SAN FRANCISCO – Warriors CEO Joe Lacob reminded us Monday afternoon that he’s not one to equivocate or conceal emotions. He wants the franchise to be all gas, 24-7, in basketball and beyond. And this infinite ambition is felt in every nook, cranny and crease at Chase Center.
He is delighted, of course, to see the Warriors making their sixth trip to the NBA Finals in eight seasons, all under the guidance of team president Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr.
“I always thought we had a chance to get here,” Lacob said Monday afternoon, sitting at the podium in the interview room. “But you never really know.”
Lacob surely did not – particularly as the team was steering through so many twists and turns and hazards and roadblocks on the path to The Finals.
When the Warriors sprinted out to an 18-2 record through the first 20 games and were 29-7 in the first week of January, Lacob’s heart was warm, and his mind was light. Sitting atop the NBA so deep into the season inspired visions of another championship.
The team was exceeding reasonable expectations. “Reasonable” can be, regarding Lacob, a relative term.
And then, suddenly, the Warriors were mediocre. From Jan. 5 through the Feb. 17-23 All-Star break, they were 13-9. In the first 20 games out of the break and into April, they were 8-12. And Joe was probing general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr on personnel, strategy and rotations.
Golden State Warriors
Lacob’s heart had cooled, and his mind had darkened. He concedes as much.
“I’m very fortunate; we’re very fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of continuity because our coach and GM have been here a long time. Bob, 10 years. Steve is eight years. So, I have a lot of trust in those guys.
“Even though, of course, like anybody, a fan, you always question what’s going on on the floor, whether we should do this or do that.”
“Truth is, I trust them a lot. They’ve done an incredible job. They’ve seen everything, and the record speaks for itself.”
Which is to say, Lacob’s trust is not utter. It’s conditional, which by its nature means Myers and Kerr – even after their accomplishments – still operate under the pressure of always trying to get it right.
Myers and Kerr got a lot right this season. The Warriors made it through a spate of injuries that limited core members Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to a total of 11 minutes together and appear to be peaking when the games matter most. They’re 12-4 this postseason.
Of consequence is that Curry, Green and Thompson have played all 16 games alongside Andrew Wiggins.
“We kind of had our sights set on this team,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday. “It’s not ideal because of [Andre Iguodala’s] injury, and both Otto [Porter Jr.] and Gary [Payton II] going out. But what we really wanted to see was Steph and Klay and Wiggs and Draymond together. That changes Wiggs’ role quite a bit.”
Which makes it easier for Myers and Kerr – and Lacob – to move past those woeful performances to cause their share of sleepless nights.
Losses on back-to-back nights at Dallas and New Orleans. Losing at home to a Indiana Pacers team missing four starters. Losing at home to the New York Knicks. Losing to the LA Clippers, who were without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. A 1-4 road trip, with losses to the abysmal Orlando Magic and the sub-ordinary Washington Wizards.
These are the kinds of losses the team with the league’s loftiest payroll – totaling roughly $350 million – have no business eating, especially when the CEO responsible for the payroll keeps his eyes on the stratosphere.
Now that the Warriors will be playing in June, against none other than the Boston Celtics, which once had Lacob among its minority partners, his heart is warm and his mind is light.
“We’ve got a great team, from our coaching to our trainers to, obviously, our players, to get us here,” Lacob said. “Our basketball operations, I also think incredibly highly of.
“Look, I’m an optimist. We set the roster in advance. We think we have a pretty good team; we thought we did this year. And I thought we’d be really good. Did I know we would be where we are today? No. I certainly thought we could make the Western Conference finals, with our level of talent. Whether we can make The Finals, a lot of things have to happen right.”
I asked Kerr if by reaching The Finals the Warriors have done enough to qualify as successful.
Predictably, he wouldn’t touch the question. He said he’d leave it to others to make such a judgment.
This has been, by any reasonable measure, a successful season for the Warriors. No doubt they want to be the last team standing, but simply making it to the ultimate series is a win. I suspect even Lacob might agree.