Otherwise known as an "Exclusive Evening with the Warriors"
So.....this evening I had the pleasure to attend another GSW event where Season Ticket Holder’s (STH’s) both new, former and yet renewed had the opportunity to interact with Robert Rowell (RR) and Larry Riley (LR) along with more season ticket reps than you could shake a stick at! ;)
The event was held at the Sonnen BMW showroom in San Rafael, just down the road from the famous prison and one might question whether Robert and Larry were going to get locked up by the fans or manage a great escape!
Well first and foremost this was a very polished affair with drinks and canapés and clearly aimed at the Marin target audience, quite different from the STH meeting I went to at the end of last season. There was an air of scepticism from other fans I spoke to as to what actual content we would get, in light of the format, but it would be interesting none the less.
We had Bob Fitzgerald (Fitz) hosting the questions to RR and LR and the moment I arrived I realised this was not quite what I was hoping for, however I later got the one on one time with RR and LR separately which I will come to later. Some of the Warrior girls were there and also Jim Barnett turned up to listen to the discussions and in all, maybe around 50-60 fans/STH’s total at the event, along with some invitees from the dealership.
The idea of this event, was that people could submit questions on paper and Fitz would ask the questions and the guys would answer in turn. Obviously this left a little room for “pre-screening/selection” so I chose to keep my questions till the end to discuss in person.
After some socialising, drinks, nibbles etc the event main started... before I go into that though I have to say... maybe the Warriors could switch corporate sponsors to BMW as I have always found the “Power to Surprise” a contradiction in terms when discussing a KIA....as I don’t feel I have ever been surprised by a KIA or found their engines to have much in the way of power...but that’s OT...
Once the usual PR..."Everything’s great" pitches were done, and this obviously involved speeches by both LR and RR on how exciting the coming season would be, etc, etc, etc. The questions began. I have condensed some of the answers a little to make for easier reading and not put forward my own opinions on certain comments to allow you to form your own conclusions...
*Fitz began with a question requested about the team and how they felt the 2009/2010 season was looking?
RR- Basically stated that he was excited by the coming season but very quickly mentioned Anthony Randolph who with Curry and Morrow, will provide some very entertaining play for the coming year. He made a point of highlighting the major change in bringing in LR as General Manager, but that he now feels the organisation from a front office perspective, is in the best shape it has been for 15 years!
LR – Having come into the organization, he mentioned how he likes what he sees with the roster, where only one guy is a true rookie (Curry) but that Randolph and Morrow showed superb performances in the Summer League and while this may not give the true picture in the NBA, their development over the summer has been exactly in line with what they had hoped for. He clearly considers Magette and Jackson the Vets, along with Devean George, who they expect to be healthy from the knee problem at season start. It is clear the vets are viewed as key in developing the youngsters further. However he also described that having effectively 5 potential Point Guards on the roster offers some challenges and opportunities to add rotation depending on the game at hand. This combination will include the VETS and judging by how he was saying it... I personally suspect this is where we will see Nellie taking each game on a game by game basis in terms of his line up.... i.e. score 45 points in a game, does not mean you will play the following game, so no change there!!.... The thing LR seemed most happy with was the fact that all players will start training camp fully healthy!
*The next question asked whether the organisation would prefer an all star trade or whether it is content to run with the existing team?
LR – Firstly stated Jim Barnett was not for trade... (Sigh of relief there huh?) It was actually good as it shows LR has a sense of humour and tonight I was fortunate enough to see a side of his personality that I have yet to see from the press briefings etc to date. However the next part was very interesting and was quite compact, where he described how he and the office was very content with what they had currently, however and here was the flag for me, an “All-star” type of trade is still an opportunity, providing the right deal comes along and to date, the office does not feel the right deal has come along at all, where the Warriors feel they are getting fair return for any proposals made to date. Yes he is keen to pursue opportunities, but only if the Warriors do not have to give up too much in the way of their current/future talent. Further point was made as to how truly young this team is and if the players keep developing they will be a mix of potential All-stars and very good NBA players in the near future.
*The next question from Fitz to RR was with regards to an ideal franchise that the Warriors would like to be seen as.
RR – He personally admires the Detroit Pistons and how they run their operation with a professional manner along with the history of their home venue. He feels the Pistons do business the right way when they deal with their players, which he then linked into the Jackson issue... he said...”yes yes I know we have to cover it, Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, but I feel the way Detroit deals with their players is exactly how we have tried to deal with ours and inthis instance how we have dealt with Jackson to date”... to that end he feels that Jackson handles himself off court the way he does on court and that is, he “yaps” a bit too much and screws up and may say or do things he later regrets, but that is part and parcel of what makes Jackson, Stephen Jackson. He felt they have dealt with him professionally, feel disappointed at his comments but it is what it is and they have to now deal with it and move on. The organisation has had contact with him and they expect him to be at training camp. More was then to follow later on Jackson...
