OAKLAND — Just because the Warriors have initiated a youth movement, it doesn't mean the young players get to run amuck.
That was Warriors coach Don Nelson's explanation for the relatively small dosage of minutes he doled out to guards Marco Belinelli and Anthony Morrow, and forward Anthony Randolph. Nelson said they weren't performing up to par, so they didn't get the minutes many expected considering he gave guard Jamal Crawford the night off.
Belinelli saw just four more minutes in Friday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats than he did at the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday when Crawford was still in the lineup. Morrow and Randolph played more against the Clippers than they did against the Bobcats.
"They have to perform as well, and I didn't think they played as well as they could play," Nelson said. "That's part of the deal that they have to come through. ... They have to play well, play hard, follow the game plan."
Crawford is expecting to be back in the lineup tonight against the Utah Jazz. But the youngsters will get another chance as swingman Stephen Jackson gets his turn at sitting out. Nelson said swingman Kelenna Azubuike will start at small forward (he had been starting at power forward) and Randolph will get the nod at power forward.
"He'll be into it," Crawford said of Jackson. "Jack is a fan of the game. He loves to basketball. He'll be coaching a little bit more than I was. I was getting information from coaches, seeing what they see. I think he'll actually be coaching."
Just because the path is cleared for the younger players to get more action, they aren't guaranteed minutes, not if they play as they did on Friday. For instance, Nelson said Morrow didn't defend his man as aggressively as he would've liked and therefore didn't get to play as much.
It seems unlikely that Nelson will give all of the younger players increased minutes at the same time. It's more likely that one, maybe two players will get a significant look while a veteran sits. Friday, that player was guard C.J. Watson.
Nelson said he got a good look at Watson, who played 44 minutes. Nelson said Watson had already solidified himself as a solid backup, but he wanted to see how Watson handled starting and playing big minutes. Watson now has 13 starts and 12 games with at least 35 minutes.
With Jackson out tonight, Nelson will get to see Randolph play some small forward. Since Azubuike is starting, forward Corey Maggette will be the only other small forward on the bench, and he spends many of his minutes at power forward in the small-ball lineup. So Nelson said he would give Randolph a chance to play small forward, the position he envisions Randolph playing down the road.
Nelson had said center Andris Biedrins will get the day off Friday in Detroit, which could mean a look at center Jamareo Davidson.
Nelson said he isn't sitting the veterans just to give the youngsters a shot, but he's also trying to help the veterans. He said it's better for their numbers to just sit them out a game than to lower their averages by playing them minimally.
"(Them playing) 25-30 minutes isn't a problem," Nelson said. "It's 15 that's a problem. It's way better for Crawford to miss a game than to play 15 minutes because I'm going to play three guys at the same position. He understands that. Most players would agree that it's much better the way that I'm doing it."
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