“I have a philosophy about building a basketball team. I, as you know, was involved with the Celtics. And I really believe that you need three great players if you want to go far in the playoffs and potentially win a championship. Two gets you in deep into the playoffs — two GREAT players. A lot of people make the incorrect assumption that somebody’s great, right?
“We I think have two really good players to work with here as a young core. And of course I’m speaking of Lee and Curry. And I think we’ve got some other pretty good players too. Monta is in fact a great talent, obviously. Biedrins is a great talent. But we’ve got to figure out a great core three, and I think with that at some point the right move will happen, and I think we can build a tremendous team out of this.”
— Joe Lacob, in today’s interview with Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert
Thanks to Marcus Thompson II for calling attention to what could easily be considered a snub of some sort to Monta Ellis; otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of finding and listening to the mp3 file of the interview and transcribing Lacob’s revealing comments. While many are worrying themselves over whether Don Nelson will be with the team next year, the beginning of today’s interview detailed a much more important part of Lacob/Guber’s long term plan: what they’re going to do to change the roster. Because in the NBA, you get the players first and only then do you have a chance at the half dozen or so championship-level coaches in existence.
Whether you agree with Lacob that David Lee and Stephen Curry have what it takes to form a championship threesome (ha!) doesn’t really matter at this point. That’s the direction they’re going, a direction that seems to be the complete opposite of the one forged by Chris Mullin a few years ago when he re-signed Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins to large contracts — in hopes that their improvement as players would continue at the same rate it had in the two years prior.
Monta’s aptitude as a scorer, especially in transition (and during pregame warmups from the first row while shooting one-handed shots backwards) has been impressive, as 25 ppg scorers aren’t too common. But leadership skills haven’t just been lacking from Moped, there’s been almost a rebelliousness to him. As if he shouldn’t be expected to do anything besides show up and fill it up. Don’t expect him to sacrifice his game, help anyone get better or even talk to his teammates. He’s gone from shy to sullen, from a steal with limitless potential to a poor man’s Allen Iverson without the charisma or the fire.
Biedrins was only called a “great talent” by Lacob to keep his trade value somewhat respectable. He’s gone from a stat-lover’s dream to coach’s worst nightmare: a guy who can’t stay healthy, can’t shoot from beyond 6 feet and is afraid to shoot at all because he’s in fear that he might have to shoot free throws. The only advantages for Biedrins at this point are that he’s still in his mid-20’s and is tall enough for the position he plays, while Monta’s combination of height and skill set have never been a perfect match.
So the plan is to hope Curry-to-Lee becomes the next Stockton-to-Malone (yes, really) and pick up another “great player” without going over the luxury tax to add to their “core.” If Lacob and Guber can do it, they’ll reap the rewards of the best wealthier-than-average fanbase the NBA has to offer. If they can’t, the fans will probably end up watching Monta score 25 ppg and Biedrins collect double-doubles for other teams and continue whining about All-Star teams that could be formed just by selecting former Warriors now thriving around the league. Here’s hoping the vicious cycle stops repeating itself, and that Lacob/Guber snatching the Warriors away from Larry Ellison didn’t rob Warriors loyalists of the only owner who’d be willing to overspend for the championship they so richly deserve.