*The next question was with regards to GSW not having a proven “Big Man” and this went to LR.
LR – Was quick to point out that not all championship teams need a proven big man, however if he could get one, he would do so in a heartbeat. He used the example that if you have 15th best centre in the league, you are probably better going “smaller” for a better player. He mentioned that some may feel Biedrins is not good enough, however he states that he fits Nellie’s system very well and expects a very interesting partnership to potentially develop between Biedrins and Curry as the season goes on. However, he made it very clear that if he had the opportunity to get a top 5 or 6 centre in the league...he would do so.
*The next question was – Can Monta Ellis play PG and on court with Curry?
LR – Believes Ellis and Curry can and will play on court together at some point this year. It was clear however by this statement that he did not see them starting together and he was not sure how soon we would potentially see those two on court together. It was clear that he holds Curry in high regard and feels they were extremely fortunate to get him in the draft. Based on what he was saying though, unless Curry suddenly outshines Ellis in training camp or Ellis gets traded (possible if you carry on reading) then it seems unlikely Curry will start!
*There was a question posed with regards to how players deal with travel schedules and deal with the mental side of the game and RR indicated that the travel schedule can be tough at times and often players may not be in bed when they should be, but they are grown adults and make their own decisions.
*The next question covered “Defence and Rebounding” and what we were going to do about it?
Fitz started off by stating that ultimately points allowed are irrelevant, providing you score more points than the other team. However the Warriors lost far too many rebounds to have a chance to score more points than the other team on many occasions so what will be done about this?
LR- then gave his thoughts and advised that as far as the coaching staff is concerned, Defence and Rebounding is the biggest area for improvement for the team and the upcoming training camp is going to focus on this. I presume this is why the likes of Moore and George have been brought in, to help in practice to get that defensive mindset to some of the younger players. LR went on to say that with the team fully healthy, they will be more alert, sharper and more able to react on D better than worrying about that “niggling” injury. He also mentioned that several vets were a little low in moral last year, but all seem more focused this year and the hunger of the younger players seems to be encouraging the vets more this year.
*The question then reverted back to Stephen Jackson and will he be traded?
LR – took this on and reiterated that if the right deal came along yes of course he could be traded, however just after Jackson made his public comment, LR had contacts from many different organisations all of which wanted to offer poor trade options for Jackson who the Warriors feel has a certain value that no one was prepared to come near in terms of comparable value. He went on to state that the starting 5 was not set and in effect everyone was potentially available “IF” the right trade came along but considering the high regard the organisation has for some of these players, the trade needs to be right! He went on to say that he expects Jackson to report for duty for training camp, ready to play and yet he also expects Jackson to take some flak for his comments at the same time, but he is not marked for a trade per say.
*There was then a question with regards to Nellie and his mindset.
LR – stated that he (Nellie) was cautiously optimistic but more focused than they have seen him for a long time and he is genuinely excited by the potential of the youngsters. LR went on to state that if the team could hang to the 500 mark by February, the team has a real chance of making the playoffs, as this is when Nellie seems to come alive when coaching against other teams at critical times.
*Someone had then asked a question which Fitz read out: “Could Adonal Foyle become a member of the Warriors staffing?” which I have to say I thought was pretty random, but LR saw no reason why he couldn’t be a member of staff one day, but that Adonal seemed to be focused on trying to play for now.
*Fitz then went on to give a brief pep talk on how much he loves coming to work at Oracle Arena and the atmosphere that is created in the building is without doubt unique and every player/team that comes to the arena respects the sheer volume and atmosphere that that the fans can be create in the arena.
So that was it for the pre-formed questions and everyone was thanked for attending/hosting. This event probably wrapped up at around 8pm having started as an event at around 6pm and the discussion period at around 7pm.
However, the bar was then held open for a bit and people were welcome to hang around a little longer if they wanted or had any further questions.
This is when I then got my one on one time with both RR and LR... my direct questions now follow:
* I asked RR if he remembered discussing “Substantial change” in the last STH meeting and so far it did not seem like there has been substantial change per say? However it is clear with the expiring contracts and some of the trades that there may be a bigger gameplan at play? If so....what?
