Dub Nation Speaks: Continuing the core values that built a dynasty
Guest post from commenter Peter Hood
This guest post comes from our active commenter and subscriber Peter Hood, known for his creative and poetic comments. Today he stretches out in a slightly longer form. If members of the community want to contribute longer pieces like this, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you believe in life after love? [yes, that’s a Cher reference]
The best predictor of future action is past behavior. Thusly, if we want to narrow down what moves the Warriors FO might make in the upcoming draft, in free agency and in trades, we should examine what they have done and what their past actions tell us about who they are. And by they, I am speaking of the ‘other’ Golden Triumvirate: owner-gm-coach, Lacob-Meyers-Kerr.
Joe Lacob hired Mark Jackson, no coaching experience. He hired Bob Meyers, no front office experience. He hired Steve Kerr, no coaching experience. He hired Jerry West as a consultant, which showed us that Joe is smart enough to realize that just because he owns a basketball team doesn’t mean he knows Jack about basketball. We credit Curry with being the cultural centerpiece around which the team on the court was built. But let’s not forget who was the first person to put the shovel in the ground in the 180 rebuild of the Warrior’s front office culture. It was Joe Lacob. Who and why he hired the people he did is very telling. He didn’t hire resumes. He didn’t hire old guard GMs or members of the NBA’s elite coaching turnstile club. Joe hired people. And he hired people who shared his own core values about the value of people all the way through the organization. In other words, if you believe in somebody, you have faith that they will do a great job because of WHO THEY ARE, not because of what they have done before.
Bob Myers, as a player agent, did not merely care about how much his clients could make for him, but showed genuine concern for the whole player, the family member, the community citizen, the role model, etc., beyond what his client was on the court. Myers didn’t land his job on his ability to evaluate talent. Myers landed his job on his ability to evaluate people. Drafting Draymond Green, the pudgy tweener from Saginaw, was the greatest example of this. No one in the NBA could figure out how someone with his size and particular skills could fit into an NBA lineup. And frankly, neither could Myers. But what he saw in Green was a winner through and through. A guy who would stop at nothing to win a ballgame. He drafted Green the person, not Green the player.
Beyond this, if a player is going to be traded from Golden State, he is not going to find out about it from a Tweet. Not only that, the Warriors will do everything within their reach to put exiting players into good situations. Contrast this organizational philosophy with the tenure of Danny Ainge in Boston. Weeks after Klay tore his ACL in the Finals against Toronto, he was signed to a max 5-year contract extension. Isaiah Thomas left his heart and soul on the famous Boston parquet floor, worsening career ending injuries while playing through physical pain and the emotional pain of losing a sibling, only to be thrown in the Dumpster, aka, Cleveland, by Ainge and Company. Boston has a bad rep and deservedly so. They, as an organization, have made it perfectly clear that they don’t care about you, they only care what you can do for them. Philosophically, Boston and Golden State are polar opposites and the players around the league aren’t blind to this. And Golden State’s business philosophy isn’t cynical, i.e., they only pretend to value people in order to give them a leg up in recruiting future players. They really believe in what they believe in, and this has been demonstrated time and time again in their practice.
On the court, Kerr has created a community among his coaching staff where all have a voice. And on the court, his vision of Joy conveniently mirrored that of his superstar, Curry. While Thom Thibodeau uses every practice to extract cartilage from his players knees, the Warriors blast music and throw footballs. Kerr has made the team a destination for reclamation projects. Win, have fun doing it, and revitalize your career. In one year, Andrew Wiggins went from “the worst contract in the league, no defense, not a winner” to “would you even trade him straight up for Ben Simmons?” And who knows, when you retire, you might end up at the end of the bench teaching young players (Barbosa) or cutting your teeth in the front office (Zaza & Livingston). It is known around the league that getting on the floor with the Warriors can raise ceilings and open doors and this gives the organization a competitive edge.
The Warriors brand of basketball comes from its players, but Steve Kerr has embraced it and maximized it. Kerr embodies both the underdog fierce & competitive spirit of Draymond and the joy of playing beautiful basketball as displayed nightly by Curry. Klay? Nobody embodies Klay but Klay. But to his credit, Kerr is a transparent, insightful and fun coach to deal with if you are a member of the media. And like Lacob and Myers, he sees his players as whole people, with lives off the court that have more value than what they do when they are in gym shorts.
