle to a six-year, $42 million contract: Terrible move (to make $7 million a year to play basketball, one should at least be able to catch a basketball)
— Traded Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis to the Hornets for Baron Davis: Awesome move
— Signed Mike Dunleavy to a 5-year, $44 million extension: Bad move (after he struggled with the expectations that came from being drafted third overall, Dunleavy struggled with the expectations that came from being overpaid)
— Drafted Ike Diogu in the first round of the Draft: Bad move
— Drafted Monta Ellis in the second round: Fantastic move
— Replaced Montgomery with Nelson: Good move
— Drafted Patrick O’Bryant in the first round of the Draft: Bad move
— Drafted Kosta Perovic in the second round: Bad move (especially with Paul Millsap and Leon Powe still available — sometimes skill is more important than length)
— Traded Dunleavy, Murphy and Diogu for Jackson, Al Harrington and Sarunas Jasikevicius: Best move of Mullin’s career
— Traded Jason Richardson for Charlotte for the rights to Brandan Wright and a $10 million trade exception: Bad move (made worse when the Warriors allowed the exception to expire, a decision that wasn’t Mullin’s to make … Wright still has a chance to save this deal from being a colossal bust, but the early results have not been great)
— Drafted Marco Belinelli, Jermareo Davidson and Stephane Lasme in the Draft: Bad move (but not that terrible considering who was available)
Those fifteen moves are the main decisions you can credit Mullin with, since his decision making powers have seemingly been stripped since the end of last season. Mullin wanted to sign Davis to a 3-year, $39 million extension of that was reportedly vetoed by Rowell. Since Mullin wanted to keep Baron, the moves to sign Corey Maggette and Ronny Turiaf and keep Kelenna Azubuike can be credited to (or blamed on, depending on your point of view) Rowell.
But if you look at Mullin’s GM resume, his highlights (trading for Jackson and Harrington, drafting Ellis and Biedrins and bringing back Nelson) have overshadowed several questionable to downright horrible decisions. Sure, the Warriors have changed course too many times since Mullin starred for the team as a player, but stability comes from the head coach and the players far more than from anybody in the front office. It definitely helps Nelson’s standing with the players now that he isn’t coaching on a year-to-year basis, regardless of who’s making the personnel decisions, but the players don’t worry so much about who the general manager is (it just changes who they ask to negotiate with, like Jackson walked past Mullin’s office on his way to talk to Rowell).
It’s too bad that it has to end this way for Mullin, who isn’t just a likeable guy but also happens to be the best Warrior since Rick Barry. Still, it’s hard to argue with Rowell’s decision to nudge him out the door. The Warriors missed the playoffs last season, and Mullin’s plan was to re-sign Baron and go into next year with essentially the same team. Rowell obviously got word from owner Chris Cohan to stop Mullin from spending money in the same reckless manner he did when he started his reign by signing Richardson, Murphy, Dunleavy and Foyle to huge dollars to be the core of the team. None of those players are with the Warriors anymore, and soon Mullin will be gone as well.