Bill Simmons doesn’t believe in the Warriors. This isn’t speculation, nor is it something I read on one of the 700 posts about Grantland’s Editor-in-Chief on Deadspin. Simmons is a prolific podcaster these days, and two recent episodes included segments in which Simmons listed what he thinks is wrong with Golden State.
Included among his reasons to doubt the Warriors’ qualifications as a potential contendah:
- Simmons thinks the Warriors bandwagon is over capacity.
- Harrison Barnes is a guy who’ll “check out” if he only plays 20 mpg.
- They’re really going to miss Jarrett Jack.
- Toney Douglas is “not good at basketball.”
- Three teams gave up on Marreese Speights.
- The Warriors are a “bad defensive team.”
I’ll give him the Speights thing, although through five games with the Warriors he’s been oddly entertaining. While I’d never say an NBA player isn’t good at basketball, it’s not like Douglas is a star-in-waiting. However, the Barnes “does he really care?” narrative is played out, and the Warriors are currently second in the NBA in two major categories: opponents’ FG% and defensive efficiency (last season they were fourth in FG% against and 13th in defensive efficiency).
In response to Simmons’ comments, there’s a post on a Warriors Reddit page called “I am really starting to hate Bill Simmons.”
Is that true? Warriors fans can judge for themselves, and to help I transcribed portions of two different podcasts where Simmons talked Dubs. The first: when he previewed the Western Conference on Oct. 29 with his buddy Joe House based on the over/under for each team’s 2013/14 victory total.
Simmons: Golden State: 52.
House: I felt like that’s exactly the number. I love them at 52. I don’t like them above it, but I don’t like them below it.
Simmons: I’m going slight under. As I’ve covered a couple times, Golden State …
House: They only have to be five games better than last year. They won 47 last year.
Simmons: A few too many people on the old bandwagon.
House: Yeah, I know what you’re saying.
Simmons: That worries me. Iguodala, we both like. That’s a guy you can go to war with in the Finals.
House: Terrific fit too, I think.
Simmons: Somebody loses in this scenario though, right? It’s David Lee loses, or Harrison Barnes loses, or Bogut loses. But they have six guys who are all going to want to be playing, and somebody loses. So who’s going to lose? And if it’s Harrison Barnes – you follow college more than I do – we both loved what he did as a smallball four in that Spurs series. If you’re counting on him for 20 minutes a game, do you trust him? I feel like he’s going to check out.
House: I think that playoff experience – this may be my glass half full approach to the world – should whet his appetite, should have him hungry. He wants to go prove to the world that it wasn’t a fluke. He’s just biding his time. This is a team that’s loaded for another impressive run. It’s tough to predict the mindset and impose it on a guy, but I think he would be psyched with going hard on 20 minutes.
Simmons: My ideal situation for this team is David Lee off the bench. I would start Barnes and I would bring Lee as the sixth man but you can’t do that because he’s making $18 million a year. I think they’re really going to miss Jarrett Jack, especially if anything happens to Curry. If anything happens to Curry, last year they had Jack as a security blanket. This year they have Toney Douglas, who’s bounced around, who’s not good at basketball.
House: (Laughs) I don’t have any answer for the backup point guard.
Simmons: They have Marreese Speights in the Carl Landry spot. Marreese Speights, two teams gave up on. Three teams, actually.
House: I do think Iguodala helps take some pressure off Steph Curry.
Simmons: I’m going under. This team’s not winning more than 52 games. Too many people on the bandwagon. Are we disagreeing?
House: No, I’m agreeing with you. Because like I said, I was going at 52 as the number. 53 is too much. We’re both going under.
Simmons spoke more recently about what he likes about the Warriors in his Nov. 5 podcast with Zach Lowe:
Simmons: We have some really bad defensive teams that are contenders in the West. The Warriors are a bad defensive team except for Iguodala.
Lowe: Golden State, I disagree with you that they’re a bad defensive team. They were pretty good last year. They’re third right now in the league in points allowed per possession. They’ve played a terrible schedule, we’ll see. They’ve played one good team and got blown out of the building on a back-to-back, I believe.
Simmons: You really trust Golden State’s defense? So they played the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back. They played home for Sacramento. They killed Philly last night.
