Posts Tagged ‘Joe Lacob’

Curry warns against distraction

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors (and Stephen Curry) for three seasons before being relieved after the 2013-14 season.

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors for three seasons before being fired after the 2013-14 season.

You watch the Warriors play, so free and easy, so loose and happy, almost as if dancing to a rhythm that only they can hear.

Best record in the league. Best start in franchise history.

So what could stop the music?

Only a distraction that would take everyone’s mind off the next game and the next game and dwell on a festering wound from the past.

That’s what leading scorer Stephen Curry seemed to be saying when he responded to team owner Joe Lacob’s recent remarks about why he replaced Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr as head coach.

Lacob had already issued an email apology when Curry felt compelled to put the focus back onto the basketball court.

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle had Curry’s take on the situation:

“I think it’s unfortunate that it’s a distraction from what’s going on right now,” point guard Stephen Curry said after the team prepped for Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Obviously, we’re playing well. You can nitpick what’s different between this year and last year, but you’re talking about two great coaches. I feel like Coach Kerr is doing his job great, and Coach Jackson did his job the way he thought was right. Obviously, there was a lot of success with it.”

After initially saying he had no comment, Kerr said: “I’ll just repeat what I’ve said all year, which is ‘I inherited a hell of a team.’ There have been a lot of good things done in this organization — the front office, coaching staff, player development. I’m sitting here with a great team. We have the best record in the league. That didn’t happen because our staff showed up. It’s happened over the course of several years, and a lot of people deserve credit for that, including the previous staff.”

Until last week, the Warriors had gone out of their ways to heap equal amounts of praise on Jackson for changing the franchise’s culture during his three-season run in the Bay Area and Kerr for taking the organization to the next level this season. Speaking at a venture capitalists luncheon Wednesday, Lacob strayed from the company lines.

Lacob said Jackson didn’t really know X’s and O’s, refused to hire a top-notch assistant coaching staff and wasn’t very likeable.”

Curry seemed to appreciate Lacob offering the apology.

“For him to apologize, it’s a big gesture,” the point guard said. “My whole thing is not to discredit anything Coach Jackson did, because he was such a great coach for us and elevated a lot of our individual games. I’m proud of that and appreciate that. Obviously, it’s a new era and a new experience that we’re in right now and that we’re enjoying.”

You know the old saying about fish rotting from the head down. Give Curry credit for making the point that the Warriors don’t a lingering bad odor of past resentment to take their minds off the task of moving ahead.

Myers solidifies his Warriors future

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Since leaving player agency and joining the Warriors three years ago, Bob Myers has headed a fast rise in Oakland.

It happened fast. That’s the thing.

Agent to general manager-in-waiting to actual GM to indisputably part of the solution in Golden State. Zero to 60 in about three years. Maybe not officially zero, since the experience as a leading agent is a rolling start, but Bob Myers had never lived the front office life before, and certainly not one as unique as the Warriors with so many voices coming at him from different directions.

About the only certainty when he went to work for his hometown team as assistant general manager in 2011 was that Myers would eventually, and probably quickly, become head of basketball operations, because no way he comes down from a lofty position in the agent game to serve as an aide. There was no chance to predict this with any confidence, though, the way a management newbie turned no cap space and limited trade assets into Andre Iguodala, how Myers did the Stephen Curry extension at what turned out to be an incredible bargain, how the Warriors got prime coaching target Steve Kerr away from Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and how the draft record will look good if Harrison Barnes is more 2012-13 than 2013-14 and Festus Ezeli recovers from knee surgery.

By the summer of 2014, the turnaround has led all the way to where general manager is one of the positions the Warriors don’t have to worry about. Myers has proven himself in pressure situations, the window of opportunity is still open after the disappointing first-round exit last season, upper management is relieved to be away from the strained relationship with previous coach Mark Jackson, and now the team and Myers have agreed on a three-year contract.

