New Warriors Owners Talk Big Game
SAN FRANCISCO - This was no time to get caught up in the finer points of this era change.
Yes, the Golden State Warriors reside in Oakland, but Joe Lacob (left) and Peter Guber (right) didn't buy this team for a record-high $450 million to limit their vision to the lesser-known city by the Bay. So the venture capitalist (Lacob) and entertainment entrepreneur (Guber) stood in front of a captive audience at a seaside restaurant near the Bay Bridge, where the impeccable weather and serene setting inspired countless references to the broad appeal of this place that was so perfectly picturesque.
"There is no reason in the world that we cannot be successful as new owners of this team -- none," Lacob said. "We are in the greatest city in the world. Look it's incredible. Who wouldn't want to be here?"
Not long after, a reporter pointed out the obvious: the team they bought plays on the other side of the Bay.
"Ummm, I don't know that I said San Francisco," Guber said with a grin. "I looked out there and I was pointing towards Oakland (during a grand gesture to the Bay). I don't know if you saw that. Look, we play in Oakland, but we also play in the San Francisco Bay Area. That's what it's known as ... It's the greater Bay Area."
And greatness, make no mistake, is what the new guys are shooting for.
"We have a lot going for us here," he said. "I mean there's just no reason we can't turn this into a championship franchise."
While there was talk at one point of the age-old salesman concept of under-selling and over-delivering to a fanbase that experienced one playoff berth in the 15 years in which Chris Cohan owned their team, Lacob simply couldn't help himself when it came time to share his grand plan.
Having been a minority owner and member of the basketball committee of the Boston Celtics during a recent five-year tenure in which he saw the league's most dramatic turnaround from worst to first, Lacob made clear his intention to be on the prowl for a Kevin Garnett-like trade to turn this woebegone franchise around in similar fashion.
"There is no doubt, and this is what people don't understand, that in the NBA there's only (a minimum of) 12 players on a roster," Lacob said. "If you're smart, and you've got to be a little lucky too, but if you're smart, you should be able to, given the right opportunity and recognizing the opportunity and executing on it, you should be able to turn a team around faster than people would otherwise think."
Having opted to oust former coach Don Nelson in late September, Lacob simultaneously gave strong support for his replacement, former Warriors assistant Keith Smart, while outlining why he shouldn't feel entirely comfortable. He was adamant in explaining that their confidence in Smart -- which was no doubt aided by a hearty recommendation from general manager Larry Riley -- played a role in their decision to get rid of Nelson.
"He's THE coach," Lacob said. "We hired him. We didn't have a lot of (choices because of the timing). That's clear. We had to make a decision. It's very fortunate we had a guy sitting there who we thought could do the job ... I like him a lot."
But when asked about Smart's "multi-year" deal, Lacob clarified that it's a two-year deal with a team option for the second season. What's more, he noted how Guber has publicly stated his stance that expectations of a 10-win improvement from last season's 26-win campaign would be reasonable, then upped the ante once again by deeming a .500 record as the new starting point on the expectation front.
"We'd love to at least get to be a .500 team this year, setting that as a primary goal," he said.
Riley has clearly helped himself in the early stages of this partnership, as he was given ample credit for the David Lee sign-and-trade that helped the Warriors get off to a 7-4 start and sent Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf to New York (Lee's elbow infection now has put him out of action). While the ownership change wasn't yet official when that deal was done, Lacob said he could have vetoed it if he didn't approve. Quite clearly, however, he did.
"They called and said, 'Are you OK with this? Do you approve this?'" Lacob said. "I guess we could have said no, but there's no way I'd say no. Immediately, my first reaction (was), 'As fast as you can pull that trigger, pull that trigger, because David Lee is everything that I love about an NBA team.'... He's the best player in the trade."
And while it was believed over the summer that the Warriors were on the lookout for trades involving Monta Ellis and his contract, worth a combined $44 million in the next four years, that much appears to have changed (unless,of course, it's needed for the aforementioned Garnett-esque deal). Lacob, who took Monta Ellis, his wife and son to a San Francisco 49ers game recently to get to know his starting shooting guard ,said he was convinced of Ellis' well-publicized off-the-court growth.
"I was very impressed with what has happened here with this young man," Lacob said. "He has always been one of my favorite players, but (he) needed a little maturity and I think he clearly has that now. ... Monta is so impressive, so into it, so team-oriented right now you've got to be impressed with that."
There was a subliminal sound track at the event, with Michael Buble's "Feeling Good" seemingly playing on a loop with the lyrics "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life." From the sound of Lacob, though, Buffalo Springfield's "There's Something Happening Here" might have been more fitting.
"New ownership, new coach, just the whole philosophy here is clearly different," Lacob said. "It's already happening. There's something very special happening."
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