It’s apparent that Warriors CEO Joe Lacob is caught in the grip of obsession. He promised success and achieved, delivering three championships in his first eight years running an NBA franchise.
Missing out on the last two is making him restless.
Winning has been such an intoxicant that Lacob can’t stand the possibility of falling out of the league’s arms race. To the delight of fans, he is so committed to the Warriors remaining among the league’s elite that he’s ready to shove his hands so deep into his pockets that his elbows disappear.
Lacob sees a roster that needs help and told president/general manager Bob Myers to go out and find it – even if it means transferring millions in luxury-tax expenses out of the franchise account and into that of the NBA. Lacob was leaning that way before receiving the devastating news Thursday morning that Klay Thompson, a five-time NBA All-Star guard, will miss the entire 2020-21 season.
Now, in an effort to mentally delete the horrid 2019-20 season, he’s authorized Myers to pursue a trade with the Thunder that will bring in Kelly Oubre Jr., conceivably the most tantalizing young two-way wing in the NBA. It’s going to be costly.
Really, really costly. Though Oubre’s $14.4 million salary will slide neatly below the $17.2 million traded-player exception created by dealing Andre Iguodala to Memphis 16 months ago, it nearly doubles the luxury-tax bill. It rises from roughly $66 million to well over $100 mil, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who specializes in NBA math.
Obsession can make one do crazy things.
“I'm not saying this because (Lacob) is 15 feet away from me,” Myers said during a news conference Thursday. “I'm so lucky to have an owner and ownership group like I have.
“I don't know if the fans know how lucky they are, but my boss wants to win. My boss has never said, you can't do this, you can't do that. And I'd like to thank him for giving myself and our front office the opportunity to be aggressive, because he wants to win.”
This is going to tick off a lot of his fellow NBA governors. Though most of them believe in a bottom line written in ink, Lacob writes his in pencil. Easier to erase. As some are moaning about lost revenue and financial hurdles related to a global pandemic, Lacob crashes right through those barriers.
The addition of Oubre, who turns 25 on Dec. 9, is a certainty barring a last-minute collapse. It is only the beginning for Lacob, Myers and the Warriors as they confront free agency.
They already were shopping for a more budget-friendly veteran wing, someone willing to accept a reserve role at the veteran’s minimum salary. A Wesley Matthews or a Justin Holiday, to name two that are on their big board.
The Warriors already were evaluating the market for veteran big men; some of their players have reached out to a few of those who will be available when the market opens Friday at 3 p.m. PT. Dwight Howard, someone Lacob targeted in the second year of an ownership that began in November 2010, is among the candidates.
The Warriors also have the taxpayer-midlevel exception, a $5.7 million salary slot. Losing Klay for the season allows them to apply for, and likely receive, a disabled-player exception, a one-year slot at $9.3 million.
Every dollar the Warriors add in salary means that much more is sucked from the franchise. Either way, Lacob is ready to eat a nine-figure tax bill.
Obsession can get expensive.
“We read our board up, and under the two-guard position we have a blank space,” Myers said. “After processing that ... the league's not waiting for us; we've got to do what we have to do. We're exploring a lot of things.”
After growing up in a relatively modest environment and navigating his way into the billionaire class, Lacob is proud of his personal accomplishments. Being the CEO of the Warriors, though, is what brings him joy.
Obsession is such a powerful force that people are willing to go to extremes to feed it. They’ll ignore the pleas of colleagues, friends and family. They’ll inflict a measure of pain upon themselves to soothe their desires. They’ll risk alienation.
All to get what they want, to satisfy some part of their body or mind or psyche.
For Lacob it’s about winning. He’d be the first to acknowledge, probably while visualizing his three championship trophies, there is no joy in losing.