The new deal, first reported last week by Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, is on top of the 2014-15 remaining on the original package, putting Myers under contract through 2017-18. The Warriors are in an uncertain place on the court as Kerr takes over with no coaching experience and needing to deliver immediate results, good enough to project to somewhere around the middle of the Western Conference but unproven enough for reasonable doubts about a long playoff run, there is transition off the court with the planned arena construction and move into San Francisco, the salary cap has to be managed to take on another big salary with Klay Thompson a season away from free agency, but the front office is stabilized.

Relatively speaking, at least. Owner Joe Lacob is very involved. Assistant general manager Travis Schlenk, well regarded as a future GM somewhere, has a voice. Assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, son of Joe, has a voice. Jerry West, untitled in basketball ops but a minority owner/member of the executive board, does not know how to hang back, wanting to challenge people and loving others challenging his ideas just as much. Even the new coach, Kerr, is a former GM who will speak up, lobbying hard to keep Thompson and David Lee rather than trading for Kevin Love.

The mega-decisions — whether to include Thompson in the deal to get Love from the Timberwolves, whether to go four years and $48 million for Iguodala and three years and $36 million on an Andrew Bogut extension within about four months — come down to Lacob and Myers. But that’s still a lot of volume in one place. That’s still a very crowded war room when communication is not one of the GM’s strengths.

Still, the understated Myers kept the Warriors together emotionally last season as a counterbalance to an owner whose passion is regularly on display, with Jackson’s future in play for several months, when an assistant coach was fired for bugging colleagues’ conversations and another assistant demoted, not to mention dealing with the Donald Sterling saga in the first round against the Clippers that Golden State players and coaches said affected them too. That the Warriors got to a Game 7 despite the absence of Bogut says a lot about Jackson and the risk Lacob and Myers took in firing him. But there was also a composure in difficult situations, and that’s Myers too.

After all of one season as an apprentice and two as the GM, he has solidified himself as part of the long term, a proven commodity at age 39. Myers is no longer one of the questions, even more now that the potential contract issue is off the table with the extension. It happened fast.

Morning shootaround — July 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon

No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:

Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.

Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.

Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.

However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.

But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.

It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?

Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.

It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — May 7



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nets get rude welcome to the big time | Clippers keeping their eyes on the prize | Pressures shift to Warriors’ ownership and front office | Spurs fighting against their own history

No. 1: Welcome to the big show Brooklyn, your Nets aren’t dealing with the Raptors anymore: We tried to warn you not to count on that 4-0 regular season record against the Miami Heat. This is the playoffs. And whatever happened before now is history. It’s what you do now that counts. The time off didn’t bother the Heat. If anything, it only served to refocus their attention on that Nets team that had their number during the regular season. The victim of those eight days spent going over every detail wore black Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. And as Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post points out, it’s a whole new world:

So this is what the varsity looks like: a little bit faster, a little bit quicker, a little bit smarter, a little bit savvier. And a whole lot better. Intellectually, you knew that.

Instinctively, the Nets knew that. But it’s still not the same as seeing it up close, in person, in living color.

“We have to put up more resistance,” Paul Pierce said.

“We have to elevate,” Shaun Livingston said, “because they’re going to force you to elevate, or else.”

“They’re the defending champions,” Jason Kidd said. “They’re going to be at a high level. You have to find a way to match it.”

None of this came as a surprise to the Nets, of course, certainly not to the grizzled and the graybeards among them who have been through this all before with the Heat. Still, it’s one thing to say things properly — We swept the season series and it means nothing! They’ve been off for a week but we don’t expect them to be rusty! — and quite something else to stand your ground in the face of a full frontal Heat attack.

And not wind up flatter than Kevin Bacon in “Animal House.”

“They’re the ones that kept attacking for 48 minutes,” Kidd said. “We didn’t.”

