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Money matters


Don Nelson is up to his old tricks again. The Warriors' coach reportedly wants a raise from his current $3.1 million salary to $5.1 million (guaranteed) for each of the remaining two seasons on the three-year contract he signed just last year. He is threatening to retire before training camp if he doesn't get it.

The Warriors have basically agreed to Nellie's demands, except they want the final year (2008-09) to be a team option, according to published reports. The two sides are still talking, but Golden State fans are getting a little nervous.

Would Nellie really walk out on the Warriors now, after last season's glorious run?

Probably not. Nelson is loyal to Warriors vice president Chris Mullin, who lured him out of retirement last season. He also no doubt wants to burnish those Hall of Fame credentials -- not tarnish them by adding another ugly departure to his résumé.

Then again, Nelson might just decide to stick it to owner Chris Cohan, who sued the coach after Nelson's first go-round with the Warriors. Nellie probably doesn't have to worry about public support. Golden State fans love the straw-haired Mad Scientist for resurrecting their franchise and ending that 12-year playoff drought.

More important, the Warriors are totally built for his particular style of play. Who else could coach that roster now? Just imagine Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson running the locker room in Nelson's absence.

The whole situation is so classic Nellie. The guy just knows how to work the angles and maximize his advantages. Somewhere Mark Cuban and Avery Johnson are no doubt shaking their heads.

Amid this uncertain backdrop in the Bay Area, we'll open the 'Bag with another Warriors-related question:

What are the chances the Heat can work a deal for Mickael Pietrus? I think he'd be a great fit alongside Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. He's the type of athletic swingman they need, and he'd also provide some outside shooting to replace Jason Kapono. But can Pat Riley get a deal done? -- Oscar Reyes, Miami

Not likely. Pietrus is a restricted free agent, meaning the Warriors can match any offer. Golden State might be willing to do a sign-and-trade, but it doesn't appear to be too interested in anything Miami has to offer. James Posey has been mentioned, but it's doubtful Mullin would want to take him. Right now it looks as if Pietrus is going to get shut out like so many other restricted free agents this summer. If so, his best option might be to take Golden State's one-year qualifying offer of $3.4 million and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

You guys recently ran an item on your site listing one writer's all-time NBA teams (past, present and future). I admit I'm biased, but I would have had Hakeem Olajuwon as first-team center. I also think Kevin Durant will be the starting small forward on the future squad. I'm curious as to whom you would pick for these teams? -- Rico D., Houston

I can't really argue with any of my colleague Ian Thomsen's picks. My only differences would be Wilt Chamberlain over Bill Russell as first-team all-time center (though I admit it's a toss-up), and Deron Williams over Tony Parker as my point guard of the future (in five years). For the record, here would be my picks:

All-time team G Magic Johnson G Michael Jordan F Larry Bird F Tim Duncan C Wilt Chamberlain

All-current team G Steve Nash G Kobe Bryant F LeBron James F Kevin Garnett C Tim Duncan

All-future team G Deron Williams G Dwyane Wade F LeBron James F Amaré Stoudemire C Yao Ming

Why doesn't Kevin Garnett play for USA Basketball anymore? Is it simply because he doesn't want the additional wear and tear after a full season, or is there a more specific reason? Carmelo Anthony is a good player, but I think that KG would certainly be an upgrade at the 4, and would be an ideal fit because he is so unselfish. -- Eliot Gold, Takoma Park, Md.

Garnett has said in the past that he doesn't want to subject himself to the wear and tear, especially because he already has won gold at the Olympics (2000). Like Shaquille O'Neal and Duncan, he feels he's done his part and it's time for the younger generation to take over.

We constantly read about NBA players' troubles in adjusting to "the international game." What is it about the international game that has seemed to perplex American players? Different rules? Different style? If the latter, why don't NBA teams try it? Do isolation and reliance on one-on-one slashers (both of which I find boring) simply not work against other national teams? Or is it just a matter of lack of familiarity and lack of preparation with their teammates, forcing them to rely on isolation instead of complex motion? -- Paul, Westfield, N.J.

There are different rules (shorter court, trapezoid lane, closer three-point line, no offensive goaltending, more hand checking, etc.) that lead to the game being played in a different style. It's very difficult for a team that has been thrown together in a short time to pick up the nuances, especially against foes that have been playing together for years. That's why USA Basketball began its current program, with NBA players required to give a three-year commitment. Of course, the best-laid plans "gang aft agley" (as the Scottish poet Robert Burns, no relation, once wrote) ... which leads us to the next question ...

With Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and Kirk Hinrich out, that means that eight of the 12 players on last year's World Championships team are missing from this year's version of Team USA (Bosh, Battier, Hinrich, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson, Elton Brand and Brad Miller). What happened to the "continuity" Jerry Colangelo wanted to create for the squad? They are lucky Brazil and Argentina are missing their best players, otherwise Team USA could find itself in real danger of not finishing in the top two at this FIBA Americas tournament -- something that would be FAR more embarrassing than finishing with the bronze medal at Worlds. -- TMG, Los Angeles

You raise a good point. USA Basketball's intentions might have been good, but so far the organization has not been able to get a core together and keep it. Colangelo & Co. believe they're making progress toward that goal, especially now that Kobe, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups have joined LeBron, Stoudemire and Dwight Howard this summer. These six all have committed to playing in the Olympics (barring injury) so the core now appears to be in place.

I have to disagree with your stance about the quality of information Tim Donaghy was providing to his co-conspirators. To me, it would seem that everything you have described as not giving any edge is quite the opposite. It definitely provides a bettor with more information. Knowing who the refs are before a game is akin to insider trading. --Nick, San Jose, Calif.

I'm not saying Donaghy's information wasn't useful. I'm just saying it doesn't seem like the kind of dope that would be enough to satisfy heavy gamblers who are putting big money on the line. Unless there is something more to the story.

The most damning aspect of the entire Donaghy fiasco isn't that a ref bet on games or intentionally manipulated games but that no one could apparently tell he was manipulating the games. Why is this? Because such massive latitude is given to NBA refs that they can make completely ludicrous calls and no one can challenge them during or after the game. Yes, we all know about all these "audits" the NBA supposedly does, but these audits clearly didn't manage to discern Donaghy's manipulation. How about a limited challenge system, like in the NFL, where coaches could have a bad call or two reviewed? --Doug, Charlotte

Sorry, Doug, but NBA games are already long enough. If they begin stopping games to go over calls, they might drag into three hours or more. The NBA was smart a few years ago to institute video review at the end of quarters to verify last-second shots, but that's as far as it should go.

Isn't it a double standard that players can gamble at casinos but the refs cannot? And, doesn't it make sense to have some sort of term limit for the commissioner? David Stern has done a wonderful job, but it seems as though there has been some complacency in recent years. -- John, Minneapolis

The NBA doesn't want its referees to be anywhere around betting, even legal venues, because of the public perception. Players are a different story. For one, most of them make so much money that it's not likely they're going to get into serious debt at the craps table. As for a term limit on the commissioner, I'd ask what would the limit be? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? One could argue that if Stern had not been around these past 20 years, the NBA would not be nearly as successful

Are there any chances that Keith Van Horn would be interested in the Celtics? I know he wasn't an All-Star, but he's also not that old (he turns 32 in October), and didn't stop playing due to injury. His last year, he was still pretty good for the Mavs. --Darren Gibby, Chandler, Ariz.

Van Horn is an interesting case. As you point out, he averaged a respectable 8.9 points and 3.6 boards in 20.6 minutes per game while shooting 36.8 percent from downtown for Dallas in the 2004-05 season. But Van Horn decided against a comeback last season, and there is no indication he wants to get back in now. He seems to be enjoying life as a full-time father, and he certainly made enough cash during his playing days so he probably doesn't need the money.

A lot of talk has centered on all-time great records recently (thanks to Barry Bonds) and yet John Stockton's all-time assist record is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Why? It seems to be the most overlooked and distanced record on the books right now. --Jesse, Chester, Calif.

You could be right. Stockton's 15,806 assists are a whopping 5,000 more than the next guy on the all-time list (Mark Jackson). It is hard to imagine any player breaking that record, especially because point guards tend to have shorter careers. Stockton, by the way, also still holds the NBA record for career steals (3,265). In fact, one could probably make a good case for Stockton as first-team point guard on those all-time lists mentioned above. Were it not for Magic Johnson's greatness (and those five championships), Stockton probably would be on a lot of people's lists.

Do you think people are jumping the gun a little bit by handing the Celtics the Atlantic Division title? The Nets should still be a threat with the return of Jamaal Magloire to the Eastern Conference. Both the Celtics and the Nets will be in a tough fight to usurp the division title from an improved Raptors team, as Bryan Colangelo has added to the depth of an already deep roster. At least it appears that no one will be calling it the "Titanic Division" anymore. It should be a great battle within that division this year. -- Mark Wager, London, Ontario

Yes, they're jumping the gun. A lot can happen between now and the start of training camp in October. Trades. Injuries. There are also legitimate chemistry questions that Boston still has to answer. But the Celtics sure look good on paper. I'm not sure how far they can realistically expect to go in their first season together, but they definitely deserve to be considered the favorites in the Atlantic. But I agree the Raptors (and maybe the Nets) will give them a fierce battle.