LAS VEGAS — Warriors owner Joe Lacob again found himself trying to set the record straight once and for all.
“There’s no such thing as the two timelines,” Lacob told the Bay Area News Group. “There never was and still isn’t and never will be. There’s only one timeline, and the timeline is every year to put the best product on the floor, to have the best team, to compete the best you can to win a championship.”
And that’s exactly what the Warriors are trying to accomplish amid a pivotal offseason of change.
The Warriors are swapping out some of their developmental projects for more seasoned players. That’s part of the reason why new general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. executed a blockbuster trade that brought Chris Paul in and sent Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins to the Washington Wizards.
But was trading a 24-year-old with star potential for a 38-year-old future Hall of Famer with an injury history the solution to the Warriors’ main issues that led to their second-round playoff exit last season?
The trade was a “multi-faceted decision,” Lacob said. In the immediate future, he believes it puts the Warriors in a better position to win. It also gives the Warriors financial flexibility at a time when the new collective-bargaining agreement is implementing more sanctions on high-spending teams.
There’s also no question that Draymond Green punching Poole in the preseason had a psychological impact on the team last season.
“We had to change something,” Lacob said. “While it’s a short-term move, Chris Paul is a fabulous Hall of Famer who will I think certainly help our second unit, help our first unit if he plays there, wherever he plays, he’s a tremendous guy.”
Is that a hint from the team owner that Paul could be coming off the bench for the first time in his 18-year NBA career?
“That’s up to the coaches,” Lacob said. “I’m sure they’re talking about it, but who knows? He might start, he might not. … The point is to get a lot of talent out there and to see [what happens]. Who starts doesn’t really matter anyway, it’s who finishes the game.”
The Warriors also added backup guard Cory Joseph and stretch forward Dario Saric to give them more veteran support off the bench after having one of the NBA’s youngest groups of reserves last season. In the draft, they picked combo guard Brandin Podziemski at No. 19 and traded for forward Trayce Jackson-Davis at No. 57.
With at least one more NBA roster spot open and three two-way contracts up for grabs, the Warriors’ offseason work isn’t quite done yet. Still, Lacob likes the direction of this team.
“We can be good for several years, not just one, but we definitely want to win,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can. We’re gonna have a huge payroll this year, the biggest in the history of the NBA, and we’re trying to win. I can’t try any hard, we’re trying everything we can.”
Here are some other topics of discussion that were touched on throughout the 15-minute conversation:
Discussions on extending Klay Thompson, who’s entering the final year of a five-year, $190 million deal, are quiet at this point, according to Lacob, though he remains optimistic that they’ll figure it out at some point.
“Certainly, we’d like Steph, Draymond and Klay to retire as Warriors,” he said. “That is my goal, our goal, and I think it’s a good likelihood that’ll happen.”
What about Steve Kerr, who’s also entering this season on an expiring deal?
“We’ll have those discussions I’m sure soon,” Lacob said. “Steve loves being coach of the Warriors, I love Steve, we love Steve and I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”
Lacob didn’t seek an outside candidate for to succeed Bob Myers’ as general manager. Dunleavy was always going to be the guy, with Lacob targeting him as a potential replacement for the last two years.
“It was an obvious thing for us to do,” Lacob said. “It’s the best and the right choice for us to make.”
But the Warriors are still dealing with a glaring diversity issue among the team’s higher-ups. Their president, general manager, head coach, vice president of basketball operations, director of team development and director of basketball operations are all white men.
It’s noteworthy, too, that Shaun Livingston and Mujtaba Elgoodah have departed their posts as the director of player affairs and engagement and manager of team development, respectively. Jama Mahlalela also left Steve Kerr’s staff to take a lead assistant role with his hometown team, the Toronto Raptors.
Lacob had noted that the Warriors “have more diversity than people think” in lower-level positions, including Santa Cruz general manager David Fatoki, director of team development Ryan Atkinson, salary cap expert Onsi Saleh and director of analytics Pabail Sidhu among others. But he also acknowledged the lack of diversity in the organization is an issue.
“We need to be better,” he said. “So we’re going to work to do that, to improve that. It’s necessary.”
The Warriors have a chance to put words into action as they start the search for a director of basketball operations since Nick U’Ren is leaving the Warriors to become the general manager of the Phoenix Mercury.
Lacob has long expressed an interest in bringing a WNBA team to the Bay, but the message from the Warriors on the matter is still about whether the buy-in price and timing are right for them.
“We have been focused in recent years on a new arena and then the pandemic and so it just wasn’t something we could put to the top of the list,” Lacob said.
So where does Lacob stand on the topic now?
“We are very interested, we think we would be a phenomenal place for a WNBA team,” he said. “We think we could do a great job.”
Discussion between the Warriors and the league remains ongoing, Lacob said. There’s also another potential ownership group — the African American Sports and Entertainment Group — making a push to get a team in Oakland.
Lacob said no clear timeline of when the WNBA will move forward with its plans to expand has been established. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said at the Sports Business Journal Brand Innovation Summit in June that the WNBA could add two teams by 2025 and San Francisco is on the list being considered.
Lacob has also been interested in adding an MLB team to his portfolio. He was linked to the Angels last year before team owner Arte Moreno reversed course on a sale, and Lacob has said that he would like to buy the Oakland A’s if they were to become available.
But that opportunity has never been on the table. At this point, it seems more likely than not that the A’s are skipping town to set up shop in Las Vegas.
Lacob said he couldn’t comment on A’s owner John Fisher’s decision to move the A’s to Sin City.
“He owns the team, he’s not interested in selling, and I guess it looks like they’re moving to Las Vegas right now,” Lacob said. “Let’s see how that shakes out.”
The MLB is another professional sports league that could expand in the coming years, and Lacob didn’t rule out the possibility of buying in when the time comes.
“We always look at everything. We’re always aggressive and should there be an opportunity to own a Major League Baseball team… we’d be interested,” Lacob said. “But at this point, I can really, there’s nothing to say about it because I don’t know anything about it.”