Warriors coach Don Nelson said he's still a little weak. He also sounds a bit congested, gets dizzy when he stands up too fast and is digesting so much medicine that he feels "like a pill factory."

But come tonight's game against the visiting Houston Rockets, he said he's going to be on the bench after a five-game absence.

"They want me to take it easy," Nelson said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "But I'm fine. I'm ready to go."

Nelson has been away from the team since the home upset of the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 20. Two days later, he skipped practice because he was ill. On Nov. 23, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and was prescribed a week of rest.

Nelson said he was trapped in his apartment the entire time, which no doubt was irritating since he was "looking forward to the Dallas-San Antonio trip all year."

Monday was Nelson's scheduled date to return to action. But the Warriors were starting a grueling back-to-back set, which ended with Tuesday's blowout loss at Denver, and the team doctors preferred Nelson ease back into action.

Nelson said he will have to be careful not to jump off the bench too quickly (that whole dizziness thing), and he may lack in energy some. But other than that, he said he's ready to go.

Golden State had Wednesday off, but Nelson was at the practice facility in Oakland for a meeting of the coaching staff.

The Warriors went 2-3 — posting wins at Dallas and against Indiana — while assistant coach Keith Smart served as head coach.

Smart said Nelson was in constant communication with him, offering critiques and advice.

"He did a great job," Nelson said of Smart. "I've been saying all year we coach as a unit, not just me or Keith or anyone else."

Under Smart, the Warriors continued the competitive play they displayed immediately after the trade of swingman Stephen Jackson to the Charlotte Bobcats. They shared the ball, scrapped on defense and picked up the tempo — a trend that began in losses at Cleveland and Boston when Nelson was still on the bench.

"It was the same, pretty much," guard Anthony Morrow said. "Same fast style. Under Nellie, I expect for everybody to keep playing hard like we've been playing."

While Nelson was out, guard Monta Ellis emerged as an All-Star candidate. Actually, it began in Nelson's last game, when Ellis had 37 points and eight assists while defending Portland's All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy.

In the five games Nelson missed, Ellis averaged 31.7 points on 52.7 percent shooting in 39.8 minutes. He tied his NBA high with 42 points at San Antonio, then broke it with 45 against the Pacers.

Nelson, who recently admitted his relationship with Ellis has been rocky, said he was impressed with his guard's play. But, watching from his apartment, assuredly downing antibiotics and decongestants, he saw the same thing everyone else did.

"Ooooh man," Nelson said of Ellis. "We've just got to get him a little help."

  • today: vs. Rockets, 7:30 p.m. TV: CSNBA. Radio: 680-AM