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Joe Lacob on the Golden State Warriors going forward, politics, and business

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The Warriors’ owner joined the TK Show to talk about team building, tax bills, player activism, and the business side.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors
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It might be hard to imagine for casual NBA watchers now, but Golden State Warriors fans suffered years of terrible decision-making at the top that permeated the organization and led to some frankly god-awful teams.

But the fortunes of the franchise have really turned around since the team was sold to Joe Lacob and company.

So it was with interest that I delved into Tim Kawakami’s latest TK Show with Joe Lacob. It’s a wide ranging interview looking at team building, big tax bills in the future, the social and political elements of this team, and the business side of the organization.

It’s definitely worth listening to the whole interview here, but here’s some highlights.

Team building

The interview started off looking at the Warriors’ philosophy of team building. Lacob talked about the decisions they made this summer and their view that “if you have a chance, you have to go for it; we’re going to do whatever it takes.”

When asked about the discount Kevin Durant took, he said that it made decisions easier, and hinted it helped them bring in Nick Young, but they were always planning to be aggressive.

Going forward Lacob was at pains to stress that they take it year by year, and so much can change that they have a number of different scenarios they plan out every year. But again, he said their mentality is “if we still think we have a chance to compete then we have to do it.”

Big tax bills

This inevitably led on to the $400m or $300m question. Are the Warriors going to be paying those huge tax bills once the repeater tax hits and they need to pay Klay Thompson and Draymond Green?

There as a little humming and harring but eventually Lacob said, “We’re probably biased to do what it takes.”

Lacob rightly stressed that a lot will depend on how well the Warriors are playing, what the competition is doing, and what happens over the next couple of years. Players age, guys get injured, and you can’t make decisions until you are there.

It’s worth noting that later in the interview Lacob returned to the theme, saying, “We’ve got great core; we want to try to keep it together as long as we can.”

How the Warriors front office works

Lacob had some interesting comments about how the Warriors work. He pointed out that each decision was incremental.

For example, once they traded Monta Ellis and went with Steph Curry, they needed another guard to pair with him. So they drafted Thompson. Then they needed someone to take them to the next level, and they were able to get Andre Iguodala.

Lacob made it clear that they’re always looking at different scenarios and big moves they could make, and they need to be aware of what competitors are doing.

Interestingly, he said the view this summer was continuity was important, so the focus was on adding around the core such as the last couple of years trying to bring in younger players such as Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw, but they’re still always thinking aggressively.

This is a philosophy aimed at staying ahead of the game, leveraging all the opportunities that present themselves. So while we’ll have to see what appetite ownership has to swallow the potentially massive tax bills, they are still going to be aggressive in putting a competitive team on the floor.

And a big part of those decisions is going to be based on how players develop and age and whether there are other ways to be more competitive.

The Warriors voice

The interview also touched on the Warriors’ increasingly active political and social voice. Lacob set out his core belief in transparency and open communication, saying players have a voice and a right to speak.

He added the only thing they ask them to do is to be respectful of the NBA organization and stressed that they are. So don’t expect the Warriors to stick to sports anytime soon.

Oh, and he’s not running for President apparently!

The business side

Talking of not sticking to sports, there was an interesting segment on the Warriors as a business. Starting from a question about the opportunity for a new TV deal, Lacob opened up to talk about the evolving media and technological landscape.

One key Lacob quote was that he sees the Warriors organization “as a business more than basketball team” and that he wanted them to be a “sports and entertainment organization.”

From that flows the investment in the new arena, with all the retail and restaurant space around it, as well as other ventures such as the recent expansion into esports.

They’re as aggressive on the business side as they are on the basketball side, continuing to think big, and as Lacob put it ‘looking at a number of things to build our own platform over time’.

And while the focus is on getting the arena project delivered right now, a WNBA team is a real possibility in the future.

What’s clear from this interview is Joe Lacob is not a man who is in this for the short term. And just maybe he’s both a businessman and a competitor.