Lately, the Warriors owner has been open like Biblical interpretation (Is Job’s story really just a predictive metaphor about Warriors fans?). Over the course of our interview, I think Lacob spoke more words than Cohan’s ever said–to anybody. Here’s what I culled from a talk that went over the salary cap…
On the rumblings about another (possibly Ellison-owned) Bay Area NBA squad:
ESS: There’s been talk of an NBA team in San Jose. How does that idea strike you?
Joe Lacob: It doesn’t strike me. We are the NBA team of the Bay Area. We’re San Francisco, we’re Oakland, we’re San Jose, put them in whatever order you want to put them in. We happen to be playing in Oakland. That’s where the arena is. But we have territorial rights. This is the NBA team for the entire Bay Area, those are our fans, they come to our games, I have friends in Monterey who come to the games. I have friends in Napa who come to the games. People in Sacramento actually who’s not in our territory (laughs)…come to the games. So, it’s an irrelevant point to me. There’s not going to be an NBA team in San Jose.
On the Monta + Steph situation per defense:
ESS: You’ve spoken about how the Warriors have lacked a winning architecture. And what I’m wondering is, going forward, is having two small guards in Ellis and Curry part of a winning defensive architecture?
Joe Lacob: I think it’s challenging.
ESS: (Incoherent grunt)
Joe Lacob: I love our backcourt. Anybody who’s a fan would have to say they’re excited. And they’re great shooters. I think we’re the top three-point shooting team in the NBA right now? And Ellis has turned into quite a great three point shooter. Which he didn’t have before as you know.
Joe Lacob: He had a great midrange game, could drive to the hole, but now…he’s got everything. I think he’s underestimated right now in the NBA. People are just starting to really get it–how good this guy is this year.
But back to your point. I think it is challenging defensively. At the point of attack, we’re not the strongest defensive team. And in fact, we’re not the strongest defensive team overall.
ESS: Second worst in efficiency.
Joe Lacob: It’s true. And I think we recognize it. Hopefully, overtime, we can teach defense and get these guys better at what they’re doing, have better defensive schemes. But the truth of the matter is, we might need to add some players that are better individual defenders in order to improve the overall team defense.
ESS: So you would say the attribution for the defensive shortfall this year is more on personnel than schematics?
Joe Lacob: I don’t think we have the best personnel to be a great defensive team. I think we can be better than we’ve been, though. And there are few great defensive teams in the NBA. And a lot of teams that are really (laughs) not that great.
ESS: It’s top heavy.
Joe Lacob: I think we need to get better, clearly, defensively. And that may involve some personnel changes over time. Specifically to that backcourt? We’re just going to have to wait and see. Who knows? I can’t tell you that anybody won’t be traded if the right deal came along. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you, “They’re definitely going to be here all year!”
ESS: (Muffled grunt)
Joe Lacob: We don’t know that. But we’re going to look at it and see how it works at the end of the year. I do like both players a lot. Maybe they’re not as good defensively as some other defensive players in the backcourt for other teams? But they’re pretty damned good offensively.
ESS: Do you think that the defensive shortfall is more frontcourt or more about the backcourt?
Joe Lacob: I don’t think we’re great defensively…anywhere…honestly. I mean, Dorell Wright’s a pretty good defender.
ESS: He is.
Joe Lacob: And no one would sit there and say that we’re great defenders at the other positions. I don’t think that’s honest.
ESS: (Sharp agreement grunt)
Joe Lacob: I think everyone would have to agree with that.
On when we can blame/credit the new owner:
ESS: You took a little heat in the San Jose Mercury News because confetti came out after a home win against the Nets. The writer Purdy was voicing impatience (with your reign). What I’m wondering is, at what point do you have a tangible impact on wins and losses? At what point should fans expect success?
Joe Lacob: Well, I expect success…this year.
ESS: (Surprise grunt)
Joe Lacob: I still think our goal is to be a .500 team and hopefully make the playoffs–the 8th spot. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t. And I do think we’re on path to do it. I can’t say “make the playoffs,” because that depends on what other teams do, but I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t. We have the personnel to do it. I think we have the coaching to do it. We did–I’m not trying to make an alibi here–but we did have the hardest schedule in the NBA.
