Update: Joe Lacob went on Razor and Mr. T this afternoon to explain what he meant when he said what he didn’t recall saying on Saturday at the Sloan Statistical Analysis Conference, and in the process mentioned that a blogger might have been the person who started this whole mini-controversy:
“What happened was, as I recall … I’ve been trying to get a hold of a tape of this, frankly. There was a question from someone in the audience about ‘how do you deal with all the negative publicity, it’s a public role now vs. a private role, which it is. And you get all these negative comments and this and that.’ And my answer, and maybe I handled it incorrectly. I don’t recall, exactly. And no one else seems to know either. Except for one blogger, or a guy who wrote something – he’s from Portland, believe it or not, this is where this all stems from. He wrote something about this, what I said, this comment that I said, that they’re not season ticket holders or whatever. I don’t believe I actually said it. I don’t know for a fact or for sure but it certainly wasn’t what it was meant to be.”
After flying back from Boston, Joe Lacob tried to make things right after the “real fans” comment he made at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference over the weekend. He emailed beat writers. He talked to his biggest (paid) critic. He got defensive. He praised David Lee.
In short, he did what he’s done at length since taking over the team: he talked. A lot. From his email to Rusty Simmons:
My point was that it is especially difficult to receive negative, expletive-ridden e-mails and blogger comments from so-called fans or self-proclaimed long-time season-ticket holders. I do not find it to be a constructive conversation if someone makes a point with viscous profanity. In some cases, because I care about our image with fans and patrons, I have researched whether the comments were coming from a patron or not. Obviously, it’s not good either way but especially bad for us if one of our season-ticket holders feels that way. Though claiming they were ticket patrons, we usually find that it is not the case. So, I conclude that such ‘fans’ or ‘season-ticket holders’ are not, in either case, REAL FANS
I want to assure all of our fans that we value them as fans regardless of whether they attend a game in person. Particularly, I and we embrace the online community and have hopefully demonstrated that by setting up an Owners Box and responding to all fan questions. I have personally responded to nearly all e-mails sent to directly to me. I have taken calls on local sports talk shows and even done a live webcast taking fan questions. We want to be a transparent and open organization that embraces our fan base. I sincerely believe that this is all much more fun to do in partnership with our investors, our players, our management and all of our fans. Rooting for your team is all about common cause, common goals–essentially a social network or contract.
So I guess he wasn’t talking about blogs like this? Or fans who can’t/won’t shell out $500-$15K per year for season duckets? Phew, that’s a relief. He was just complaining about people who use dirty words in “e-mails and blogger comments.” And since I tend to keep the bad language on BASG to a relative minimum, I’m off the hook.
What a load off. Now I can go back to listening to opera and enjoying my foie gras and shark fin mousse without worrying whether or not my fandom is being questioned.
Funny thing about all this is how much Lacob thinks he has to talk, like he’s being judged solely via public word count. (And yes, as someone who regularly pumps out 1,000 words per day on this site I understand that I’m treading on thin ice with statements like these.) Doing interviews where your main goal is to show how transparent, honest, or “real” you are is a good way to talk yourself into trouble with questionable comments. Like this one, which Lacob made to Tim Kawakami last night:
Portland? It depends whether you’re a fan of Gerald Wallace. We could’ve gotten Gerald Wallace–he’s not somebody we thought would make us better. I really believe that. He just doesn’t fit for us. He’s good defensive player, rebounder, certain things that do fit, certain things that don’t.
I could argue, don’t know whether Portland got better or worse.
(Cue automobile accident sound effect.)
First, we’re supposed to believe the Warriors offered Charlotte as good a deal as the three expiring contracts (Dante Cunningham, Joel Przybilla and Sean Marks), two No. 1 picks and cash Portland gave up? And second, there’s a question as to whether the Blazers got better? Or if Wallace, with his annoying habit of playing defense and rebounding, would fit with the Warriors?
Perhaps Lacob tried to get Wallace and couldn’t, and now he’s covering himself and the rest of the organization by saying they could have gotten him but they didn’t want him (saying “I really believe that” makes it seem like he’s trying too hard to convince us of something that isn’t totally true). But when the best possible outcome of an owner’s statements is that he isn’t telling the truth, what’s the point in talking? And is that true transparency?
The good news on Lacob is he’s paying attention. He rattled off several trades that were done in the Western Conference, while it was questionable whether or not Chris Cohan knew why basketball players bounce the ball while running with it. But is he too actively involved? Is he actually performing most or all of the major GM duties? Because if so, that’s scary. And not just because very few (if any) owners have demonstrated the ability to have any idea what they’re doing in terms of handling matters of player personnel. Because by what Lacob has said publicly, one has to wonder if he has the foggiest idea how to build a basketball team.
So far in Lacob’s tenure as the team’s primary owner, there have been some pros, and some cons.
– He isn’t Chris Cohan.
– He’s enthusiastic, cares about basketball and attends games.
– For an owner he’s been extremely accessible, even with people who criticize him regularly.
– His comment about bloggers notwithstanding, Lacob has shown an openness toward new media remarkable not just in comparison to Cohan, but all professional sports franchises.
– Fans (and some media) wanted housecleaning, and Robert Rowell (among many others, including a certain TV play-by-play guy who many call “Giggles”) is still around.
– David Lee isn’t as bad as people make him out to be, but he’s hardly a franchise cornerstone. After struggling to get out from under similar contracts to Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, it’s hard to explain why the Warriors spent so much in terms of money and trade assets for Lee. Lee was definitely Lacob’s call.
– People are getting as tired of hearing about how the Celtics did things as 49ers fans are of their favorite team copying the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
– Lacob’s constant chatter about stuff like won/loss records at the All-Star break and bold moves at the trade deadline will lead to fatigue if the team doesn’t at least get to .500 or better, if that fatigue hasn’t already set in.
I’m not anti-Lacob, and I do think it’s fair to give him more than eight months to turn things around (plus, we really have no choice). But it would seem to behoove him to tone it down a little. Instead of building confidence among the Warriors’ battered but loyal supporters, his words have shown at times to be contradictory and defensive. He might wish fans welcomed him like they presumably would have welcomed Larry Ellison* but there’s nothing he can do, nothing he can say that will change the fact that Ellison’s was the beard everyone wanted to cheer.
*(Another interesting note: Lacob is against the Kings moving to Anaheim because he doesn’t want the precedent set that a team can move into a market where another team is already established, like Ellison would be doing if he bought a team and tried to move to San Jose.)
This is clearly a lost season. The Warriors can’t even beat mediocre teams on the road, which is pretty disconcerting at this point since they should have been well rested after a month of home games with plenty of days off. Keith Smart seems to have lost his mind a little in the way that we all do when faced with the prospect of losing a job we like, with strange lineups (Acie Law over Steph Curry? VladRad over Udoh?) followed by locker room outbursts. At this point Lacob needs to stop telling us what he’s going to do at some point in the near or distant future, and after the season hire a player personnel guy he trusts and get out of the way — unless you think trading for Lee and signing Jeremy Lin to a guaranteed contract are moves that show Lacob’s on his way to becoming the next R.C. Buford.
Bill Neukom learned early that trumpeting success that hasn’t happened yet isn’t the best course of action. He mentioned the phrase “The Giants Way” and got crushed for it. Then he kept quiet until the Giants won the World Series. Now he’s front and center, leading press conferences. Lacob doesn’t need to go into hiding until the Warriors win the NBA Finals, but hopefully this incident will teach him to choose his words more carefully.