WITHIN THE WARRIORS' organization, the devil is in the details. And here are the details du jour:
Rookie Anthony Randolph, having fired his agent, is looking for another. He's been pretty coy about the move, telling us that B.J. Armstrong, the man he just canned, did a "great" job and is a whale of a nice fellow.
That last part we knew. When the first Don Nelson fun run here went apocalyptic 14 years ago, Armstrong was the first new face brought in in an attempt to change the culture — as much for his gentlemanly demeanor as for his mad skills.
Apparently he remains a gentleman. He advised Randolph to be patient as all rookies should, work hard in practice and wait for whatever game time Nelson saw fit to dole out.
Randolph, who hasn't earned on merit the minutes he is seeking, is looking for a second opinion.
Nelson? It wouldn't kill him to show Randolph a little more love. The Warriors are 15-34 and going nowhere. But Nelson is tired of the subject. He has told the media, "Let me coach my team." It's difficult to imagine a new agent making any headway against that mind-set.
That's some certifiable drama right there. If you're trying to handicap a winner, good luck. There wasn't one the last time this kind of thing happened, when Nelson was coach and Chris Webber the rookie.
But the loser is pretty obvious. That would be the Warriors brand.
From the outside looking in, details don't matter as much as the general perception. And the general perception from a distance is that of a mushroom cloud where a happy Fizzies party was raging last year at this time.
Nellie Ball was in full swing then. The Warriors were winning big and scoring tons. Baron Davis was blowing kisses to the crowd. Monta Ellis was brilliantly ascendant. Who didn't want some of that?
Now the Warriors are back where Nelson found them little more than two years ago — most of them at the corner of Dys and Function, waiting for the next bus out of town.
Remember how it was? Forget luring an impact free agent to Oakland. Sure, the Warriors could trade for pieces to the puzzle, but those pieces weren't always glad to be here (think Rony Seikaly complaining bitterly about having to play facing the basket, or Mookie Blaylock blowing off practice to go golfing).
Pity the coaches who walked into that room. Pick and roll, you say? How about if I just jack up a 25-footer and call it good.
Roles were poorly defined. Leaders were nonexistent. As they like to say in Hollywood, where a remake of "The Karate Kid" is in the works: "Everything old is new again."
So it is with the Warriors, and that's the real pity here. More than whom Randolph picks as his new agent, or whether that guy can achieve a meeting of the minds with Nelson. More than how many games the Warriors win or how many T-shirts they sell between now and the end of the season.
There may be a story behind every log that's been tossed onto this fire — Davis opting out, Al Harrington forcing a trade, the whole Ellis debacle, the backlogging of bad contracts, Chris Mullin being trivialized, the Randolph-Nelson contretemps.
And you could present those stories in full and complete context to people on the outside looking in, but they won't hear a word you say. They'll be too busy staring at the roaring flames and thinking, "Note to self: Avoid that place if at all possible."
As quickly as they reignited under Nelson, the Warriors have flamed out just as dramatically.
As for a way out of this mess, wow, you can't see it from here. Not with the rudderless front office, or the imbalanced roster ("What is he? Let's see, he's athletic, he can shoot a little. Let's call him a 3."), or the suffocating contracts of Ellis, Corey Maggette, Jamal Crawford and Stephen Jackson.
Maybe there's a winner here after all: B.J. Armstrong. He's put the smoking ruin of the Warriors in his rearview mirror — twice.
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.