NBA

Warriors’ Joe Lacob and Bob Myers discuss the two-part plan that spawned the championship

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BOSTON — Bob Myers, barefoot with a champagne bottle full of Michelob Ultra, settled into a chair near the visitor’s bench at TD Garden. It was about an hour after his Warriors clinched a fourth title on the court. Myers, a minute earlier, had spilled some beer near the free throw line. Cigar smoke filled the air. The arena had turned into a rager.

Parties like these turn into a time for reflection. Conversations turn into pivotal moments of the climb. Myers’ mind was on last year’s draft. The Warriors had two valuable lottery picks, established stars who preferred the help of veterans and a coach who wouldn’t mind additional rookies being selected with the current task in mind. Swap? Reaching an older prospect?

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Myers, Joe Lacob and the front office turned teens with the two selections – Jonathan Kuminga at No. 7, Moses Moody at No. 14 – the strongest statement yet that, although financially devoted to the Steph Curry show , they also remained protective of the future. It was a commitment to the two-part plan that would define the season. Could they win now and grow now?

“Whoever we drafted, we didn’t think they would be a reason why we won the championship or not,” Myers said. Athleticism. “So we thought, let’s just bring in the best players that were on the board. A lot of people wanted us to trade them for a star. It’s not said in the vein of ‘I told you so’, but “We thought Andrew Wiggins could fill that role. We did. Few people did. But we wanted to see him in that fourth-guy role.”

The day after the draft, during Kuminga and Moody’s introductory press conference, Lacob – in a declarative interview with Athleticism – fought against the idea that by using the picks instead of trading them, the Warriors were sacrificing Curry’s last best chance at a championship. His belief was that the current roster had enough to win him.

“If we can’t, then you should look at Joe Lacob and Bob Myers and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins and say you weren’t good enough,” Lacob said then. “You paid all that money, and you weren’t good enough. They have to be good enough, and they should be. They have already won. They’re a little older, but they’re still really good. Clay will be back. This is the key. I think we’ll be pretty good. Yes.”

In the night haze on this floor of the Celtics – having absorbed all the impact of Thompson’s return and Jordan Poole’s emergence and Wiggins’ rise and the combined brilliance of Curry’s attack and Green’s defense – it’s easier to look back and chart the course. But when Lacob expressed that confidence last July, it was an unpopular opinion.

Biggest believers saw the Warriors finish mid-conference, a fading half-threat. Their biggest skeptics pushed them out of the playoff picture.

“They were questioned,” Lacob said, dress shirt soaked in champagne. Athleticism. “But these guys are not 40 years old. We believed in this core. Few teams have a core of four. Many people say core three. I say core four. We spend money on it. Then we complete and surround this team. I know some people thought we could have done more, had another star. But who were we going to have? Who was available to make a difference? We didn’t think there were any, and we really wanted these young guys to grow and learn from these guys. They learned. We’re going to be even better at it in the years to come. »

Wiggins, in retrospect, was key to the success of the win-now, build-now plan. He was the 27-year-old bridge between the two eras. Curry, Thompson and Green needed a fourth high-impact playoff player to get back on top. The external idea was that Wiggins’ salary, attached to assets, could be used as a vehicle to get that fourth player. But the internal belief was that Wiggins could become this player.

“Absolutely,” Lacob said. “I said that from day one, and Steve Kerr said the same thing. He’s a prototypical winger who’s just played for a not-so-good team, maybe they don’t have the best culture. We thought if you put him in our situation, he could be great. He didn’t have to be 1A. You saw what he did in those playoffs. He was really, really great.

Wiggins averaged 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 22 playoff games. He took on the primary defensive duties against Luka Dončić in the Western Conference Finals and Jayson Tatum in the NBA Finals, holding both to their least effective streaks. He had great scoring nights at massive times. He hammered the playoff dunk on Dončić. He had 35 rebounds during the three-game streak that put the Celtics out. He was a two-way force who was worth every penny of his maximum contract.

“I’m so proud of you,” Lacob told Wiggins as he walked past him in the turbulent post-game scene, a Canadian flag draped over Wiggins’ shoulder.

The Wiggins contract is the symbol of the excess payroll of the Warriors. They were always going to spend on Curry, Thompson and Green. The maximum D’Angelo Russell signings and trades that turned into Wiggins was management’s choice to keep a slice of salary alive, despite punishing tax penalties, in the belief that they would eventually go up at the top.

“We are still evaluating,” Lacob said. “We wouldn’t spend so much money on the roster if we didn’t think we had a chance of winning. When you think you have a chance to go far and compete for a championship, we think we’re going to do everything we can, use every last dollar. A lot of teams can’t or won’t do it I guess. We have excellent income. Our business side is so good. We generate income at a high rate, so we are able to spend a little more. there is no doubt. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we had a chance to win.

Have the Warriors bought their way to another title?

“Oh, come on,” Lacob said. “It’s a joke; I think it’s ridiculous. All of our players are guys we drafted or minimum signings except for one trade (Wiggins). One trade and no free agent beyond that. of the minimum. How can you say that we bought the title? It’s crazy.”

But there are clear examples where Lacob’s willingness to spend separates him from most other owners and gives the Warriors a competitive edge. Look at their 15th man.

Gary Payton II played 203 minutes in the playoffs, and that would have been double that, at least, if he hadn’t broken his elbow mid-race. The Warriors were plus-49 with him on the floor. He has become a vital defensive threat and a sharp goalscorer. In most other situations, he could not have financially adapted to such an expensive list.

“GP was a 15th guy that cost us $12 million,” Myers said. “It was a debate. A lot of owners would never have done that. We went to camp saying we’re not signing a 15th guy. It’s $12 million. We’re not doing that. It’s not is not a minimum contract. But Gary was so good. We went to Joe and told him that it was going to cost us 12 million dollars. And he thought that we kept 14. It’s the small decisions. We try to win a championship. We have a pay slip that says so. You can’t have a payroll like that and not be in this title conversation. We wanted to see if we would be beaten. Maybe we would be But we wanted to give him all we could financially with our resources.

The Warriors partied at a restaurant adjacent to the TD Garden through Friday morning. They will return to the Bay Area around 11 a.m. local. The parade arrives Monday in San Francisco. Curry, Thompson and Green will savor this title in the weeks to come.

But it’s quickly back to routine for Myers, Lacob and the front office. The draft is Thursday. Free agency comes a week later. The Warriors have the 28th pick, then several key decisions regarding their veterans. Payton and Kevon Looney are unrestricted free agents, having just played each other in bigger paydays. Poole becomes eligible for the extension. Green and Wiggins could come and ask for veteran extensions.

“We don’t know what the market will be for our guys,” Myers said. “We will make an effort to keep the team united. It’s a good balance between young, old and in the middle. There isn’t a guy we don’t like. So let’s try.

“You’ll have to see what we do,” Lacob added. “We have the draft and free agency coming up. We will form our team for next year after many discussions over the next two weeks. We have a good idea of ​​what we’re going to do, obviously. We have a great list. I don’t foresee many changes.

That playoff series, which included 12 games at Chase Center, reopened the financial floodgates that help the Warriors pay for their roster. This should help retain that core. But either way, it’s all reconfigured, Myers and Lacob likely gained some extra confidence with that fourth title and the decisions leading up to it.

“Fortunately, in our market, people are raving about our team,” Myers said. “We won this one but in 10 games next season if it doesn’t go well they will be on us. I’m lucky to work for a team that people care about so much but we have to do what we think is right, even in the face of doubting people. We don’t get it all right, but this one worked.


Related reading

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(Photo of Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber: Kyle Terada/USA Today)

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