The Nets didn’t lose the series Tuesday night, and there’s little chance any of the key participants will be confused on the matter. The Nets came to these Eastern Conference semifinals in full grind mode anyway, snarling their way through the seven-game slog with Toronto, and the grinder’s mantra is this: Get a split. Game 1, Game 2, doesn’t matter, counts the same.

(more…)

Firing Jackson daring move by Warriors

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime crew discusses the Warriors firing Mark Jackson

And so it turns out that hiring Mark Jackson to coach the Warriors wasn’t the risky move by owner Joe Lacob.

Firing him was.

Jackson’s future in Golden State had been in obvious peril for months, since Lacob made it a very public issue in an interview with Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, and so the announcement Tuesday that Jackson was gone was no surprise. When 51 wins in the regular season followed by a commendable playoff showing in a seven-game loss to the better team, the Clippers, with the complete backing of star player Stephen Curry doesn’t save a job, then Lacob was clearly heading in this direction for a long time.

Now all Lacob has to do is find someone better.

The emotional owner wanted a coach who would take the Warriors from the traditional fun bunch of an offensive threat to a group that would defend, and Jackson delivered. The owner wanted a team of passion that would offer something more than the signature Golden State pratfall of regular-season thrills replaced by zero playoffs or a few games as the sparring partner, and Jackson delivered. The owner wanted someone who could mesh veterans together while developing prospects, and Jackson delivered.

One of the best fan bases in the league, supportive in the drought years and all the right kinds of maniacal in the payback of the playoffs the last two seasons under Jackson, is going to want an explanation from Lacob and deserves one.

Jackson’s attitude of superiority created the distance from ownership and the front office that would become his undoing, but he had the locker room. The underdog Warriors went to Denver, nearly an impossible place for road teams to win in 2012-13, lost All-Star David Lee, didn’t flinch, had a hobbled Curry, beat the Nuggets and pressed the Spurs to six games in the second round. The underdog Warriors faced the Clippers this season without the important defensive and emotional presence of Andrew Bogut, didn’t flinch, and got to the final minute of the final game on the road before losing Saturday.

Amid all the positives of the roster in place combined with the aggressive and smart early history of Lacob and general manager Bob Myers joined with the support around the Bay Area, there will be no shortage of interested replacements. They will wonder about whether Lacob’s passion leads to unrealistic expectations, but people like Steve Kerr will also be able to rationalize it to themselves. This has become a destination franchise, and putting the Knicks and Warriors back to back is a no contest, with the added appeal that Kerr would be relatively close to his San Diego home base. New York has the singular advantage of the relationship with Phil Jackson.

The classic part is that if Jackson had this exact run with another team and he was available at the same time there was a vacancy in Oakland, he would be the epitome of what Lacob wanted. Instead, Kerr has emerged as the leading candidate as what Jackson was immediately before the Warriors hired him in 2011: a former veteran guard used to pressure situations but with no experience on the bench at any level and a post-playing career in broadcasting.

The absence of coaching experience made Jackson a daring move for Lacob then, before Jackson repaid the confidence. It just wasn’t the ultimate gut call that could blow up on the Warriors. Firing Jackson was.


VIDEO: Jackson gets emotional after Warriors’ Game 7 loss in Los Angeles

‘Run TMC’ crew in rarefied HOF air

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: ‘Run TMC’ takes a closer look at one of Golden State’s magical eras

They were together just three seasons. It seems like they ganged up on opponents for longer, but, no, just three seasons of sending scoreboard operators to the injured list with finger and hand disorders, before a trade brought things to an abrupt end, followed by a lifetime of wondering what could have been if Golden State’s Run TMC era had remained intact.

There was always something forever about the Warriors of T(im Hardaway), M(itch Richmond) and C(hris Mullin) and Don Nelson the mad-scientist coach, encouraging, not merely allowing, Manute Bol to fling 3-pointers from about the back of his neck. Now there officially is.