He answered that yes...there have been some key pieces one of the most important he felt was to move the Jamal Crawford contract which they did to free up $10m and also to give them options for future opportunities. He believes that next year the cap could come down to $52m USD with tax in the 60’s and therefore positioning the team to be able to deal with Morrows expectations for example, they will need space and capability to retain key players. Something he feels teams like New York may struggle to do and with the lower cap and he feels they may only be able to make one major trade and if so...would that be enough to attract the likes of LeBron? So I said that it seemed then that there is a plan for next year? And he responded with “we are not done with this year yet!”
So I pushed him further on this and he went to say that they are not done by a long way yet this year and if the right opportunities present themselves they are in a position and ready to make the right move and keen to do so. He went on to describe that right now the team has some very interesting options available to it including the recent agreement with New Jersey to push back the 1st round draft pick, so GSW is now able to include its 2010 number 1 draft pick in a trade if the opportunity presents itself. Speaking of trades he went on to describe how for example the CJ Watson trade came about, where CJ did not get the offers that were high enough for him and would have resulted in the Warriors making a sign and trade deal which they were not prepared to do, so they made the offer that they did and he accepted it. He is not sure why CJ accepted it but is glad nonetheless and feels that it has turned out quite nicely for the club. So again I proposed that it seems everything is being lined up to place this club in the best position for the 2010/2011 season with maybe the vets having been brought in helping the youngsters develop further this year with a view to hopefully making the playoffs, barring any sudden major changes, i.e. next year is the focus? He smiled and agreed that yes a key objective is to try and place the club in a financially strategic position and this is why things may not have finished trade wise for this year, but continued development of the younger players helps on all sides, be it being ready for a championship run or simply being a better player to trade with greater value, the next two years will see some considerable changes.
*This lead me to my next question and I asked with regards to trades “what exactly is the situation with Stephen Jackson?” I stated that it seemed from the fans perspective that Jackson is in one of two camps, either the “I made a stupid comment that I regret camp” or the “I genuinely want to be traded camp” and if it is the latter, considering the way the fan base embraced him here and especially as the club gave him the extension he was looking for, there may well in fact be one or two “Boo’s” come opening night.
RR – Said that the club had made its statement with regards to the whole incident and he felt that before opening night, Jackson is going to have done the right thing and that this should not be an issue. I asked if he (Jackson) would make a statement then before the season begins or is it going to be a case that the club and he agree to work together to find a solution where he gets to leave and the club gets something back in return? RR was pretty confident that it would all sort itself out in the not too distant future and that he will do the right thing with regards the fans as he (Jackson) appreciates the support he has had.
*By now others were waiting to have a quick chat and so my last question to him was with regards to the whole GSW image/logo and is it changing/ He confirmed that yes, the image of the club was had been considered to be changed for this year but it has been agreed to pushed back to the 2010/2011 season when a new image/logo/uniforms will be presented. However, ever the salesman... he stated that this should not stop anyone from buying anything this year! he said with a sly grin!
I have to say, he didn’t shy away from any question and answered each question openly and honestly and so I thanked him for his time and he asked if I had renewed my Season tickets yet, to which it was my turn to smile and said “not yet....I am looking for the right deal to come along!!” with a grin.. but I did advise that I may be flying back and forth to the UK quite a bit in the coming months, so I may not be able to commit to a full season, but we’ll see.
So....having chatted to Robert I then got chance to have a one on one with Larry Riley who again was more than happy to chat and to answer questions. First off, I have to say, the guy is extremely quietly spoken and has an excellent manner about him. He presents the image of a man who is in control of his situation and feels he has a great deal of scope and opportunity, free reign if you like, to make the decisions that he may need to make when the time comes. In short...initial impressions were very good.
*So first I asked about the whole substantial change issue again and the fact that I got the sense from him in the main presentation that right now everything is set.....and yet anything is possible? If so, who is tradable?
He answered honestly that everyone is tradable... and he genuinely means that, HOWEVER the trade has to be like for like in the Warriors opinion, i.e. for example trading Monta Ellis for Dwain Wade would be an example trade. Now he did say that with a smile but he made it very clear that this ball club is still very much looking at its options. Yes they can enter the season and probably hang around the 500 mark but everyone in the organisation wants to do considerably better than that and as such, all cards are on the table. I decided against pushing the Marco trade issue at this point to see if that was considered good value and chose to move on...But....I tought the example given was either interesting...or meant nothing at all! make your own mind up!
*I went on to ask about the number 1 draft pick for next year in light of what he just said and he said,
“yes this was a key reason for this decision to try and push back the option with New jersey and they were kind enough to agree, so that it enables the club to include the 2010 No.1 draft pick in any suitable trade opportunity.”
