X-Factor: Don Nelson
By Rob Peterson
Ronald Martinez/Getty/NBAE Images
What Will Nellie Do?

If you think Vince Carter returning to Toronto didn't have enough juicy subplots and sidebars, then Don Nelson and the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors facing the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks and Avery Johnson should satiate your need for a series featuring many subtle shades and sumptuous subtexts.

For instance, Don Nelson returned to coaching this year after stepping away from the Mavericks 64 games into the 2004-05 season. The man who replaced Nelson? Johnson.

Who coached the Warriors when the storied franchise last made the playoffs in 1994? Nelson. Who was Nellie's starting point guard on that team? Johnson.

Did we mention Nelson's son, Donn (we think the second N is silent), is the President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Mavericks?

Finally, who was the only team the 67-15 Mavs didn't beat this season? The Warriors, who took all three games, including the April 17 game where Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse all had DNPs.

And speaking of the prior eight teams in NBA history who have won 67 or more games in a season only one -- the 1973 Celtics who went 68-14, for whom Nelson averaged 10.8 points per game -- has failed to caress the championship trophy. (Celtics fans will be quick to tell you about how John Havlicek's shoulder injury ruined a sure trip to The Finals, but I digress.) Meanwhile, because of the No. 1 seed and the gaudy regular season record, the pressure falls squarely on the top-seeded Mavs. We guarantee Nellie will look to exploit it. But how? Will it be going small? Giving Stephen Jackson some minutes at the point? Running like the wind? If anyone knows the Mavs' tendencies, it should be Nelson. If anyone knows how to mix it up, throw caution into the wind and thumb his nose at convention, it's Nelson.

The Warriors, with their mix of talent, but propensity for inconsistency (mostly because of injury), makes them a wild card and it will be interesting to see how Nellie plays that card.

X-Factors: ACB LBJ | Battier | VC | Harris | Horry | Nellie | Nene | Odom

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