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News » No Nelson for Texas swing

No Nelson for Texas swing

No Nelson for Texas swingKeith Smart swears nothing will change tonight when he coaches the Warriors in place of Don Nelson, who was diagnosed with pneumonia and is missing the next two games in Dallas and San Antonio.

"I'm up more along the sidelines," Smart said. "That's the only big difference."

A few times in the past, Nelson has let Smart, his No. 1 assistant, assume head-coaching duties in his presence, and Smart has taken over after Nelson ejections. But tonight, for the first time, Smart, 45, will coach a regular-season game for the Warriors with Nelson, 69, nowhere in the building.

The players already are familiar with Smart, who has much more authority than other NBA assistants because he runs practices and oversees in-game defensive alignments. He's considered the successor to Nelson, who has had a trying season largely because of strained relationships with marquee players, including Stephen Jackson, who was traded to Charlotte.

"If I had never coached any of the games before, it would be, like, OK, this is an opportunity," said Smart, who served as head coach in the preseason when Nelson was absent with a family emergency. "But for me, it's been like that, so I already know what I'm supposed to do."

If Smart coaches the Warriors to a win, he wouldn't officially get the credit. It would go to Nelson, who's still listed as the man in charge and is 20 wins from surpassing Lenny Wilkens as the NBA's all-time winningest coach.

Either way, wins will be tough to pull off, not just because Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan await, but because the Warriors have few available warm bodies. They held practice Monday with more players on the injury report eight than on the court seven.

Corey Maggette, who spent the practice getting treatment for his tender left hamstring, is expected to play tonight, giving the Warriors eight players in uniform, the minimum required by NBA rules. The same eight, including Chris Hunter from the NBA Development League, beat Portland 108-94 on Friday.

During the seven-man practice Monday, Smart plugged in assistant coach Russell Turner and Rico Hines from the training staff just so he could run 4-on-4 drills. It seemed no big deal for Smart, who said, "When you break things down 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, that's how the game is played anyway."

It was the second straight practice Nelson missed. The severity of his illness and length of his absence aren't known. After two games in Texas, the Warriors host the Lakers on Saturday.

Asked how it would feel if he coached the Warriors to a win in the game in which Nelson broke Wilkens' record, Smart smiled and said, "We might get to that point. No, no, I just want him to be healthy and get back to the team. The beauty of our team, thus far, has been watching us go through all the turmoil, everything from training camp until now, and watching something coming together. You see it, and we have to keep building on that. Nelson's excited about the team and how we've performed the last couple of games."

Despite playing consecutive road games with an eight-man roster, Smart has no plan to slow the team's up-tempo style.

"We don't have post guys," Smart said, "so we don't have the luxury of going in a half-court game."

Big men Andris Biedrins back, groin and Ronny Turiaf left knee remain shelved. The team said Biedrins' latest MRI exam showed a "moderate strain of an abdominal muscle," which is related to his original injury. He won't be re-evaluated for another week.

Short-staffed Injuries and illnesses have piled up for the Warriors recently. Here's a glance at their past three games.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 24, 2009


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