Nelly Ball Dead in Oakland?

Keith Smart took up the mantle of “Nelly Ball” when Don Nelson stepped aside at the beginning of the 2010-11. The often entertaining, break-neck offensive style of basketball captured the league’s imagination when the Warriors topped the Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 Playoffs. Watching Golden State was like watching a video game live. Defense was impossible, offense was easy, 3-pointers fell like they were layups and shoes turned yellow while holding on the turbo button.

When Nelson stepped down, Smart took up the call of carrying on Nelly’s legacy. Golden State acquired David Lee to bolster the team’s rebounding and, ahem, improve its defense.

But Nelson’s protege is no more. Golden State announced it will not resign Smart and will be in the market for a new coach this offseason.

“It’s never easy to make difficult decisions, especially when it involves someone that we have a great deal of respect for like Keith Smart,” co-owner Joe Lacob said in a news release. “After meeting extensively with Larry Riley and Bob Myers, we came to the conclusion that a change was necessary at this particular time. I think Keith did an admirable job this season and he should be commended for many of the positive things that transpired both on and off the floor. The team showed improvement and their effort was never in question. However, we’ve elected to pursue a new path and we wish Keith the very best. He’s a quality person and we thank him for the time he invested with our organization.”

Golden State finished the season 36-46, finishing 10 games better than in 2010. The Warriors scored 103.4 points per game, good for seventh in the league, and posted a 108.2 offensive rating while playing at the fifth fastest pace in the league. Golden State was first in field goals made, first in field goals attempted and fourth in 3-pointers made. True Nelly ball.

Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis were the type of guards Nelson loved to have. They bothcould push the pace, handle the ball and, most importantly, score in bunches. Don Nelson always had a magic with his rosters to get the most out of them offensively as possible. All this while playing to a full, excited fan base who did not care whether the team was good or not, just that they played hard and were entertaining — what other 36-46 team would finish 10th in attendance?

Smart definitely came in with a mandate to create more defense to make Golden State a little better. And they were a little better… just not playoff good. And the new Warriors owners are likely looking to put their stamp on the franchise.

The question is whether Nelly ball will continue and what else someone can do with this roster if it is not.

Golden State’s roster is definitely built to play an uptempo style of basketball that is free-wheeling and willing to shoot. Larry Brown’s deliberate style likely would not work (not that Larry Brown is connected). The rumor is though that Golden State will at least contact Jerry Sloan to see if he is interested in the Warriors job.

It is too early to put names to the job. It is, after all, just the day he was fired. But Golden State is going to have to find another coach willing to teach and not willing to get upset at bad defense.

Joshua Wallace of Warriors Court thinks former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown might be a good option. It seems with the Sloan rumors going around and thoughts of Mike Brown dancing in their heads, offense is not going to be the focus of the new coach. Likely Golden State is going to be searching for a defensive-minded coach to make the team more complete.

It might very well mean the end of Nelly-ball as we know it.

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About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily