How the Warriors are eyeing the Lakers as they try to create a long-running NBA dynasty
Warriors owner Joe Lacob says his team is "very goal-oriented" and that he wants to be like the Lakers in terms of sustaining long-term sucess.
SAN FRANCISCO – Three days before the NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob watched a pre-draft workout featuring prospects that the Warriors might select in the June draft.
It doesn’t mean he is more involved than another owner (but may be more involved than some), and it doesn’t mean he’s micromanaging the franchise (though he may be).
“I want everyone to see all these players, including me, so that when we get down to the actual day and I'm sitting in the room, I don't want to be surprised and not know anything about these guys,” Lacob told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview earlier this month. “My job is not to run this organization in every little detail, but it's to know everything that's going on, to be involved, so that when the decisions do come, it's something I can understand. Almost always, I agree with it. We had not only me, Draymond Green was there. Some of our players were there. They're involved.”
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What it illustrates more than anything is his desire to ensure the Warriors remain competitive and regularly compete for championships.
“We're all about winning. Winning is No. 1. It's the only thing that matters at the end of the day. Winning,” he said. “That's what I tell everybody. We can talk about a lot of other aspects of this, but at the end of the day, winning makes your business better. Winning makes everything better.’ ”
For the fourth time in eight seasons, the Warriors are NBA champions. A start of a new dynasty or the extension of one, no matter how you view it, Lacob is intent on sustaining this success.
In a 2016 New York Times Magazine story, Lacob notoriously said the Warriors were light years ahead of other NBA teams. He regrets the way the comment was perceived. But he believes in how the franchise operates, both on the business side and basketball side, and that will translate to long-term success.
Now, all modern-day NBA owners are confident. They come from a world where they made billions of dollars and think they can translate that success to NBA success.
Lacob used former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss as an example of what he wants the Warriors to be. “We are very goal-oriented,” Lacob said. “Our goal right now is to sustain being really good for a long time. I look at Jerry Buss and the Lakers, and how he owned the team for 33 years and made 16 Finals. That's just an astonishing achievement, an incredible owner. …
“Whether we can sustain that over such a long period of time, like Jerry Buss did – the Celtics certainly had great history but it was a little bit of a different time – I don't know. But we're going to try. That's what we're trying to do here.”
Sustaining it is difficult. In the past 25 seasons, San Antonio has been to the Finals six times (five titles), the Los Angeles Lakers eight times (six titles), Miami five times (two titles), Cleveland four times (one title) and Golden State six times (three titles and going for a fourth).
The Warriors have factors in their favor: a supportive ownership group led by Lacob and Peter Guber; a strong front office led by president of basketball operations and general manager Bob Myers; a coaching staff fronted by Steve Kerr; and a business operations staff that can sell and promote a quality product to top-dollar consumers in a new San Francisco arena.
This Finals appearance is gratifying after a two-year absence. Klay Thompson missed 2½ seasons with knee and Achilles injuries and didn’t return until Jan. 9, his first game since the 2019 Finals. Steph Curry played in just five games in 2019-20 after sustaining a broken left hand in the fourth game of the season, and Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn in free agency in 2019. The Warriors won a combined 54 games in the past two seasons, one more than they won this season and 19 fewer than they won in a record-setting 73-9 mark in 2015-16.
“This has been a hard path,” Lacob said. “What's gratifying about it is that we're back. Our team has worked really hard to be where we are. I think, actually, we're about to play our best basketball. Also, I will say there's something great about creating some special moments for Chase Center, which is a seven-year project to get it built. We love it. We think it's the best arena in the world. Now it'll have some great memories associated with being in the Finals, which will really help its history and its legacy.”
“Not only do we have those injuries, which screwed us in terms of our team, but the pandemic hit. It was just not only tough on the court, but tough financially. We lost more money than any other team in the league last year. Not fun. … we had to have some patience as an ownership group.”
Watch Lacob, who previously owned a smaller share of the Boston Celtics, at Warriors games. He sits courtside and he is a cheering fan, reacting to the ups and downs of a game. He acknowledges he is “very impatient and emotional and excited on the sideline.”
Lacob is a venture capitalist and says, “I'm a long-term investor kind of guy. I like to build things. We felt we were building a roster, Bob and I in particular, that if we got back healthy, could challenge for the championship. So we just had to keep that focus on getting people healthy, and we thought we could be back.”
Those two down seasons allowed the Warriors to acquire Andrew Wiggins and a 2021 first-round pick in a trade with Minnesota and draft Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, who hasn’t played this season, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
With Curry and Thompson healthy plus Green, the Warriors have a mix of veterans and youth. The Warriors have the ability to spend over the luxury tax when necessary, remain flexible to make roster changes on the fly, draft well and develop players. It’s enough to at least give the Warriors a chance to be good. Not all teams have that, and Lacob knows it.
“There's no one thing that makes us successful,” Lacob said. “It's a lot of little things and having an integrated plan. “It's proven to be successful. Now, I think, frankly, we'll always be successful. We'll work harder than other teams. We will work smarter. We have to get a little lucky, certainly. We haven't always drafted perfectly, but we did draft some great guys, especially in the last few years. That’s a key part of our next phase.
“This is not the end of an era, an end of a dynasty. We would like to think this is the beginning of an extension of the current, if you want to call it, dynasty. That's what we believe. Time will tell.”