Walcoff: Golden State needs to think big, nasty

Don Nelson has been like a father to Chris Mullin, but when the Warriors make their picks in today’s NBA draft, somebody please remind the exec that when building a team, father rarely knows best.

Nellie is hard-wired to his reputation as the radical strategist, obsessed with quirky matchups emphasizing speed over size Unfortunately, running the opposition into submission doesn’t work in the playoffs, as evidenced by The Don’s 75-91 career postseason record.

Hopefully Mullin will sell Nelson on the idea of coaching a much-needed big nasty — and I don’t mean Rasheed Wallace, who may be on his way to Golden State along with Chauncey Billups for Baron Davis and Al Harrington, according to one report.

The Warriors, apparently playing lowball and hardball in contract negotiations with Davis, rightly fear their cocky captain will play out the final year of his contract and leave them for free agency next summer. Billups, aka “Mr. Big Shot,” doesn’t have Baron’s flash, but he is the consumate pro and a proven winner who has three years left on his contract. Wallace, however, is not only heading into the final year of his contract, he’s a human volcano more likely to mix it up with referees than opposing centers around the basket.

So, even if the deal goes down, the Warriors’ glaring weakness remains interior defense and nobody in the draft patrols the paint better than Robin Lopez. Stanford’s shot-blocking 7-footer has the body and the game to bang with the bevy of Western Conference power players who have owned the Warriors for years. Good fallback pick if Lopez isn’t available at No. 14: Georgetown center Roy Hibbert.

» The A’s continue to be overlooked in the national media and all too often, ignored by local baseball fans (attendance in Oakland is down for a fifth straight season, to anaverage of about 19,000 a game this year), but the no-name A’s are likely to be in the wild-card chase right to the end. Their pitching staff not only leads the majors with an earned run average hovering around 3.50, they play solid defense and rookie outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Gonzalez are two of the most talented young players in the game.

With Eric Chavez rounding into form following a host offseason surgeries and the return of Frank Thomas soon and Mike Sweeney later, the A’s could actually be finally filling the Coliseum come October. Meanwhile, time is running out for a number of veteran Giants. Omar Vizquel, Ray Durham and Rich Aurilia all have contracts that expire at the end of the season. The amazing Omar, even with a batting average hovering around his weight, is the only likely holdover for ’09.

» Suggested guest list for Don Imus’ next radio show: Wanda Sykes, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and freestylin’ Shaquille O’Neal. What, you can’t take a little sarcasm, Don?

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the “KGO Morning News.” He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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