Trust and the player/salary life cycle
The drafting of James Wiseman wasn’t just about getting a basketball player. We heard 2 things pre-draft. One, the Warriors were blown away by seeing him in the gym. Two, the Warriors were blown away by their lunch meeting where they were impressed to see him show up alone, without a cadre of advisors in tow. A #2 pick isn’t like renting an apartment. It is buying a house. And the last thing you want to do is buy a house and then move on from that house in 3-4 years. LaMelo Ball is a great player. But LaMelo has a personality and he has a game that justifies him being the centerpiece of his own team. It’s easy to imagine, after years of playing in Curry’s shadow, LaMelo could have made his way out of Golden State had they picked him. In Wiseman, they saw a kid who would fit seamlessly into an existing culture and that actually matters.
What does this all add up to?
It adds up to Curry, Draymond and Klay being 3 of the longest tenured players in the NBA. In a day and age when you can go from a non-tradable asset to an expendable liability in less than a calendar year, or even a playoff series (see: Simmons), there is a lot of mistrust. Teams like Boston have made a living at sowing mistrust between players and organizations. Players and agents, rightfully so, have to look out for their own interests, teams, pressured to get fans to the arena, look at players as chips to be wagered in the never-ending game of NBA poker. Typically, there is just never enough trust to allow for a player to evolve through all the stages of the Player/Salary Life Cycle with one team.
A. Rookie makes little while performance exceeds contract. (Team Friendly)
B. Player makes contract equal to performance. (Fair contract)
C. Player’s contract exceeds performance as skills decline with age. (Player Friendly)
D. Player’s skills exceed contract as they take vet minimum to extend career (See old people getting paid as Greeters at Wal-Mart) (Team Friendly) or
E. Aging Player’s contract exceeds performance as repayment for player taking less in prior years. (Team repays player for prior salary sacrifices)
This Player/Salary Life Cycle is happening on every team, yet it seems impossible for players to go through this process with a single team. And this is what the Warriors may be trying to challenge by opting to follow the business model of the San Antonio Spurs. There are inherent advantages built into team chemistry and continuity that are beneficial for players and organization alike. Everyone talks about Curry finishing his career as a Warrior. Well, why not Klay and Dray as well? Are we saying, Klay or Dray coming off the bench in supporting veteran roles in the twilight of their careers aren’t going to help? But the NBA is a high wire act, for organizations and players, and it is just really hard to close your eyes, let yourself fall, and believe that someone behind you is going to catch you. To get through the Player/Salary life cycle with one team requires a level of belief and trust that borders on fantasy, because at each phase (new contract) one side could easily screw the other side.
“Thanks for your rookie years, but you’ve been traded to Cleveland.” “Yeah, I’ll resign …. Oops, changed my mind, I’m taking my talents to …” However, if you can manage the trust gauntlet, the benefits can be extraordinary for player and team alike. (See legacy of: Pop, Duncan, Parker & Ginobili.) However, if any group of players and front office can meet this trust challenge, it’s this group.
Trust, inclusivity, empowerment
This is all a very very long way of saying this: the Warriors don’t do kneejerk reaction trades. Many have claimed that Curry, because of his superstar status, deserves to be consulted on any big roster decisions. He doesn’t deserve to be consulted on big roster decisions, he is consulted on big roster decisions because that is how the Warriors operate. The Warriors are built on Trust, Inclusivity and Empowerment. I’m not saying the Warriors won’t ever make a big trade that involves one of their core.
But I am saying that that decision isn’t made without the entire core and organization signing off on it. And big basketball decisions are not made without weighing all aspects of the incoming player, the person who is the player and their potential fit within the overall culture of the organization.
As we move into the silly season, where ridiculous trade ideas abound, know that the Joe-Bob-Steve & Steph-Klay-Dray are in it to win. But underlying that desire is a trust that has been built up over years of unbridled success. Joe-Bob-Steve believe in Steph-Klay-Dray and they believe wholeheartedly that any Championship aspirations begin with those 3 as the nucleus.
Conversely, Steph-Klay-Dray believe and trust that Joe-Bob-Steve are going to do everything in their power and within financial reason to put the core in the best position to win by surrounding them, not with the best players, but with the right players. If the Warriors keep both draft picks this year, just know that there is a good reason for it and that reason ultimately is about winning and culture. If they pull off some trade, same thing.
We have one of the greatest trios to ever share the court and, I believe, one of the greatest owner-gm-coach trios to run a team. We have only reached the middle chapters of this Warriors story. There are many fans who think the story is over and can’t wait to sell the future for some pie in the sky superstar savior.
But I, as a fan, am going to continue to believe in this group the way they believe in each other and I am going to continue to trust that this story will be continued and that it has an ending worthy of its beginning.
Like Cher asked: Do you believe in life after love? Yes, but only if the Warriors maintain the core values that got them here, that they aren’t just drafting a player, they are drafting a young man whose development as a man is as important as winning.
And we as fans remember why we are fans. We are fans because We Believe. Not just in the uniforms, but in the hearts that beat beneath them.