Basketball behind him, Nelson invests in Hawaii

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Basketball behind him, Nelson invests in Hawaii

OAKLAND -- Don Nelson never knew just how much he would love retirement. In the Maui plantation town of Paia, he is far from the pressures of the fast-paced NBA lifestyle in which he thrived for more than three decades to become the game's all-time winningest coach.

These days, he's Nellie, the entrepreneur. From his new shaved ice stand, to coffee plants and koa trees, to all his rental properties and a wedding venue in the works right off the beach, the 72-year-old Nelson is about as far removed from his old basketball life as he could be.

Except for the fact he is a Hall of Famer at last, set to be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass. After years of being left off the list, Nelson was surprised it finally happened considering he never won that coveted NBA championship during 31 years on the bench with the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks.

NEWS: Don Nelson voted to Basketball Hall of Fame

It never bothered him much. He's in a relaxed, Hawaii state of mind.

Nelson also farms flowers - he gives them away because ''there's not much money in flowers'' - and will make olive oil from his olive trees. He's even dabbling in dog food.

''It's treating me well. I'm a lucky man,'' he said of island life. ''I found out that there's life after basketball, which is very exciting. I really haven't missed it that much, but I've been very busy, so that's probably part of the reason.''

''I invested my fortune on Maui,'' he added with a smile. ''Those are the fun things I'm doing.''

He plays poker at least three times a week with his close-knit group of friends and has become a decent golfer. Those are the guys he called when he got word he was headed to the Hall.

''I always kind of felt I was undeserving of getting there,'' he said. ''I still feel unworthy, really. Somebody voted for me, I guess. ... I didn't have a feeling of what it would be. It's really nice. It's a pinnacle of everybody's career.''

Nellie always did things his way, and it hardly mattered who objected to his coaching techniques. He ranks No. 1 on the NBA wins list because of it. From his all-guard, up-tempo ''Nellie Ball'' lineups to his feuds with fiery Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and even publicly calling for struggling Warriors center Andris Biedrins to shoot underhanded, ''granny style'' free throws, Nelson had a distinct way of coaching that made him one of the greatest of all time.

''I've had one of those very special lives, really, I've been in the NBA since I was 22,'' he said. ''So it's almost 50 years of my life I've been in the NBA. ... You have a lot of ups and downs in coaching, especially, but I can't remember any bad times at this point. I mean, they're all good. A lot of tears when you lose, a lot of down times, but I can't remember any of them. They're all positive now. Even the bad times were good. One of those storybook lives, really.''

Nelson said he didn't intend to define himself by playing small ball - ''If I'd have had good big players, I'd have played big ball.''

As he looks back over all the players he coached, those days with Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash are among the best.

But Nelson learned more about himself while coaching Sarunas Marciulionis during the guard's early days with the Warriors in the late 1980s and early 90s. It got to the point Nelson noticed his behavior on film and asked himself ''Who is that maniac on the sidelines? It was me.''

He changed his ways in a hurry. It wasn't so hard after he watched what he was doing to the young men whose lives he took pride in shaping on the court each day.

''I was verbally abusive to my players on the floor too much,'' he said. ''I tried to change that and be more like Lenny Wilkens.''

He had a lot more fun after that. And won a lot, too.

''How did I last so long? I got hired,'' Nelson said.

During his first job with the Bucks, Nelson had a chance to become the head coach in Boston but turned down the late Red Auerbach because of his loyalty to Milwaukee owner Jim Fitzgerald.

''Part of it was my own doing,'' Nelson said. ''As a career move, that would have been ... because they won how many championships after that? So I stayed and coached and whatever my life was after that, but it was (devoid) of championships. The other part, I really enjoyed taking over bad teams and making good ones out of them. That was building something that wasn't very attractive and making it attractive.''

New Warriors owner Joe Lacob parted ways with Nelson right before training camp ahead of the 2010-11 season, opting to pay Nelson 6 million to take his NBA-best 1,335 victories out of the gym and to the white sand beaches of his Hawaiian home. So much for Nellie spending another year with the organization volunteering his time.

