Still a long way to go

The Warriors are only five games in, but already a few things are apparent.

First and foremost, Don Nelson is unlike any Warriors coach since — well, Don Nelson. Very few coaches — at any level and in any sport — speak with the bluntness and straightforwardness of Nelson.

In an era when most coaches feel the need to keep everything in-house and are reluctant to single out players’ shortcomings, Nelson is just the opposite. If you played well, he’ll say it; and if you stunk, he’ll say that, too.

A few other observations:

» Even though he is just two years removed from high school, Monta Ellis is going to be a crunch-time staple. Yes, Ellis is prone to the untimely turnover and isn’t the best decision-maker, but his fearlessness and ability to make plays set him apart from some teammates. Nelson has made it clear that he’ll live with the miscues as long as Ellis stays aggressive.

Ellis did commit a costly turnover against Dallas on Monday with just over a minute remaining, but he also was the Warriors’ leading fourth-quarter scorer and best player down the stretch that night.

» Andris Biedrins is becoming more intriguing. Under Nelson, a coach who utilizes unconventional players as well as anyone, Biedrins’ worth on the Warriors is growing.

Biedrins rarely turns the ball over, can actually run down long rebounds from the paint and his Fred Biletnikoff hands have become Baron Davis’ favorite target. Nelson’s biggest challenge when it comes to Biedrins is trying to refrain from over-praising.

» The Warriors are going to be inconsistent for a while. A lot of Nelson’s offensive system centers on subtle things such as timing, spacing and instinct. It is unrealistic to believe those things can be picked up in a short period of time. It’s challenging enough for the Warriors’ veterans, let alone professional novices such as Ellis, Biedrins, Ike Diogu and Patrick O’Bryant.

So get used to some games where the Warriors get their “teeth kicked in” (Nelson’s words) and other games when they show they can compete against the likes of a Western Conference powerhouse such as Dallas.

» The foul-shooting issue isn’t going away. By now, most fans know the Warriors struggle at the line. But it’s not just the lost points that hurt, it’s the effect those misses have on the psyche of the team.

Of course, you can’t blame the Warriors’ 106-82 loss at Utah on Saturday on free-throw shooting. But then again, you have to acknowledge that starting out the game 1-for-9 from the line deflated them and set the stage for such a rout.

Conversely, it’s more than coincidence that on a night when the Warriors went 25-for-31 (80.6 percent) from the foul line, they played their best game of the season in a victory over the Mavericks.

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

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