Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob reveals strategy: Build around Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis

Originally posted Feb 25, 2011 7:36 PM PST

Since I haven't found any other articles from today's Warriors season ticket-holder conference call with Joe Lacob, here's my report. First off, I called in a few minutes late after the 1:00pm start time and I had to hang up at 1:45pm to go to a meeting (you know, some of us have to work!), so the following is as much as I can remember, and from the meat of the call.

Here are the main points...

Key Take-away #1: The Warriors will be keeping Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, and will be building the franchise around them.

Key Take-away #2: Lacob has identified nine bigs/centers that the Warriors could go after this summer, to help bring a presence in the post.

Key Take-away #3: Lacob's strategy to make the Warriors attractive enough to sign a marquee free agent, is to win as many games as possible now.

After the jump, compare that with my strategy and take a look at the other bullet points from the conference call...

Here are my chronologically ordered notes from the conference call. I will be the first one to tell you that this is probably an incomplete set of notes. As I mentioned, I was late to the call and had to leave it early. If you were in on this call, please fill in any important blanks I may have missed.

  • David Lee and Andris Biedrins play a sort of fast pace anyways, so they are in line with the strategy of keeping Steph and Monta.
  • Do not underestimate the value of a 2nd-round draft pick (as was acquired in the Troy Murphy deal). References to Monta, of course, and Paul Millsap are made.
  • Murphy may yet suit up. It is not certain that he will be bought out. Lacob is still evaluating that one.
  • Lacob sought the advice of a "GM of a franchise that has recently won the championship" -- hmmm, lemme guess: Danny Ainge? We can only speculate! -- in regards to how to deal with a coach in which you are not sure of his approach. The GM's response (note: this is NOT word-for-word, but more the gist of it): "I still have such problems with my current coach! In short, let coaches coach. Let them do their job. This happens all the time."
  • Bottom line for Keith Smart: Does he win? But then also compare this to Doc Rivers or Byron Scott. Doc lost 18 in a row in the 24-win season with Boston. Since then, he's had a couple Finals appearances. Similar anecdote with Byron Scott. So, more often than not, it's not really the coach that determines whether or not a team is championship-caliber.
  • Then a season ticket holder named Julie asked perhaps one of the better questions of the call: Seems like lately there have been some improvements making small steps. But are you, Joe Lacob, a small-steps guy? Lacob's response (paraphrasing): "We tried to make the 'transformative, big deal'. We made some offers and we received some offers -- all of which I am not at liberty [Author's note: by league rules and, quite frankly, common sense] to name names. But we didn't want to make a bad transformative big deal. I think we need to be patient. If you look at most or all of the big deals that were made, they had multiple first-round draft picks involved. We have none."
  • Lacob also mentioned that there was not one deal that involved an expiring contract, except perhaps for the Gerald Wallace deal. [Author's note: I am not well-schooled in the area of salary cap, so excuse me for not expounding on such related matters.]
  • Then another caller asked how long fans will have to wait for the team to become one that can make perennial playoff runs. Lacob said a there's probably a few years' timeframe. They have to manage cap space, do well in the Draft. Deals like Kevin Garnett are hard to find.
  • Then came Lacob's best quote of the day: "Give me more than three months PLEASE to make a big move."
  • The topic switched over to Larry Riley. Riley's resume was listed out, including the draft selection of Stephen Curry and the free agent signing of Dorell Wright, of course, but curiously, also David Lee (who has been widely criticized as way overpaid) and the draft of selection of Ekpe Udoh (unproven). It really sounded like Lacob was happy with Riley. It really sounded like Riley is here to stay.
  • Lacob: "The bottom line is wins and losses and are we improving?"
  • Then a caller asked the question about seeking out a bonafide center. There was one other Warriors rep on the call and I never did figure out who it was, but just based on the voice and the fact that he sometimes peppered Lacob with a few interview questions, I'm guessing it was Tim Roye (again, I'm not sure, please help if someone knows), and that voice probably wasn't Riley's since they had just talked about Riley in the third person. Roye said the Warriors should have cap space of around $13 million to bring in a center. You figure, based on NBA Deputy Commish Adam Silver's recent remarks on a hard cap, that if there's a hard cap, it'll probably be around $60 million give or take, and the Warriors have about $49 million committed next season.
  • Lacob said the Warriors have identified nine big men (centers, I presume) who are either restricted or unrestricted free agents this summer. There are some centers who are injured (he did not mention Yao Ming or Greg Oden by name, but I figure those two are definitely somewhere on the radar screen) and there's always the Draft.
  • Also mentioned was that Lacob told Riley not to worry about cash, as the trade deadline approached. The Warriors were willing to spend, if necessary.
  • Lacob did temper the Draft mention in that he would still probably select the best player (or "best asset") available.
  • Riley and Lacob have not yet discussed the future of Smart.
  • Lacob firmly believes that the franchise can attract free agents, but admits that they need to overcome their history. They need to win more to show free agents that the Warriors are committed to winning. Roye then gave the example of Carmelo Anthony signing with a team that's barely at .500 with a recent history of losing.
  • The discussion came back around to Curry. Lacob mentioned that Curry's numbers are really good when compared to other young point guards (Steve Nash, for example, although we all know, and Lacob does too, that Nash struggled in his first few years). As the trade deadline approached, most of the calls Lacob got were inquiring about Steph Curry.

And that's when I had to hang up and jump into a meeting. Here are my thoughts as I look back...

