Joe Lacob’s hour with Gary Radnich just ended, and it was hardly a surprise that Lacob said virtually nothing. His quotes from last week’s interviews regarding Keith Smart’s rotations and the availability of seemingly every player on the team other than David Lee via trade have already been called “out of context,” even though all of Lacob’s words were transcribed from Q&A sessions. Lacob wanted to send shockwaves through the organization last week, and today it was time to pull back on the honesty while still appearing to be a proponent of openness and transparency.
That’s fine. All Lacob wanted to do originally was show that he’s not Chris Cohan. And so far, he’s done that. He’s enthusiastic, seems to relish the media game and he’s much more hands-on. Whether that last quality is a good one for owners to have is debatable, but since Cohan never gave off any sort of vibe that he gave a crap about winning at all, it’s nice to have someone who thinks of the Warriors as an actual NBA team and not a device to swindle a ridiculously loyal fanbase.
Lacob enjoys tooting his own horn (Did you know he was instrumental in making sure the Celtics traded for Ray Allen AND Kevin Garnett? It’s true!), but what owner doesn’t? People don’t get this rich and powerful without a good deal of self promotion and hubris in most cases. Warriors fans have been fiending for a powerful force at the top for years. So, assuming he and Peter Guber have the financial wherewithal to construct a winning team out of this mess, how does he earn the trust of everyone around here besides doing five long interviews in January?
Give Keith Smart a purpose beyond an arbitrary win total, or fire him.
Keith Smart is coaching for his life. Joe Lacob has stated that he wants this team to make the playoffs, and that the goal is/was a record over .500 (28-27) by the All-Star Break. Neither of these things has an icecube’s chance of happening. So to pin some goal like “the playoffs” on the bulletin board and tell Smart that he either reaches this goal or gets fired (and even if nothing is said, that’s the implied assumption) is a disservice to Smart. Putting impossible goals on an employee is what bosses do if they want to fire that employee.
If that’s the case, Smart should be let go now. If Lacob wants to see what Smart can do, make this the overarching goal for the rest of this season: Smart has to show proof that he’s made the players that are a part of this team’s future better from now until the end of the season. That means benching Vladimir Radmanovic and Dan Gadzuric permanently, and limiting Acie Law’s minutes as much as possible. It also means developing Reggie Williams’ confidence and floor game, along with Ekpe Udoh’s rebounding and offensive repertoire (and hopefully at some point soon giving Udoh the starting center role currently held by the rapidly decomposing Andris Biedrins). It also means finding out if Brandan Wright can play 10-20 mpg for 20 consecutive games without breaking down. Lastly, it means resting Monta from time to time, so he isn’t having arthroscopic knee surgery every off-season before he’s 30.
Tank? Yes, tank. What, you’re surprised? NBA teams do this every single year, because anyone with a goal of winning a championship knows the longest road lies in front of 30-win teams trying to get incrementally better. If Smart is thoroughly convinced by ownership that long-term improvement goals are worth more than wins in terms of keeping his job, then the Warriors will indirectly be shooting for a higher draft pick (passive-aggressive tanking, in other words) — which they desperately need. While the Warriors have been stuck in the No. 7 – 13 slot for what seems like forever, and people say how attempting to win the draft lottery isn’t a good recipe for success, what other choice do they have?
Joe Lacob talks about free agency being an option, but even if the salary cap stays at the same level after the collective bargaining is agreed to (which could take months, if not a full year), the Warriors wouldn’t be under that cap by enough to sign an impact player. And the chances that the new CBA would leave the cap as high as it is now appear slim.
Trades? Expiring contracts don’t mean anything anymore because teams don’t know what the future holds, so all current cap rules and procedures don’t apply. Stephen Curry’s trade value has never been lower (it’s still fairly high, but to trade him now after the consensus is that he’s regressed a bit in his sophomore year is foolhardy). Dorell Wright’s and Monta Ellis’ trade values have never been higher, but Wright isn’t making all that much, he’s only been an everyday starter for half a season and before this year had a fairly injury-plagued career, and in Monta’s case there aren’t a ton of GM’s willing to give up what the Warriors need (anyone bigger than Monta who plays solid defense, rebounds and scores 15 ppg) for a combo guard with T-Rex arms.
Oh, if you say trading Biedrins is the answer, you were right … two years ago.
So as much as Lacob says there’s a good chance a deal will be done before the deadline, there’s a much better chance that they’re going to have to convince everyone around here how hard they tried to get something done, but that there weren’t any deals that would make the team better and … yawn (snoring).
Meanwhile, there are three players on the team that — while lacking “superstar” potential — could be key to filling out a bench that to this point has been absolutely putrid. Of all the statistics that show the Warriors’ futility this season against decent teams (defensive efficiency, FT/reb/TO differential), bench production is perhaps the most obvious area where the Warriors have found themselves lacking all season.
Like Matt Steinmetz accurately pointed out in his column that got published just an hour or so before I was able to finish what I was doing at work and get this post up on BASG (grrrrr), you can’t expect Smart to do anything as a lame duck coach other than everything in his power to improve the team’s (and his) record. At least it’s more understandable than Don Nelson doing the same thing last year in order to reach an individual milestone.
I think Lacob envisioned a year where he got to sit back in his courtside seat and watch everything play out. “Work hard, everyone. I am judging your every move, from Larry Riley down to the part-time kids cold calling people and asking them to consider buying a Warriors Four Pack.” And Lacob has that right, since he is the owner and all. However, he’s created an environment that’s detrimental to the long-term goal of being a great NBA franchise. In the NBA, there’s no extra prizes for scrappiness or exciting plays. Only a cold, hard, ruthless plan to get top tier talent and surround it with athletic role players with specialized skills will suffice. Lacob needs to figure out a plan, and it better be different than what we’ve seen so far this season.