OAKLAND -- In the NBA, September is the time of year when players and coaches start to return from their off-season residences. At the Warriors' headquarters in Oakland, for example, a half dozen players have been spotted working out recently or are expected to arrive in the near future.

One critical piece, however, is heading in the opposite direction.

Coach Don Nelson, profoundly unhappy with the way his contract negotiations are going, plans on flying home to Hawaii after having spent several weeks in the Bay Area hoping to cement reworked details for the two years remaining on his deal. No date for his return to the islands has been specified.

"I've had some nice talks with Bobby (Rowell, the Warriors team president) in the last several weeks," said John O'Connor, Nelson's lawyer. "Nothing's happened, but I'm still personally hopeful. Nellie has grown discouraged, however, and is soon on his way back to his hammock in Maui."

So far, Nelson's attempt to renegotiate the remainder of the three-year deal he signed in August 2006 has resembled a high-stakes poker game for much of the summer. If that's true, this is his all-in moment.

Nelson would like to put pressure on the Warriors to move off their one and only offer. That proposal would increase Nelson's base salary per season from $3.1 million to $5.1 million, but it inserts a team option for the second and final season, meaning Nelson would face a decrease of $1.1 million in guaranteed money.


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O'Connor responded this past week on behalf of the coach with a plan that would leave the team option in place for 2008-09 but would add a partial guarantee -- worth at least $2 million -- on that season's salary. Golden State officials are still mulling that offer, and while they show no urgency to accept it or make a counteroffer of their own, a hue and cry from Warriors season-ticket holders over Nelson's flight to the islands could force the team into action.

Sources in the Nelson camp have said for months that the emotional coach could easily decide to stay in Maui rather than return for another grueling NBA season at the age of 67. But one member of the Warriors organization said the coach unequivocally stated last month that he'd be back for the upcoming season.

If Nelson were to choose the hammock over the bench, the Warriors' options would be limited since training camp opens on Oct. 2. The obvious move would be to name current assistant Keith Smart -- whom Nelson anointed last season as a potential successor -- to the job.

There are some bigger names available. Jeff Van Gundy, fired by the Houston Rockets in May, is unemployed, but he would most likely require an outlay of $5 million or more. And he's never coached a team in the up-tempo style for which the Warriors' roster is constructed.

Larry Brown, a 2002 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and like Nelson one of only five coaches to win more than 1,000 NBA games, is not a legitimate option, according to a team source.

Other possibilities include veterans Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Fratello. An intriguing name would be Paul Silas, former coach of the Clippers, Cavaliers and, most importantly, the Hornets, where he developed a strong bond with Warriors star Baron Davis that remains intact to this day. Also, Silas' son, Stephen, is a current Warriors' assistant coach.

Staff writer Marcus Thompson contributed to this report. Contact Geoff Lepper at glepper@bayareanewsgroup.com