  1. Welp, you either agree that both Monta and Steph need to stay or you don't. Put me in the latter camp, because from what I know about basketball, you can't have two skinny 6'3" guys to play defense against an NBA backcourt. I don't care how good they are. Defense and rebounding wins championships. Now that we know Lacob's strategy, this should very well polarize the Warriors fan base. But hey, it's better to know. And so now it makes sense why the Warriors couldn't make a big deal before the trade deadline. By (my) definition, if Curry or Ellis are not in a deal, it cannot be a big deal -- keeping in mind that Lee and Biedrins's contracts are unshoppable right now.

  2. To me, it is clear that Lacob wants to make a name for himself. And I don't agree with that, but oh well. I'm not saying that he won't reach our mutual goal of a championship, but my management style would be different (explained below). So now it makes sense why it's okay for Larry Riley to stay on board.

  3. While I do have confidence in Lacob's ability to make the Warriors a franchise that can attract marquee free agents, it's still not how I would have done it. Lacob's strategy forces the Warriors to win at all costs right now. Ergo, Smart must win games at all costs. Ergo, there's no development opportunity for guys who show flashes like Udoh. But at least now, it all makes sense.

  4. Please, please, please... NO MORE COMPARISONS, MR. LACOB. There was the comparison of what you could get (Monta/Millsap) with a 2nd-round pick to justify the Murphy deal, there was the comparison of Doc Rivers and Byron Scott, there was the oft-used comparison of how the Celtics got KG, there was the comparison of Melo choosing the Knicks, there was the comparison of Curry to Nash, on and on and on. OK, so I'm gonna get a little whiny here. It just feels like the Warriors are always looking up at the other franchises. "See? We're not that far off from ____." I guess it's just personality, but my problem is, it reeks of the Cohan era, like when the David Lee deal happened, there was that constant sales pitch that he was an All-Star last season. Does Usain Bolt -- Lacob actually used Bolt as a metaphor during the talk, in reference to Curry's development, so I'll just steal that metaphor here -- look to his left and right when he runs? No, he goes full steam ahead, to hell what you think, see ya later, maybe I'll go break this world record in the meantime. BE YOUR OWN MAN.

Finally, here's what my strategy would be...

Now, I haven't given this strategy much thought. So there may be a big hole in it that I haven't foreseen, but I'll put it out there anyway.

Yes, you've got to attract free agents. By doing so, you're also transforming the image of the franchise. You've got to start competing for the big boys. Just look at the All-Star lineups from last weekend. That is your market. Repeat: THAT is your market.

And right now, the Warriors are still a laughingstock of the league. Okay, maybe "laughingstock" is harsh. But sit down with a marquee NBA player. Ask him to name franchises he would want to play for, from 1 to 30. I guarantee you, the Warriors are not even in the top half of each list.

I'd even say that the frequent inquiries about Steph Curry as the trade deadline approached perhaps revealed that the Warriors as a franchise lack respect from their peers. And if that happens at the peer level, believe me, it trickles down to the agents and the players they represent. Granted, the debate of Curry vs Monta has raged on recently and earlier in the season, even I tweeted my frustration with Steph's inconsistency while at the same time marveling at Monta's super-human athleticism, but I would have to say that the recent steady play of Curry and the skills that he has shown prove to me that Curry is a keeper. That is a no-brainer, especially as he maxed out the value of his limited appearances at All-Star Weekend, winning the Skills Contest and being maybe the only non-All-Star to have multiple bits in the Spike Lee and Michael Rappaport comedy clips. BOTTOM LINE: Do other franchises really think the Warriors are stupid enough to deal Steph away right now? This past week? I guess they do.

Fundamentally, I disagree with Lacob on how to change the image of the franchise. What are the Bay Area's natural assets? The weather and Silicon Valley. But as Danny Granger recently quipped, who cares about the weather? Silicon Valley: I'll get to that in a minute.

So marquee free agents aren't gonna yearn to come to Golden State just because it happens to be a sunny day outside and you casually mention to him that there are plenty more where that came from. They need someone they can trust. That someone? A big-name, serious GM. There are several of them out there. Many of you have said Kevin Pritchard. Wonderful. Got no qualms with that.

But how about a proven home-run hitter who has roots in Golden State? Someone who may have a vested interest in seeing this franchise succeed. Someone who got their first taste of the NBA right here. Yep, Otis Smith. If there's a guy who can convince a big free agent to-be (Dwight Howard, anyone?) to come to the Bay Area, sell him on the virtues of living here, be his pal, talk the talk and carry the swag, it's someone like Otis Smith.

So I'd sell Otis on being the Bay Area's all-time basketball hero (front-office-wise). Make it his dream. Then instruct him to make a facet of that dream some big free agent's dream. Oh and by the way, Lacob could still be The Man in this scenario.

Meanwhile, throw in a couple perks like this: Hey Dwight, when you retire, you're gonna want to start your own business, right? Well, let me tell you a little thing about this here Silicon Valley. Then point to your Board of Directors and woo the guy with a few visits to corporate campuses down in the South Bay.

But the most important thing is the swag to get the young star-studded athlete to accept the GSW as a front-runner. And to do that, you need to bring in a heavy hitter. Doing it by yourself, building it on your own: waste of time, too many pitfalls.

Now if I gave Otis Smith the biggest GM salary ever, convinced him to walk away from Orlando and fly immediately to Golden State, wouldn't that send a message to the NBA athletes that we mean business? Wouldn't that negate the requirement of winning right now with this roster, with Smart at the helm not developing our future stars like Udoh? In one fell swoop.

And the other great thing about this: kind of makes the Monta/Steph issue a bit moot.

That's how you get the modern NBA player to come here. You've got to relate to them. I hope Lacob gets there, but I wouldn't be doing it the way he's doing it.

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