While we decide whether Bob Myers needs a hug or a sedative, there is no debate about his merit as a general manger. “He is a superstar,” said Joe Lacob, the man who hired him. In a league of executive-level volatility — see: the Boogie Down in Sacramento, Phil Jackson’s wobbly time in New York (what is a Kristaps Porzingis?), skepticism about anything the Lakers do — Myers needed only three years to transform the previously dysfunctional Warriors into champions with a basketball revolution envied by soon-to-be-copycatting rivals.
Yes, it helped to have Jerry West a text message away. But it was Myers who created this orgasmic experience, and as a gift to himself, he could have taken time to hold the gold trophy, absorb the raw glory and ponder the enormity of his accomplishment. Instead, after allowing himself a few hours to attend the parade and rally last week, he locked himself in his downtown Oakland war room and basically didn’t come out until Thursday night.
“It’s pathetic,” he said in the middle of it all. “I woke up at 4:30, 5 in the morning thinking about who we were going to draft. It’s bad.”
A sedative sounds about right after Myers used the 30th pick in the first round on UCLA’s Kevon Looney, a versatile 6-9 forward with an 87-inch wingspan who can rebound, defend bigger post players, block shots and, yes, even shoot the three ball. Once regarded as a possible top-10 pick, his stock fell because of a structural hip problem that didn’t prevent him from playing all 36 games for the Bruins last season as a freshman and didn’t stop him for working out for NBA teams this month. In a perfect Warriors world, Looney eventually would step into the rotation as a younger, taller version of Draymond Green, giving them energy and a defensive presence inside. But he also could become a bust if the hip issue is chronic or, as one report suggested, he has a degenerative back. As a championship franchise with a firm foundation in place, the Warriors can afford to take such gambles.
To the uninitiated, the choice seems fairly inconsequential when the paradigm is set up for a long period of success. But do not forget who was drafted by Myers with the 35th pick in 2012. Green was an afterthought then, a defensive-oriented project with weight and maturity issues, only to blossom into the team’s second-most important player and a star who will be rewarded with a max deal. In the same draft, Myers landed Festus Ezeli with the 30th selection. So while the GM can get some sleep now, no one should sleep on Looney, who needs work in the weight room, therapy for the hip and room to grow at 19.
“We’re thrilled with the pick. We had him ranked pretty high on our board. Obviously, he went to UCLA, so, that’s the No. 1 factor,” said Myers, a Bruin himself.
It’s rare in the complex realm of sports, with so many moving parts and raging egos, for a GM to walk into a historically infamous shop and solve the puzzle so quickly. Just about everything Myers touched has turned to gold, which, humbly, he attributes to good luck.
“Well, maybe we’ll have earned a little equity now,” Myers said. “You do the best you can. We’ll maybe draft the wrong player. I hope we don’t. We may make some mistakes in free agency. But you’ve gotta keep working at it and trust the people around you and know that if you do make mistakes, you keep going. Thankfully, a lot of the decisions we made worked, and a lot of it is luck and good health. But I’ve always felt, there’s no substitute for working hard.”
And being smarter than the competition, too. He inherited Stephen Curry and David Lee, who still is a Warrior despite furious attempts to accommodate his wishes to be elsewhere and allow Lacob to wipe $15.5 million off the 2015-16 books. But step by step, the rest of the success story has Myers’ handprints all over it. The trade for Andrew Bogut allowed Curry to develop into a Hall of Fame talent, with Monta Ellis out of the way as a divisive impediment. The drafting of Klay Thompson, while Myers was assistant GM, created the vision of the Splash Brothers. Locking Curry into a modest extension, at $44 million, gave Myers the salary flexibility to sign Andre Iguodala for $48 million — while spending a legendary week clearing cap space while on vacation with his wife — and then extend Thompson for $72 million and Green for whatever riches he’ll command this summer. And don’t forget the best deal Myers never made, keeping Thompson rather than trading him for Kevin Love last summer, though it should be underlined that West threatened to resign his consultant’s position if Thompson was dealt.
Finally, Myers supported Lacob when the organizational fit with Mark Jackson wasn’t right, signing off on Jackson’s firing and the pursuit of Steve Kerr as his replacement. How strange Thursday night watching Phil Jackson have to defend his selection of Porzingis, the Latvian big man, while knowing Kerr would have been part of that mess if the Knicks had demanded an immediate decision on their offer instead of letting him talk to Lacob and Myers. At the rally by Lake Merritt, Myers borrowed from John Wooden in saying, “It’s amazing what you accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.”
If he wasn’t referring to Kerr and his predecessor, the comparison fit anyway.
A trendsetting organization also has a trendsetting GM. Myers was plucked by Lacob from the ranks of the player agent profession, meaning it’s no concidence that the Detroit Pistons appointed Myers’ mentor, prominent agent Arn Tellem, as a top official. Why not let the smart guys run the asylum, right? But for Myers, running the Warriors’ shop is a labor of love. He grew up in the East Bay as a Dubs fan and still proudly displays his first-ever game ticket.
“It shows that if you once were sitting in the upper deck with a $7 ticket, you someday could be sitting up here in this role,” Myers said.
Look around the NBA. George Karl might lose his job in Sacramento because he wants to trade Boogie Cousins? LaMarcus Aldridge is bailing on Portland because he doesn’t think the franchise can win? The Lakers draft D’Angelo Russell when no one is certain he’s star material, much less the next Kobe Bryant? Those are other people’s problems.
Six floors above the Oakland streets and high atop the NBA, Bob Myers is basking in a post-title afterglow. It’s just a shame he doesn’t know it yet.
Get some sleep, architect.