The Hall of Fame is expected to reveal Monday that Richmond, along with Alonzo Mourning, will be part of the Class of 2014. This comes after the February announcement that favorite TMC sidekick, Sarunas Marciulionis, will also be enshrined this summer. He’ll join Mullin (a 2011 Hall of Famer) and Nelson (2012) in Springfield, Mass.

Three players and the coach from the Warriors of 1989-90 and 1990-91 will be in the Hall. It is the kind of rarified air usually reserved for the Lakers and Celtics, with a strong case to be made that the point guard Hardaway could be the fourth player to go with the shooting guard (Richmond), small forward (Mullin) and reserve swingman (Marciulionis). Even better for Golden State? This party will include former coach and current community ambassador Al Attles, as beloved within the organization as any person is with any franchise in the league. He’ll be there to receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor from the basketball museum short of enshrinement.

For all the historical significance, those Warriors who tried to lure opponents into track meets and cause trouble with freakish matchups — 6-foot-7 Tom Tolbert on 7-foot-1 David Robinson, anyone? –went just 37-45 and 44-38 and won one playoff series. The defense, or what passed for one, wasn’t going to allow any long postseason runs, a common theme for years to come in Oakland. But what has turned into a near-annual statement from the anonymous Hall voters suddenly puts the Dubs of the late-80s/early-90s into a unique stratosphere.

“It’s a hotbed of basketball,” Mullin said of the Bay Area. “It really is. It’s great for the fans because a lot of nights and a lot of years, they cheered us on unconditionally. I would say this, though. That wasn’t a bad culture after all. You hear about ‘New culture, new culture.’ That wasn’t too shabby. Mitch hopefully is in. I’m sure Tim’s going to get in through this process. That’s not a bad culture. I think that’s a very proud franchise through the years, from Wilt Chamberlain to Nate Thurmond to Al Attles, to Rick Barry, Tom Meschery. You talk about the last championship, it was Al Attles (as coach). Let’s not forget that. The guy’s still there. So it’s a rich, proud franchise. I think we should praise what’s going on now. But it wasn’t too shabby.”

Just Mullin saying hello to Joe Lacob.

Lacob bought the team in 2010 with declarations about a fresh start, comments Mullin understandably took personal since he had been the general manager who put together most of the Warriors of the time. Lacob was talking about the management team led by predecessor Chris Cohan and the annual disappointment in the standings. But Lacob also had frequent references to building a roster around toughness and defense while getting away from the run-and-gun crew from Mullin’s days as basketball operations boss. So point taken. There was never a shot at the history of the franchise and, in fact, it was Lacob who provided the long-overdue honor of retiring Mullin’s jersey No. 17.

But three players and the coach from the same team in the Hall of Fame is a rare sighting, even if Marciulionis is there for his international play with the Soviet Union and Lithuania. The part about the basketball hotbed is about the Bay Area as a whole, from the youth leagues to the pros, a history underlined in Springfield as well: enshrinement for Richmond, Marciulionis and former Philadelphia and San Francisco Warrior Guy Rodgers this year.

Oakland native Gary Payton (2013), Nelson, former Warrior Jamaal Wilkes and Berkeley native Don Barksdale (2012), and Mullin and Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDereveer (2011). And that doesn’t count Mullin as part of the collective Dream Team induction (2010) or ex-Warriors Ralph Sampson and Bernard King.

Moving forward, Hardaway will be high on the rankings for most deserving in the next election, along with Kevin Johnson, who played practically next door to Oakland at the University of California, and, if someone nominates him, ex-Warrior Chris Webber. Jason Kidd, an Oakland native who also played at Cal, will get his ceremony in 2018, barring unexpected developments.


VIDEO: Mitch Richmond reflects on his Golden State days

Curry’s On The Rise And Dubs Following


VIDEO: Stephen Curry finishes incredible, off-balanced layup against the Bucks

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Something BIG happened Thursday in the third returns of All-Star fan voting regarding the Western Conference backcourt.

