The Warriors front office should be embarrassed.
I say that even considering prior ownership to the highest degree. Sure, Chris Cohan was awful. Terrible, even. Possibly even a downright selfish asshole who spurned fans for a safe profit every single year. He didn’t pay the luxury tax, he didn’t try to sign good players, and he ran a front-office more concerned with tickets sales and excitement than playoff appearances, as if he didn’t know how well the two correlated. So that’s that. Chris Cohan is gone, and he was possibly the worst owner in the NBA not named Donald Sterling. One playoff appearance and two winning seasons in 15 years says it all. But that doesn’t excuse this Front Office.
The new information that they partially or wholly “covered up” what kind of surgery Bogut had this past April is juvenile and unprofessional. After weeks of stringing us along about his possible return time-table we found out today that he underwent a micro-fracture surgery on his ankle, a procedure thought to be much more serious than the initial “cleaning out” he was described as having. This, on top of broken promises, insults hurled at non-season ticket holding fans early in his tenure, and the pompous arrogance that have caused him to overrate his ability to impact this team, is really making him hard to like.
From Day 1 the FO have promised change. They brought Jerry West in to the front office fold, a new coach to the sideline in Mark Jackson, and even took a new approach to team management with the hiring of former agent Bob Myers as Assistant GM (since promoted to GM). They were committed to making the Warriors a winner. So confident in their abilities that they even promised fans the playoffs in their first full year as owners. Not only that, they extended their promises to an All-Star appearance and a minimum number of home wins. None of these goals were met. Even the fourth promise, technically fulfilled caused problems for some fans. The risk-free season ticket renewal that promised a 5% interest guarantee actually ended up costing fans money. So despite all their optimism and effort, not a very good start.
And the fans let Joe Lacob and company know last season at Chris Mullin’s retirement ceremony just how they felt about that. Instead of attempting to fulfill the promise of a playoff birth, the team instead chose to trade away it’s best player and fan favorite Monta Ellis, as well as young defensive stud Ekpe Udoh, who’s impact on the court has been likened to Chicago’s Taj Gibson, the proud recipient of a new 4 year, $38M contract extension. The Warriors also sent injured big-man Kwame Brown.
For their troubles, Warriors returned injured former All-NBA big man Andrew Bogut, coming off of consecutive major injuries to his left elbow and ankle, respectively. His injuries had limited him to playing in just 182 of the Bucks’ last 312 games. Initially, the trade also brought back Stephen Jackson, a player who forced his way out of Golden State after a new contract extension just 2 years before. Easy to say that most Warriors fans weren’t high on the possibility of his return. Instead, the Front office managed to swap “Stack Jack” for another aging role player, Richard Jefferson, and a late 1st Round draft pick from the Spurs. Jackson went on to have a stellar finish to the year with the Spurs. Worse yet, Jefferson’s contract was equally as large and extends an extra year past that of Jackson’s. That, along with the bigger Bogut contract would cripple the Warriors cap room for the foreseeable future.
The Front then office sold this move to fans as a move for the future, despite their promises to make the playoffs. The team had started just 19-21, but this was with their 2nd best player and point guard Stephen Curry either hobbled or on the shelf for much of the season. With their starting center Andris Biedrins playing like one of the worst in the league. With backup big man Kwame Brown out with a pectoral tear. Perhaps the Warriors were falling apart at the seams. But there was hope. The Warriors were gaining ground in the West despite just finishing a stretch where they played 9 of 12 on the road, and they had won 3 of 4 since moving Udoh into the team’s starting lineup alongside David Lee. They were ahead of eventual 8th seed Utah.
I’m not going to knock the process of trading a guard for a center. Centers are far more valuable in the NBA, and on this Warrior team, it was a desperate need. It’s the way the front office did it that upset fans, including myself. They went back on promises for something they’ve never sold as a risk. It was the right move, they keep saying. It makes us better, they keep saying. Prove it.
It’s clear this team didn’t need Andrew Bogut to play better. It’s been clear since last season and even seasons prior. Having a center is great, but the larger problem for the Warriors has been team defense and rebounding, not individual. The massive team improvement in both shows how much it’s changed, even without him. What’s really odd is that rookies are generally not expected to impact a team’s defense positively. There’s 3 playing regular minutes in the Warriors lineup now. The knocks against off-season additions Jarrett Jack and Landry were that aren’t good defenders, and that Landry isn’t a good rebounder for a big man. Andris Biedrins remains terrible. Lee, Curry, and Thompson still remain in the lineup. The Warriors best perimeter defenders from last season, Brandon Rush and Jefferson, are out with injuries, Rush since the team’s 2nd game. So why are they better defensively?
Team defense and rebounding. It’s not that hard to figure out. But the trade did bring us positives. Festus Ezeli was the 30th pick in the last draft, and now our starting center. It brought us Harrison Barnes (who I very much like) rather than a future pick. But in terms of the win-now approach, it’s hard to say that the combination of an injured Jefferson and Bogut, Ezeli, and Barnes bring more to the table than Ellis and Udoh, who were possibly the teams’ best and second best players when they were traded last season. And that was the risk they took.
Now, let me make one thing clear: I loved Monta Ellis. He was my favorite Warrior and my second favorite All-Time Warrior behind Jason Richardson. I was devastated when I found out he was traded. I actually went off by myself to sit for a while. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have found any trade involving him a good one. If we traded him for young players, I’d understand. If we’d traded him for draft picks, I’d understand. I will never understand betting on an injured center who already didn’t look like the player he used to be. Clearly, there’s no going back now. It’s just confusing to me how a team sells “win-now” and a rebuild in the same breath. For the most part it doesn’t work, and it’s just another example of the FO not taking the baby steps it needs to get the franchise back on track for good.
So Joe, if you read this (you won’t, because apparently all anyone ever has to say to you is positive), please consider the missteps you’re making, because even I, as a fan who understands why you made this trade, and why you’re hiding information, am starting to agree with the many naysayers that have been around since you took control of the team. Your exuberance is starting to wear off, so maybe it’d be best if you start making better decisions in the way you REPRESENT your team. Honesty about where Bogut is at would be a start, and you stepping away from anything PR-related might help as well. Thanks.