''I would have. I got fired,'' he said. ''Instead of me giving them a year, they gave me one.''

Nelson led the Warriors to their last two playoff appearances - in 1994, then a surprising run to the second round in 2007 during his second stint with the franchise.

Guiding that '07 ''We Believe'' team, as it became known, with Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson leading the charge, is among Nelson's career highlights - even if the team didn't stay together long afterward.

''It's up there. I don't know how I can rank things,'' he said. ''That's one of the highlights, for sure.''

Nelson now subscribes to the NBA package and still watches the Warriors, Timberwolves and Mavericks with interest. Just no longer with a coach's eye.

Life has changed for Nelson, big time.

''Totally different. That's the beauty of it,'' he said. ''The local people really couldn't care less who you are. They don't seek autographs or anything like that, tourists occasionally.''

And, this time, he isn't planning any kind of coaching comeback. He means it.

''I'd say I'm retired,'' Nelson said. ''I'm done, I'm cooked. It's over.''

Steph Curry keeps game ball for Steve Kerr after he misses Game 3

Steph Curry keeps game ball for Steve Kerr after he misses Game 3

While head coach Steve Kerr was unable to make Saturday's Game 3 due to an illness, the Warriors went out and took a 3-0 series lead over the Blazers. 

After the game, Steph Curry dedicated the win to Kerr by keeping the game ball for him. 

"Our coach is going through a lot right now physically and he told us this morning this is a situation where we need to rally and go out and win a game for him, but we felt like that," Curry said after the Warriors' 119-113 win. "The way that game had gone on we had to fight and do it for him. 

"The way that he said it was we had to win one for The Gipper, so shout out to coach Kerr." 

Curry led the Warriors with 34 points in Saturday's win. 

Instant Replay: Warriors battle Blazers, take commanding 3-0 series lead

Instant Replay: Warriors battle Blazers, take commanding 3-0 series lead

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND -- Head coach Steve Kerr didn’t show and All-Star forward Kevin Durant didn’t play.

Neither did Shaun Livingston or Matt Barnes.

No matter. Trailing by as much as 17 before a surging Trail Blazers team and a thunderous sellout crowd at Moda Center, the Warriors found their way to a 119-113 victory in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Saturday night.

The Warriors can close out the series with a win in Game 4 here on Monday night.

With assistant coach Mike Brown serving as acting head coach in the absence of an ill Kerr, five Warriors scored in double figures, led by Stephen Curry’s 34 points. Klay Thompson put in 24, Andre Iguodala 16, JaVale McGee 14 and Pat McCaw 11.

The Warriors overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit and a 52-42 rebounding disadvantage with a single, searing stretch of defense in the third quarter, when they limited Portland to 30.4-percent shooting.

Guards CJ McCollum, who totaled 32 points, and Damian Lillard, who posted 31, led the Trail Blazers.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

As crucial to the comeback as was the offensive reemergence of Curry and Thompson, nobody did more good things over different portions of the game than did McGee.

McGee’s line: 14 points (6-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-2 from the line), four rebounds and one steal. He played 16 minutes and finished a game-high plus-24.

TURNING POINT

Trailing 82-66 after a Lillard finger roll with 6:20 left in the third quarter, the Warriors rumbled back with a 19-1 run, taking an 85-83 lead when McGee slammed through a lob with 2:01 left in the quarter.

The Warriors during that stretch held Portland to 0-of-8 shooting, with three turnovers.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F Matt Barnes (R foot/ankle bone bruise), F Kevin Durant (L calf strain) and G Shaun Livingston (R index finger sprain and hand contusion) were listed as questionable and downgraded to out. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) is listed as out.

Blazers: G Allen Crabbe (L foot soreness) and G CJ McCollum (R ankle sprain) were listed as probable and upgraded to available. C Jusuf Nurkic (L leg fracture) was listed as doubtful and upgraded to available. C Ed Davis (L shoulder surgery) and C Festus Ezeli (L knee surgery) were listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The teams reconvene Monday night at Moda Center for Game 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.