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry overtook his Los Angeles Clippers counterpart Chris Paul as the No. 2 vote-getter. Paul is regarded almost unanimously in the basketball universe as the top quarterback in the game today, yet the fan vote positions Curry to start ahead of him at the 63rd All-Star Game in New Orleans on Feb. 16.

On the verge of making his first career All-Star appearance — whether it’s as a starter through the fan vote or he earns the nod of the Western Conference coaches who left him off as a reserve last year — Curry surged past the wildly popular CP3 and leads him by some 26,000 votes heading into the final stretch. Fan voting ends on Jan. 20.

Paul likely won’t be able to play anyway because of the separated right shoulder he sustained a week ago in Dallas. There’s no telling how the injury might have shifted would-be Paul votes to Curry. But it’s reasonable to think it made no difference at all. Kobe Bryant has played in just six games yet has garnered more votes by a wide margin than all West backcourt candidates. Chicago’s Derrick Rose is third in the East despite playing in just 10 games.

Perhaps Curry got a bump from overseas fans or maybe the Warriors faithful is stuffing the ballot box at Oracle Arena and online after he trailed Paul by nearly 52,000 votes after the second returns and almost 66,000 after the first. Or maybe we’re just witnessing a young, incredibly exciting player on a meteoric rise to stardom. Still, his surge past the incumbent Paul is astonishing.

All-Star starting spots don’t just pop free. Players are often entrenched in starting roles for years. Paul has been selected to six consecutive All-Star Games. He’s started the last three and four of the last five with only Steve Nash nabbing the spot in 2010. Before Curry captured the world’s imagination with breathless playoff performances, he finished eighth in last year’s fan voting. Paul was named the All-Star Game MVP, and he’s having another terrific season.

Yet suddenly, Mr. Assist is taking a back seat to a player some call the baby-faced assassin.

This is big for Curry and the Warriors, who for most of their existence have languished in mediocrity and far off the radar of NBA fans beyond their own long-suffering devotees. They produced mostly bad teams interspersed with entertaining ones that still never accomplished much. Some caught lightning-in-a-bottle like Don Nelson‘s 2007 bunch that he dubbed “schmoes” during their upset of No. 1 seed Dallas.

Think of this: Curry’s Warriors, barring a major catastrophe, are headed to the franchise’s first consecutive playoff appearances since 1991 and 1992. They went from 1995 to 2006 without making the playoffs once. In 2011-12, Curry played in 26 of 66 games due to injury. The Warriors won 23. Last season he played in 78 and the team won 47. This season, his fifth, Golden State (24-14), having withstood an early injury bump, is on pace to crack 50 wins for the first time in 20 years.

Curry delivers undeniable star-power and brand-power at a time when the franchise finally means business under the well-heeled and opportunistic ownership group headed by Joe Lacob. Curry makes the Warriors must-see TV and a target on every free agent’s wish list. That was witnessed last summer with Golden State’s late entry into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and their signing of free-agent forward Andre Iguodala, a vital addition that has helped a team with an explosive offense now rank fourth in defensive rating behind only Indiana, Chicago and Oklahoma City.

With Curry, anything seems possible. The Warriors are a percolating franchise and a Western Conference contender at this very moment, and for the foreseeable future. The impending move into a sparkling, waterfront arena in San Francisco (as much as I personally hate to see the team leave the East Bay) will strengthen the franchise’s profit margin and transform it into a “big market” club that chases top free agents and willingly steps into the luxury tax when applicable. Golden State is on the NBA map.

If Curry, 25, finishes second in fan voting and is a starter in his first career All-Star Game, he will have earned the popular vote through performances that almost seem mythical. He’s averaging career-bests of 23.1 ppg and 9.4 apg — blowing away last season’s career-high of 6.9 apg. While his shooting percentages (44.0 percent overall  and 38.9 percent on 3s) are actually career lows, and turnovers (a career-worst 4.2) continue to be an issue, he’s taken on more responsibility than ever and is the go-to gunner and leader of a team with growing aspirations.

