Steinmetz: Should we still believe?

In less than three weeks, the Warriors will travel to Hawaii for the start of training camp.

For a team coming off its first playoff appearance in 13 years, the Warriors should be heading into the 2007-08 season with confidence and optimism. After all, how can that feel-good run from March into May not have a carryover effect into this year?

Problem is, that whole “We Believe” thing feels like a long, long time ago.

With 19 days remaining until they board their charter flight to Honolulu, the Warriors are without a coach. Yes, I know, Don Nelson is still technically that guy, but the fact that his contract situation is still unresolved is a troubling issue.

At the end of last season, Nelson said he would make a decision on whether or not he would return by July 1. Have you looked at a calendar lately? Both sides can downplay this impasse, but the fact of the matter is that things are now dicey.

If Nelson doesn’t return as the Warriors’ coach, it will be difficult for this team to build on last season. But even more problematic is that even if Nelson does come back, improving on last season will be a huge challenge.

The Warriors’ roster now boasts eight players with two years of experience or fewer. Regardless of who is coaching, good luck with that in the Western Conference.

Maybe the Warriors can win more than 42 games this season. Perhaps they can fine-tune the up-tempo style that worked so well for them and parlay that into more regular-season victories.

But can they win another first-round series and then trump ’06-’07 by getting over the hump in Round 2? Considering the roster has not been significantly improved and that Nelson might not even be coaching it, the answer to that question has to be: Doubtful.

As the Warriors were wrapping up last season by winning 16 of their last 21 games, then hurtling by Dallas in the opening round of the playoffs, it seemed logical to believe there would be a lot more postseason appearances.

But that was before a sobering summer, one where the Warriors traded their heart and soul — Jason Richardson — to Charlotte, failed to land Kevin Garnett and still haven’t resolved the coach business.

And by the way, the same old questions still remain. Can Baron Davis stay healthy? Who is going to defend and rebound up front? Do the Warriors have enough quality 3-point shooters? Can Monta Ellis play backup point guard, and if he can’t, who will?

The Warriors finally broke through last season, making the playoffs for the first time since 1994. They did it by withstanding injuries, relying heavily on chemistry and style and riding Davis at every opportunity down the stretch.

It turned into a special season … and, unfortunately, one that will likely be impossible to duplicate.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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