ESS: (Acknowledgment grunt)
Joe Lacob: And now we have one of the easiest schedules. I think you’re going to see that makes a difference here. We also are healthy. You know, that’s luck, to some extent. So I think all of us will be disappointed if we don’t make a good run here and hopefully get to .500.
That’s the short term answer to your question. Longer term? We need to get better every year. And if we’re not, then I am not doing my job. Other people probably aren’t doing their job too (laughing), but I’m certainly not. And I expect to be held accountable by the fans. I don’t have a problem with it at all.
On team-building philosophy:
ESS: I know that Ted Leonsis (new Wizards owner)–has a slow growth approach like Oklahoma City. Do you favor an approach that’s quicker than what he is advertising?
Joe Lacob: Well, I don’t know if it’s a question of favoring an approach. I want us to get good, and relevant…as fast as possible. Nobody wants to pay their ticket price, come in here and watch somebody lose. So…no, not happy with that, not acceptable! Now, the question is, it’s not as much the approach, as it is, you have to have the situations. You have to be in the position to draft the right player. You have to be ready to make a trade if those players are available. And if they want your guys, (chuckles). It’s not always your fault. You can try, but they might not want to come here. You know, my job’s to make them want to come here. We want to make this a place where…
(Lacob begins pounding the table with every phrase)
The training staff (ding!), the medical staff (ding!), the facilities (ding! ding!)…everything about it is a place you want to be. Maybe we could help provide jobs for their spouses or whatever. Whatever it is, right? We need to be able to do those things to recruit those players. So that’s part of my job. Then we have to be prepared for that. We have to be prepared to succeed. We have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, to act on it. We also have to be smart, and not act before it’s time. So maybe this gets to different ways you go about this. You can’t just make a trade to make a trade.
ESS: But it seems like you’re going to have to do a lot of building through trades because the team’s not bad enough to get some of the draft picks that the Wizards would get.
Joe Lacob: Hope you’re right (laughs). You know the Celtics, when I was with them, they didn’t really rely on draft picks at all. They really made themselves better. Danny Ainge’s strategy, specifically, was to go and get free agents. And, that’s certainly one way to do it. We’re going to try and do that if we can, whether it be good free agents or trades.
I do think you can make good draft picks, though, mid round, somewhere in the middle this year…wherever we wind up. I do think, we have to be better at that too. Steph Curry was a great pick. I think Udoh will turn out to be a reasonable pick, maybe a good pick. We don’t know yet. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that. But there certainly has been a history of not making good picks here. We can’t do that.
On the new medical addition:
ESS: Troy Wenzel was recently hired to head the Warriors training staff. Were you active in that process?
Joe Lacob: I wasn’t directly active. Larry (Riley) did that. It’s his responsibility. But certainly he talked to me through the whole process.
ESS: I was just curious because you’ve had venture capital projects that had a lot to do with health and technology. And the Warriors have struggled for a long time with injuries. So I was wondering if you were looking to find a competitive advantage in terms of injury prevention.
Joe Lacob: Yes, I think that is true, and that’s a good point. There’s a lot going on right now, so can I say that I made that my primary focus…to go look around the world for the best guy? No. I think we had to go find, pretty quickly, a guy that could be very good at what he’s doing, and hopefully he continues to be good, stays with us for a long time. And if not, we’ll go through the whole process and do that. We found a really good guy, we think, and we’ll see how it works out. And Larry was the guy who did it…consulted me through the whole process.
On the Melo-tinged trade season:
ESS: (New Jersey’s Melo rejection) doesn’t change anything at all in terms of deals you might be pursuing, chatter that you’re hearing?
Joe Lacob: No. We are…interested in making this team better through any means possible whether it be free agency, whether it be trades at the deadline, whatever it takes. And we are working…I don’t want to say round the clock, but we are a lot more engaged than some people might think. We don’t go talking about it publicly.
That’s actually something I don’t like about the Melo thing. I don’t know who was talking to the press. But there was a lot of talking going on about people’s careers–which I think is unfortunate.
ESS: (Restrained grunt)
Joe Lacob: Because now those people have to stay on those teams. So…we don’t talk about it. I think in the future, you probably won’t have good wind of the things we have done.
Twitter: SherwoodStrauss/Email: Ethanstra@gmail.com