Yes, Curry is on the rise, and he’s taking the Warriors with him.

And that’s BIG.

Curry Takes His Next Superstar Step

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DENVER – On a night like many others, everything changed. Stephen Curry had these thunderclap games before, but never in the playoffs, and that moved him to a new level. Warriors owner Joe Lacob had felt vindicated by his gamble before, but never like this as he searched for the explanation of what a performance in late April means years from now.

That’s the key description: late April. May or June work, too. Curry cut up the Nuggets in the playoffs is the thing. The time when reputations are really earned by anyone hoping to gain entrance into the world of NBA stars.

Curry has definitely built the resume, even while being passed over for the All-Star Game in what had to have been a near miss. He is arguably the best shooter in the game. He finished seventh in the league in scoring. He set a single-season league record for 3-pointers. He is back in the Team USA mix.

But for true credibility, for generating buzz unlike anything that could happen in a dozen of these Tuesday nights during the regular season, there was Game 2 of the first-round series and Curry going for 30 points, 13 assists against one turnover, and three steals to lead Golden State to a 131-117 fireworks show of a victory at the Pepsi Center and a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven matchup that moves to Oakland.

And there was also teammate Richard Jefferson in front of his locker after the game. Jefferson has played 12 seasons and is in the playoffs for the ninth time, some with long runs, so he knows this is different.

“A hundred percent,” Jefferson said. “From my experience of just being around this league, it doesn’t matter if you’re an All-Star, it doesn’t matter if you’re this or that. When you play well in the playoffs, it carries over all summer long. There’s a certain respect that goes with. It’s the same thing with guys who win championships. There’s a certain elite group, an elite club of guys, that are like, ‘Hey, I respect you. I know what you’ve done. I know what you’ve been through. You’ve been to the mountain top.’ ”

And there was Lacob, the beaming owner, outside the locker room. Lacob had invested $44 million over four years in October to sign Curry — with a concerning history of ankle problems that remained a pressing issue last season — to a contract extension. It had been obvious since early in 2012-13 and now it had become official the once-risky move was now a brilliant one.

Had the Warriors waited until July to re-sign Curry as a restricted free agent, wanting proof that he could hold up, it would have cost the franchise millions more. At the very least, Curry would have upped his asking price. At worst, another team would have gone completely over the top with an offer sheet. Golden State would have needed a millisecond to match, but at a much greater cost than an average of $11 million annually.

This was proof.

“Besides the fact that I’m getting an ulcer and my neck is killing me I’m so nervous?” Lacob said, smiling.

Yes, exactly. Besides that and all the way to an extra feeling of vindication.

“Yes,” he said.

Lacob paused and broke out in laughter.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he did say. “I think we’ve known that all year, so this is no surprise to us tonight. He’s been playing like this all year. It means more in the playoffs, certainly. But it wasn’t just him tonight.”

One night was that big of a deal, to the team and the player and the entire franchise moving forward. One night was Curry taking the next step. Things had become different even if they were the same.

A Proving-Ground Season For Warriors

 

HANG TIME WEST – The next step is to prove they can handle the playoff intensity, and there is reason to wonder. The Warriors did not handle the raised expectations of the second half of 2012-13 well, their playoff opponent beginning Saturday afternoon is postseason tested, and Golden State must prove it can stand up to the moment while playing at altitude in a building where the Nuggets lost all of three times in 41 games.

But what a time to face the doubt. The perfect time, actually. The Warriors having something to prove in the first round that opens at inhospitable Pepsi Center will come as merely the latest installment of a season of responding to skepticism.

The team.

The coach.

The general manager.

The owner.

The ankles.

Well, some of the ankles. The Andrew Bogut issue remains after he missed 2 ½ games late with a sprain, the same left ankle he fractured last season and eventually required the dreaded microfracture surgery. Although the starting center returned Wednesday at Portland, the condition of the ankle will be a storyline at least early in the series.

