Don Nelson realized while out with pneumonia that he still wants to coach in the NBA for a while, even if his critics think it's about time he stepped aside.
Nelson isn't nearly himself yet, still feeling the effects of the pneumonia that kept him under quarantine and away from his team for a week and a half. Nelson hasn't decided whether he'll go on the team's upcoming five-game trip, saying he will see how he feels after the next two home games.
"I'm very competitive and not to have anything to compete, other than watch games, I couldn't do anything else to compete at anything _ tiddlywinks and watching film. It wasn't easy," Nelson said Thursday, back with his team. "I had to stay in my place. I didn't get out for a week. I was very bored. Watched a lot of games, watched a lot of film and passed my time that way, and slept a lot. I've always been a pretty active person, so that's probably the hardest thing. It's like being in jail."
The 69-year-old Nelson is low on energy and broke into a sweat during a media session after leading Golden State through a shootaround Thursday, some eight hours before he was to return to the bench for a home game against the Houston Rockets.
Nelson said doctors told him it will take a long time for him to regain his strength. He took a 2-hour nap Thursday afternoon before the game.
"I have to be smart about it," he said. "I've never been 69 before, but I am. I've never been through anything like this. I just don't want to be silly or stupid."
Nelson, the second-winningest coach in NBA history, knows there was talk during his absence about whether he might be better off calling it a career.
"It is what it is. I think any time you're in a situation where the team isn't winning consistently, everybody's going to be a target of those kinds of rumors and accusations," he said. "But that's just part of the territory. I'm dealing with it the best that I can. ...
"I feel good, much better. I'm not quite over the pneumonia yet but enough that I think I can come back and coach and be effective."
Top assistant Keith Smart coached five games while Nelson was ill and the Warriors (6-11) went 2-3, including a 111-103 victory at Dallas on Nov. 24 with only six players.
Nelson called the game at Dallas "just super."
"They're playing hard and together and I don't think we can ask for anything more," Nelson said.
It's been a tumultuous start to the season for Golden State to say the least.
Disgruntled swingman Stephen Jackson demanded a trade in August and was finally dealt to Charlotte in mid-November. Star guard Monta Ellis got into a verbal spat with Nelson after a practice last month in New York, something that started when Ellis called the coach over to the bench and asked, "Coach, why do I get blamed for everything?"
Now, the team seems to have moved forward from last month's distractions.
Nelson, a regular cigar smoker, knows he needs to take care of himself to regain his strength. Any doctor's orders?
"Just to be careful and make sure I get my rest," he said. "People who have had this, it takes a while to get your energy back. I'm not trying to do too much. I have a great staff that does most of the work anyway. Just to be around is kind of a reward for me."
Nelson's players didn't seem to notice if he was feeling weak. Nelson arrived Thursday with some new "wrinkles" to several plays.
"Coach seems fine," rookie guard Stephen Curry said. "This practice felt like he didn't even miss a beat. Coming in, I know he's been thinking about some stuff he wanted to put in and went straight to business right when he came on the court. It looks like he's focused and healthy."
Nelson said in September he plans to fulfill the remaining two years on his contract and work one more year for the organization in some capacity for free. Yet it's unclear now whether Nelson's health will allow that.
Nelson is in the fourth season of his second stint coaching Golden State, whose playoff run in 2007 is the franchise's lone postseason trip since Nelson took the Warriors to the playoffs in 1994.
General manager Larry Riley is confident Nelson can still handle the demands and stress of the job.
"He'll be fine," Riley said. "He's in pretty good shape."
Ellis wasn't at the shootaround after coming down with a stomach bug on the way to Oracle Arena, Nelson said, but he was expected to play.
Ellis has shined since Jackson's departure. Ellis had two 40-point games while Nelson was gone and also a 37-point performance in the win at Dallas.
In addition Thursday, guard Raja Bell _ who came to the Warriors in the Jackson swap _ underwent surgery on his left wrist in Charlotte to repair ligament damage. He will have his wrist immobilized for six weeks and is expected to miss at least three months.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.