Joe Lacob, the owner who says he had a threesome with his fiancee and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, made his fortune and cut his capitalistic chops in Silicon Valley. It’s understandable why he’s trying to explore unprecedented ground, touch the sky and never, ever settle. He’s feeling it right now — building a championship team in five years, designing a model franchise in pro sports, plowing through San Francisco red tape and biotech politics to win his Mission Bay arena — and his rise from a poor childhood is becoming a powerhouse tale in American business.
But if Lacob plans on sitting at the table next summer for the Kevin Durant poker game — a potential bid not denied thus far by the Warriors — well, I’d have to appeal to his logic and ask him this:
Are you nuts?
Some of the world’s most skilled sportsmen have waited entire lives without finding the chemistry forged by the Warriors these past dozen months. In what appears to be the infancy of a dynasty, or at least many seasons of serious NBA title contention, they’ve created a blueprint of dazzle, domination and lovability that should be locked in a vault and not touched until Riley Curry is choosing between Cal and modeling school as her old man, then 40, will be confining his shooting to the driveway. Bob Myers has created a core of four symmetrically fitting parts, all in their mid-to-early 20s, and Steve Kerr had the common sense to turn them loose in a three-point ballet ideal for the league’s free-flowing, no-physicality rules. This team is not perfect, but it’s fairly close — in chemistry, camaraderie, versatility and sustainability.
So don’t touch, Joe.
Just play with your trophy, take your courtside seat and enjoy a show that should last the rest of this decade and spill into the next. Oh, and heed the words of Draymond Green, who sounded like a 25-year-old sage when speaking of greed.
“I think we’ve gotten greedy, but a good greedy,” he said. “I think it’s way better to be greedy for success than hung over on success, and I think we’re on the right end of the spectrum. We have the players that we need, everybody fits their role, we have a great coaching staff and a great organization. All the pieces are in place for us to do something great, and we’re on our way, but it’s a long way away. That’s our focus more than anything.”
The next potential high-drama NBA departure involves Durant, who could leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in his prime as a future Hall of Famer. There’s a chance that he stays, continues to deal with the volatile volume shooter and egomaniac that is Russell Westbrook and keeps riding a stress train that may never result in a championship, whether the coach is Billy Donovan, the deposed Scott Brooks or Henry Iba. Before the season, the odds appeared split that Durant could re-up in a small media market or return home to Washington, where the Wizards have a promising young core waiting for a monumental presence beyond the one on The Mall. You’d think the pressure would be higher in D.C., but Durant has made suffocating sounds in a tiny town where they are microanalyzed by local media. In Washington, Durant only would be semi-microanalyzed, and he’d be given a fresh start and multi-year honeymoon he doesn’t have in OKC.
But lately, as the Warriors have established position as a wreckingball for years to come, thoughts have trickled out of their downtown Oakland fortress about Durant. And if Durant wants to win, and win now, teaming with Steph Curry seemingly would turn the trick. Imagine the two most lethal offensive forces in basketball, joining hands at the same age to plunder the league.
Deep breaths, please.
Even if Durant wanted to come, there is no urgency to pursue him when the Warriors already have what they want: near-perfection. When most people in the world are stuck humming to Mick Jagger — “You can’t always get what you want … you get what you need,” — Lacob and Myers and Kerr and Luke Walton already have what they want. If the Warriors hadn’t won a championship and weren’t primed for another next June, adding Durant would make sense. It does not make sense to start shedding parts — maybe the Thunder want Klay Thompson in a sign-and-trade, maybe the Dubs have to relinquish Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to make room for Durant — when the likes of Pat Riley are talking about the current young core as a dynastic optic.
Superteams are fun in sports. But the chemistry often doesn’t work.
Besides, the Warriors already are a superteam. And their chemistry is a beautiful, intoxicating brew, especially when Kerr/Walton switch to the smallball mode that other NBA teams are desperate to emulate.
My good friend, Al Gorithm, says the Warriors could make Durant fit within the inner workings of the financials. Remember, thanks to the new TV bonanza largely spiked by the lure of Curry and the Warriors, the salary cap lifts to around $89 million next summer and possibly $116 million the following summer. By 2017, in any Durant scenario, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston likely would have moved on. Myers has done wonders with the books, and though he says he’ll match the highest offer for Barnes in his restricted free agency next summer — $89 million, probably — he could make the Durant addition work if everyone else wanted to make Durant’s addition work.
Which brings us to the most important variable: The opinions and latitude of a certain Wardell Stephen Curry II. Every time he speaks of this creation, this sports miracle he symbolizes, he sounds as if he’s dreaming. “This is something to cherish,” he said. “This group wants to take it to the next level. It’s so much fun, encouraging each other, trying to keep getting better, doing it in a winning fashion.”
Think he wants Kevin Durant here instead of one or two of his 20-something boys? Think he wants Durant at the expense of Thompson? Last I looked, Durant has had injury problems. Last I looked, Durant sometimes lumbers in a halfcourt mindset, even as Donovan wants to speed things up with the lightning dashes of Westbook. The Warriors need to seize their championship now, when their legs are still young and their mode is freewheeling.
Who gets the last shot: Durant or Curry?
It’s not Durant. How would he feel about that?
More importantly, rather than consider paying Durant, Lacob had better strongly prioritize the rather weighty matter of paying Curry what he deserves in the summer of 2017. It’s beyond comical now that he’s the fifth-highest player on the team, sixth when Barnes gets his money. Considering how he’s become the most magnetic athlete in sports, the most popular player in the league and the architect of a championship and new arena, I don’t know. If Barnes is worth $89 million, Curry is worth $500 million in the same marketplace.
The future cap will keep his likely number at around $35 million annually for five years, a $175 million haul. I don’t care about the size of Lacob’s bank account and ego. He’s not paying a collective $325 million or so to two players. These are still the Golden State Warriors, not the Los Angeles Dodgers or old New York Yankees. He has said he’ll pay taxes, and to sustain a dynasty, he’ll have to. But with Green and Thompson locked in with extensions, the time is now to strike for as many titles as possible.
What’s most precious about Curry is that we’ve never heard him whine about his contract. He signed his $44 million deal when he was having severe ankle issues, and even after regaining his health and growing into a legend, he won’t beef that Green ($82 million), Thompson ($69 million), Bogut ($60 million) and Iguodala ($48 million) make more.
He’s also not going anywhere. Oh, the folks in Charlotte probably think the Hornets owner — last name Jordan, first name Michael — might be able to woo him home. Curry shot down thought that thought over the summer, when he told the Sporting News at a golf event, “As I am thinking right now, free agency isn’t really appealing to me because I love where I’m at, love the organization I’m playing for and the Bay Area is home for me and my family.”
Take care of everything Curry wants, then.
And I doubt Durant, all due respect aside, is on his list.
I recall two summers ago when the front office pondered a major move: sending away Thompson for Kevin Love. Lacob was said to be OK with it. The resident team consultant — last name West, first name Jerry — was not and threatened to quit. Thompson stayed.
Learn from that, Joe.
Be it a Silicon Valley venture or a championship sports team, you don’t mess with a booming, thriving formula.