Stephen Curry, on the other hand: proven. A history of ankle troubles, all of 26 games last season amid serious doubts about his dependability, and now 78 games, on the verge of becoming an All-Star, arguably the best shooter in the league.

Coach Mark Jackson: proven. It was well-deserved skepticism because Jackson had never been an assistant or head coach. His rookie season, 2011-12, was an unfair read, coming in a lockout campaign with an abbreviated camp and a truncated 66-game schedule that allowed little practice time and a major trade in the middle. But one year later, a roster relying heavily on rookies and hit by injury has a much-improved defense and a much-improved outlook.

General manager Bob Myers: proven. His lack of experience in the front office, after a career as a successful agent, made the quick promotion by owner Joe Lacob a risky move. But last summer, in his first offseason running basketball ops, Myers delivered with a veteran’s consistency. Draft Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. Trade for Jarrett Jack. Sign Carl Landry. Nonstop direct hits.

Lacob: proven. Getting booed at home last season the night the Warriors retired the jersey of Chris Mullin was always an undeserved low blow. But Lacob has now earned a special level of credibility by delivering on the initial promise to inject a new atmosphere around the organization and, most importantly, a return to the postseason after years of letdown. He picked Jackson. He picked Myers. He spent big. Get that man to Mullin jersey ceremony now.

The season has answered so many Golden State questions. Bogut’s health is the lingering to-be-announced outcome, and the playoffs will go a long way toward the read. Productive weeks now can overshadow absent months before. This is his chance, just as all the Warriors have the opportunity to prove something beginning Saturday.

Against All Odds, Warriors Rise Again



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The sellout crowd, the standing ovation at the end and the playoff chants were all fitting for a team and franchise that achieved against all odds this season.

Late Tuesday night in Oakland, one of the NBA’s most rabid fan bases was rewarded when the Golden State Warriors clinched the franchise’s second playoff berth in the past 19 years. Nobody celebrates these things better than the Warriors, who cashed in on their last playoff appearance in 2007 by shocking the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been a believer in his team all season and that faith has been realized now in the form of a team that won six of its past eight games to strut into the playoffs, as opposed to slipping through the back door.

“We celebrated, and rightfully so,” Jackson told reporters afterwards, fighting back the tears that flowed in a reportedly emotional and raucous postgame locker room celebration. “People questioned us, and they should have. People doubted us, and they should have. But they underestimated the heart, the desire, the work ethic, the determination, the willingness to put in the time and then the favor of God.”

Much like fellow Tuesday night playoff clincher Houston, the Warriors have arrived to the surprise of many. They’ve done it without the hype-train that has accompanied the Rockets’ rise. There’s no James Harden or Jeremy Lin headliner on this Warriors team (although an All-Star like David Lee and shooting star like Stephen Curry certainly deserve whatever plaudits come their way).

The Warriors’ front office doesn’t have a figure like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, the Wizard of Advanced Metrics Oz, to point to. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has gone about his business without a ton of fanfare. He’s plotting the course properly. The Warriors roster is sound. And they are built not just for a momentary playoff flash this time, but for a sustained period of playoff contention that Warriors fans have not experienced before.

It’s the vision that Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have talked about non-stop since taking over the franchise. They have a long-range plan, one that includes being a playoff regular and eventually a contender. When you’re a lottery tea, it’s just fantasy basketball … pipe dreaming, if you will. But when you are a playoff team, the vision is tangible.

“We should enjoy this,” Lacob said after Tuesday’s playoff-clinching win. “We’ve got to celebrate the little moments, too. Every step counts. This is an important first step for this franchise and this ownership group and for all of these guys and the coaches.”

How soon the Warriors take that second step remains to be seen. The playoffs provide all sort of opportunities for upstarts to attempt to “shock the world.”

One thing seems certain, though, and that is the Warriors shouldn’t have to endure another six-year wait between playoff trips.