I asked him whether he felt the likes of Randolph, Morrow and Curry were the core and that players may fit in around them? He said that yes they were extremely important to the club, however the key thing is to now build something that does not keep changing every year. He would like to maybe see one major player change in a year, leaving the remainder of the team to continue to gel together as a great young team, that with the occasional addition, could become the championship team we really want.
I went on to ask if Brandan Wright was part of this mix and has he put on the weight as suggested?
He advised that Wright has been working really hard in Chapel Hill on all aspects of his game and fitness over the summer and he expects to see a considerable improvement from last year during training camp. All reports are that he is looking very good and probably in better shape to deal with the NBA than he was last year. Equally Randolph and Morrow have had great summers and Curry will provide a very interesting addition to the team. I asked if these guys have potential to be “Allstars” and he said Randolph without doubt and Morrow maybe....he advised that while Morrow can certainly shoot, he has other facets of his game that he needs to improve. Could he improve those...possibly, but he will certainly be a very good NBA player. I asked if that meant similar to the likes of Buike? He felt better than Buike. Curry is certainly someone they are excited about and they look forward to seeing how he performs in the camp, he feels his game allows him to do certain things better than Ellis and likewise Ellis will be able to do certain things better than Curry, then with more experience under his belt, potential opportunity to play both players at the same time, could really cause some teams a problem in the future.
*I then asked about Ellis and Jackson in terms of leadership and whether becoming a father has helped mature Ellis, resulting in a different individual than one we have seen to date?
He absolutely agreed that with the birth of his first child, Monta does indeed seem to have immediately understood his new position in life and that also will reflect in his play as he is being looked upon, to take over more leadership from Jackson, especially if Stephen maybe leaving the club at some point. On that matter he said he had literally just been on the phone today (Wednesday) with Nellie who made it clear that he does not want to have to play Jackson anymore than around 30 minutes a game in order to keep him fresh throughout the year, rather than getting burnt out, playing 40 minute games week in week out. Therefore they really are looking forward to Monta taking on more leadership functions for the club and there is absolutely zero sign of any issue from the past injury and he is 100% fit and ready to play. I took it from this, that either Nellie has spoken with Jackson and we can expect to see a retraction statement about the trade request, OR... Nellie simply feels a trade won’t happen and Jackson will be playing this year for GSW.
*I asked him next whether there was any way a starting 5 could be picked at this stage?
He smiled and said, absolutely not! "There are still so many moving parts and so much will depend on the training camp and who shines through in those sessions. The ability to see which player’s naturally just gel together is going to be key and as a result, see who is in best condition to start the season". However he believes that the most important thing is the fact that everyone, is reporting that they are 100% fit and ready to go and he said...that is one of the key factors to enable the club to make the choices it wants, rather than according to who is injured or not as to who they put on the floor, something they were not able to do for the entire season last year.
Larry then said that unfortunately he had a call to make but that it had been a pleasure to meet me and he hopes I enjoy the coming season. I thanked him for his time on behalf of the GSOM community and wished him and the team the best of luck.
As I said at the beginning about my discussion with LR, the guy has a genuine way about him, where you actually believe he has a gameplan and he is trying to achieve it. The sense I got from all of this is that while ALL players may effectively be available for the right price... it is clear the club is gearing toward and speaking often about Randolph, Morrow, Ellis, Curry and to a certain extent Jackson subject to trade talks. Which to me says that this franchise is very much a player in the next trade deadline and many conversations are still ongoing with the clearest intention to make something pretty big happen and it seems the club feels it is in a much better position to make such a trade/big event happen in coming weeks/months. This may also tie in with Jackson and if the club makes a big trade, will that include him, or will it be the reason to want to stay???
So there ya have it...yes we are getting new logo’s and uniforms next season, yes we seem to have a core, yet if the deal fits in Larry’s words...”in order to get something you know you are going to have to give something” so we can probably expect some substantial changes yet to come. We may also see a Jackson statement sometime soon and everyone at GSW is pumped for the season...
HOWEVER.... there was a special promotion on some lower level tickets in the club courtside sections and it was really apparent to me that tickets sales are wayyyyy down and I suspect THIS may be the driving force for a swift major trade transaction if at all possible!
Yes I know there is a lot of “buy more tickets spin there” but Larry Riley seriously impressed me tonight as someone, who when given the right opportunity, won’t be afraid to make a decision and will make his best efforts to improve this team from potential playoff team to conference contenders!
Oh and finally there are 18 warrior girls this year from 16! Very important information you know!
So that’s it from me from another Q&A session and another 4 hours worth of typing.... it’s now 5am and I am going to bed!
Let the discussions begin!!!!!!!!!!!