Lowe: Last night they beat a team that Grantland devoted like 5,000 words to in one day. We’re already discounting “at Philly” as an easy win?
Simmons: You’re right. It’s fair. I need to see more. I just, I was so appalled by their defense in that Clippers game. And … I don’t know why, but I’m down on this Warriors team. And I know they’re just as fun as they were last year. I get whole thing, but I just think they’re all in on this team now and I’m not sure their top-six is a top-six that wins a title.
Back when Warriors fans were freaking out because Chris Cohan wasn’t selling the team to Larry Ellison, Simmons was in Joe Lacob’s corner:
GSW fans, you’re in good hands with Joe Lacob. My Celtic peeps say he’s a great guy + a huge NBA fan. And wants to win. Give him a chance.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 15, 2010
Since then, his pro-Lacob stance has softened.
Two days after the infamous halftime ceremony at Oracle Arena that ended up with the crowd booing Lacob, which led to Rick Barry grabbing the mic and chastising everybody, Simmons wrote a comprehensive list of awful things the Warriors have done. The title: “How to Annoy a Fan Base in 60 Easy Steps.”
In March’s “Worst Contracts in the NBA” story, Simmons included a nugget about James Harden that drove some Warriors fans crazy (and several people in the Warriors organization as well, probably).
But here’s the real killer. Multiple sources have told me that, when Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti decided to shop James Harden, Golden State was his first call. He wanted Klay Thompson and a pick. The Warriors would only consider the trade if Oklahoma City took back Biedrins or Jefferson for 2013 expirings, knowing they’d get crushed by the luxury tax in 2014 with Harden’s extension plus Steph Curry’s extension plus David Lee plus Bogut/Jefferson/Biedrins.13 At that point, Presti went to Washington (offering Harden for Bradley Beal, and unbelievably getting turned down), then Houston (where the shopping heated up). Presti never ended up calling Golden State back.
Really, the Warriors were felled by New Owner Syndrome. I like Joe Lacob — in the long run, he’ll be fine. But when you give competitive billionaires an NBA team, they’re rarely (if ever) patient. They want to win right away, and they’re always going to plow ahead with a couple of risky/splashy moves because they don’t know any better yet. Wyc Grousbeck, Mark Cuban, Ted Leonsis, Dan Gilbert … name a new-wave owner who wasn’t a cheapskate (I’m looking at you, Robert Sarver) and I guarantee they battled New Owner Syndrome. For Lacob, the DeAndre/Bell and Bogut/Jefferson moves were his N.O.S. moments.
13 My personal take: If I can somehow turn Klay Thompson into James Harden, I’m doing it and figuring out the tax bullshit later. For the record, they bought the Warriors for $450 million and could get $650 million for them right now. It’s just a fact. The Kings got valued at $525 million, for god’s sake. The Warriors are a big-market team — big-market teams should always close when moments like “we’re offering you James Harden” happen.
The Warriors are by no means a lock to contend for the Western Conference crown, let alone an NBA title. Maybe Simmons is right about their top-six not quite being good enough to beat the Heat, Pacers, Spurs or Thunder. Who knows, “New Owner Syndrome” could be on its way to joining “The Ewing Theory” in the pantheon of Simmons-truths (which aren’t to be confused with regular truths, although they often sound totally legit and pair well with movies like Shawshank Redemption, Teen Wolf or Boogie Nights).
For those wondering if Simmons has it out for the Warriors for any reason beyond simply watching the team and believing they’re not all that great, I have a conspiracy theory. Ready? Maybe, just maybe … Simmons figured since he and Lacob both had Celtics connections and had maybe talked hoops from time to time at posh Boston-area soirees, he thought he might land a spot with the Warriors front office (Simmons thinks he can be an NBA general manager, and even led a movement once to become the Bucks GM). When that didn’t happen (or after Lacob said yes and later reneged), Simmons decided to crush the franchise whenever possible.
I’d say that “multiple sources” have told me this is true, but that would be a lie. In actuality, Simmons is probably a Clippers fan until the Celtics stop trading away all his favorite players.
By the way, the Warriors are on ESPN nine times this season (only once against the Clips).