Analysis: Warriors dodged messy predicament with Harrison Barnes

Analysis: Warriors dodged messy predicament with Harrison Barnes

OAKLAND – Warriors CEO Joe Lacob was chatty and candid a few weeks ago discussing the generally blissful state of the Warriors, until he was presented with a question he pretended not to hear.

What would the Warriors have done if Kevin Durant had not come aboard?

Lacob, drawing a blank, asked that the question be repeated. It was.

His face then registered confusion. He asked that the question be repeated for a third time. It was.

He then said he couldn’t hear the question, though he obviously could. He added that he couldn’t understand the question, though he obviously could.

Lacob didn’t want to conceive of the likelihood of Harrison Barnes coming back to the Warriors. Didn’t want any part of it. So he basically closed his eyes and plugged his ears and uttered, “Can’t see you, can’t hear you . . . We got KD.”

Barnes won’t be coming back to the Warriors any time soon. He’ll be coming to Oracle Arena Wednesday night, though, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, the team he agreed to join shortly after Durant chose to become a Warrior.

Barnes is coming off consecutive games of at least 30 points, the first such streak of his career. He may be blossoming in Big D, certainly more than he would have with the Warriors.

Truth is if Durant had chosen to stay in Oklahoma City or go elsewhere, the Warriors would have been neck-deep in a messy predicament with Barnes. They know it, and that’s why Durant’s decision to come west was cause for double celebration. They’d added the best player on the market, and one of the best three or four in the league, and they’d also dodged the decisions that would have followed if they had to reboot with Barnes instead of Durant.

It’s a thorny issue insofar as neither Lacob nor anyone else in the organization cared to visualize a locker room with Barnes as the highest-paid player on a team with a back-to-back MVP (Stephen Curry), a two-time All-Star (Klay Thompson) and a third All-Star (Draymond Green) who represents and heart of the team.

“It would have been a little awkward,” Barnes told reporters Tuesday in Los Angeles, where the Mavericks posted a 109-97 win over the Lakers. “At the (Warriors) press conference if they would have been like, ‘Yeah, we really wanted him to come back.’ No one would really believe that.”

Barnes is absolutely right. The Warriors were done with him, ready to move on from the youngster they drafted seventh overall in 2012. They liked him plenty; he’s a solid citizen. They nurtured him, too, but they eventually concluded he lacked the characteristics required of a dependable starting forward.

He was, after all, the guy who during the NBA Finals, failed to convert the many open shots he got as a beneficiary of being on the same team as Curry, Thompson and Green. Though Lacob never mentioned Barnes by name, he said plenty enough to illustrate his justifiable belief that a decent series from Barnes would have spared the Warriors the indignity of becoming the first team ever to blow a 3-1 series lead in The Finals.

Durant’s decision to join the Warriors was, then, a panacea. It saved their anxious backsides.

It was Barnes who was, after all, identified by many Warriors fans as the goat of The Finals. With the Warriors up 3-1 in the series and entering Game 5 with Green on suspension, Barnes shot 2-of-14 from the field. With the series at 3-2 and Green back for Game 6, Barnes was 0-of-8 and scoreless. Now tied 3-3 but playing Game 7 at Oracle Arena, this was Barnes’ last chance for redemption.

He failed, going 3-of-10 from the field and grabbing one rebound in 29 minutes, while committing four fouls. The Warriors lost by four (93-89) and immediately dropped to their knees and began praying for Durant.

“I think we knew they were going to blow it up if we lost that series, which we did,” Barnes said. “I can’t say I was surprised.”

Barnes had become, to the Warriors, the unreliable starter who suddenly was in position to demand more in salary than the other four starters. That’s how the NBA works. Contracts are all about timing, and he happened to become a restricted free agent – and, therefore, subject to a massive offer from another team – at a time when the Warriors were most disenchanted with his work.

Once they received a commitment from Durant, on July 4, the Warriors were thrilled to let Barnes walk. The Mavericks came calling, with a four-year contract worth $94 million.

The Warriors are happy for Barnes. They’re appreciably happier for themselves.

What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'


What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'

The Warriors were the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

That is probably going to change this season, as they trail the Rockets by three games (although it's really four because Houston has the tiebreaker) with 12 games to play (and only lead the Raptors by one game).

What does owner Joe Lacob think about his team right now?

“We’ve had our best team we’ve ever had this year,” Lacob recently told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group (read the full story here). “We have to go prove it on the court, but we have enough to win it.

"It doesn’t mean we will, but we are certainly set up to have the opportunity potentially to do that. That’s about all you can ask.”

Things can change in an instant and Lacob understands that.

That's why he's constantly discussing scenarios with Warriors GM Bob Myers and the rest of Golden State's decision-makers.

“We’ll build around that core until we decide maybe we shouldn’t," Lacob told BANG. "But right now it feels pretty good. These guys are all performing at a great level. We love them as part of our organization.

"I don’t really see doing anything major. But you never really know. We have to evaluate when the season is over. It’s very hard when you’re in the middle of it all to see it objectively.”

What happens if the Warriors don't win the championship this year?

We will leave you with this quote Lacob gave BANG.

“Maybe we will emphasize continuity. Or maybe we will make a big move. We’re looking at different options, given different things playing out in different ways.

"I think you should always be doing that.”

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge


Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge

In 43 seasons battling the Spurs, only once have the Warriors swept a season series, a feat they will accomplish again with a victory Monday night in San Antonio.

Winning at AT&T Center will be a tough task for the depleted Warriors (53-17), who for the third consecutive game will take the floor with three of their four All-Stars -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson -- unavailable. Guard Pat McCaw, however, will be available for the first time in five weeks.

After the Spurs (40-30) lost nine of 11 games over a 30-day span and seemed to be fading from the playoff race, they’ve posted three straight wins and are very much in the race, despite the continued absence of star forward Kawhi Leonard.


Spurs by 7


Draymond Green & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is a load for any defender and has carried the Spurs this season. Expect the Warriors to stick to their routine when facing a single pivotal player and send a variety of defenders. Green is sure to be one of them. Others likely to take turns include Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West and maybe even Kevon Looney. The Warriors will consider it success if they can keep Aldridge under 30 points.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle tweak), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) and listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3. Spurs: 5-5.


James Capers (crew chief), Bennie Adams, Karl Lane


The Warriors won the first three of four meetings this season: 112-92 on Nov. 2 in San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 at Oakland. They were 1-2 against San Antonio last season and are 9-7 against the Spurs in the Steve Kerr era.


COOK’S ROLL: Two-way PG Quinn Cook was terrific in the last two games, scoring a combined 53 points on 21-of-30 shooting. That was against lottery teams. The Spurs traditionally make life tough for guards and will pose a much bigger challenge. If Cook stays hot under this pressure, the Warriors will be beyond ecstatic.

MCCAW RETURNS: The return of McCaw, out since Feb. 12 with a L wrist fracture, gives the Warriors a fourth guard and some welcome flexibility. Cook played 80 minutes in the recent back-to-back set, and Nick Young played 78. McCaw will be on a minutes restriction (less than 20) but can perform on or off the ball.

THE BENCH GAME: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has virtually trademarked liberal usage of reserves; only San Antonio has had eight players score in double figures in three different games this season, and 13 different Spurs average at least 10 ppg. Their depth will be a problem for these very thin Warriors.