- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

OAKLAND, CALIF. (AP) - Coach Don Nelson will allow Jamal Crawford to play for the Golden State Warriors again. Now it’s Crawford who says he’s not ready for the next chapter of this wacky relationship.

Crawford missed his third straight game Friday after asking for a little practice time before he returns from two straight benchings earlier this week.

Nelson sat the healthy veteran guard for games against the Clippers and the Lakers as part of the coach’s unorthodox plan to give more playing time to his youngsters _ and perhaps also to nudge Crawford out of town before next season. Nelson wanted Crawford back for Friday night’s game against Philadelphia, but Crawford said he didn’t think he was ready to jump back into action.

Crawford and Nelson claim they’re still on civil terms, and they frequently speak to each other at practices and games _ yet Nelson’s words and actions certainly suggest he’s trying to run Crawford out of Oakland.

Last week, Nelson said he told Crawford it would be a good idea to opt out of the two years left on his contract this summer because Nelson couldn’t see Crawford starting for the Warriors next season. Crawford is due to make nearly $20 million over the next two years, which Nelson feels is too much to pay for a backup behind Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson, who both have lucrative long-term deals.

Crawford, who says he won’t decide until after the season, is averaging 19.0 points and 4.4 assists for the Warriors, who acquired him from New York early in the season. He has barely complained about his fate after arriving in a trade for Al Harrington, staying upbeat about the Warriors whether he’s playing 60 minutes in a triple-overtime game against Sacramento or sitting on the sidelines in a sport coat.

But Nelson’s unusual plan to arbitrarily rest Crawford, Jackson and other veterans has drawn criticism from Crawford’s agent, among others. Nelson sat Crawford for a game against Charlotte on Feb. 27 before his two benchings earlier this week, while Jackson sat out against Utah earlier this month.

Nelson, who won his 1,300th career game last month against Oklahoma City, appeared to turn over most of the head coaching duties Friday night to assistant coach Keith Smart, who gave directions from the sideline and led team huddles while Nelson watched from a nearby chair. Earlier this season, Nelson designated Smart as the de facto defensive coordinator for the NBA’s worst defensive team.

Golden State also faced the Sixers without injured big men Andris Biedrins, who has a sprained left ankle; promising rookie Anthony Randolph, who strained his groin in Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers; and Jermareo Davidson.

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