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Offseason Q&A: Tim Kawakami (San Jose Mercury) Part 2 of 4

Make sure to check out Part I  of our Q&A with Tim if you haven't already. In Part II we get Tim's thoughts on the Warriors finances.

Talking  Bay Area sports.



Golden State of Mind: The Golden State Warriors have one of the most lauded fanbases around and just came off the a season in which they raked in the third biggest gain at the gate and had the second biggest spike in season ticket holders across the entire league. They recently rose ticket prices for the third straight year in a row, two of which the team failed to even qualify for the playoffs. It is clear that the fans have shown their money, but it doesn't seem like owner Chris Cohan is doing the same as the organization seems fixated on lowering the payroll and avoiding the NBA's luxury tax even if it means hurting the team on the court (e.g. the Jason Richardson salary dump and not using the $10 million trade exception). Is it really good business practice for a popular large market team like the Warriors to tighten the wallet when it comes to player salaries, especially in the loaded Western Conference where several playoff teams have much higher payrolls and are paying the tax? Do you have any estimates or projections on how much money the team stands to make each additional playoff game and increased national exposure relative to the tax? Also, why do you think fans and members of the media seem to care so much about billionaires avoiding a luxury tax and accept it as a reason to fail to improve or even worsen a team's on court product?

Tim Kawakami (4/21/08): We'll see what happens around the draft with the $10M exception--if the Warriors don't use it, then everything mentioned will be worth a vivid discussion. Hey, I'm no owner-defender, but I must make three points:

A) It'd be one thing if half or even one-third of the league was 8M to 12M over the

luxury tax and wallowing in extra talent because of it, but they're not. It's basically Dallas, the Knicks (hard to say that's a model to follow), Denver after the Iverson deal and maybe 3 or 4 other teams that are healthily above the luxury tax threshold. And none of that has led directly to enormous win totals, that I can see. Just as Stan Kronke in about a week after the Nuggets get erased by the Lakers.


B) It'd be another thing if the Warriors didn't hit right against the lux-tax number almost every year, but they do. If they're doing basically the same things that San Antonio, New Jersey and Detroit are doing, then it's hard to say the Warriors are cheapskates.


C) It'd be a final thing if you could circle one transaction the Warriors failed to make for purely fiscal reasons, but I can't really. The Richardson trade was about saving money... FOR THE ELLIS AND BIEDRINS deals... and to acquire Wright for the future. Richardson for the space to pay two younger, better players in the future and to add a better younger taller player. I'm not a J-Rich guy so I get people mad, but I've got to point out: Charlotte picked him up, paid his huge salary and... was worse this year with him than they were last year without.


If the Warriors don't retain Ellis or Biedrins or both because some other team blows them away with offer sheets, then fans have a complaint to make. (You traded J-Rich... for what?) That hasn't happened. In fact, when the Warriors were spending crazy silly money on extensions is precisely when they moved into dangerous basketball territory.


Why do we care about billionaires making or saving money? I don't care about billlionaires. I feel for season-ticket holders who re-up at panic deadlines to ensure playoff seats that ... well, aren't playoff seats when the team fails to make the playoffs. I get that. You think Cohan doesn't want a winning team? He makes his money--about $1M per home playoff date and many millions more on the hope and expectation of those games--based on being associated with success. Not on losing. Hey, he paid Nelson, didn't he?


What I care about is the system that the leagues create for themselves. If the Spurs were spending godawful tons of money to guarantee themselves titles, I'd say yeah, the Warriors' ownership is lousy. But the Spurs didn't spend godawful amounts of money--they drafted Tim Duncan (got lucky, yes--spend crazy? no), they drafted Ginobili, they drafted Parker, they practice hard, they play defense... and they win.


It's NOT about the dollars spent. Or else the Knicks would be celebrating 12 straight NBA titles. Which they are not. It's about making fiscal moves that allow you to make the deals you have to... and it's about setting yourself up to make a financial splash when you can, and then making the right one.


Stupid cheap is the same as stupid rich. It all ends up the same.


Stay tuned for parts 3 and 4...


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