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Oubre's future with Warriors dims further with new comments

NBC Sports
Kelly Oubre

In the moments after Klay Thompson ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon last November, the Warriors experienced a measure of panic. They were distraught over losing the five-time NBA All-Star for a second consecutive season and desperate to salvage immediate hope.

That led Warriors CEO Joe Lacob to authorize a trade for Kelly Oubre Jr. in a one-year deal that could set the franchise back about $80 million in salary and luxury taxes.

The Warriors fired their one shot at the moon and, all things considered, it did not pay off. They failed to reach the playoffs. After a wretched start, Oubre settled in and became the force he was expected to be. He was good, occasionally electrifying, before sustaining a wrist injury that cost him 15 of the final 20 regular-season games.

That 20-game stretch is when the Warriors played their best basketball, diminishing Oubre’s chances of having a future with them. They were 3-2 when Oubre played, 12-3 when he did not. There were other factors, but the numbers were too conspicuous to dismiss.

In about six months, Oubre went from emergency necessity to very expensive reserve, a role coach Steve Kerr mentioned over the final weeks of the season.

 

Oubre didn’t like the idea of coming off the bench then, and his feelings were no different Tuesday during a guest appearance on Chris Haynes’ Posted Up podcast.

“I don't even want to speak and elaborate on much on that situation," Oubre said. “But all I'll tell you is that it put fire in my heart. It added more fuel to the fire.

“Being 25 years old, the way that my career has been shaping out, the growth that I've shown in my career to go from the 15th pick to continuously have my numbers grow each and every year and my role and opportunity on the team to grow each and every year, to have a year where my opportunity is lessened, and then as the year goes on I'm put into this category of trying to shape out the future of the organization when I haven't been given a fair opportunity to show what I can do on a large scale – yeah, it is unfair.”

That’s not quite slamming the door on his time as a Warrior, but Oubre is standing in the doorway wearing a displeased expression with his hand on the knob.

Understand, when Kerr indicated Oubre’s future with the Warriors would be as a two-way wing bringing energy off the bench, it was not meant as a challenge, an attempt to put fire in his heart as he approached free agency and a probable $20 million annual salary.

Kerr’s statement was a clear-eyed peek toward the 2021-22 season.

For one, Thompson is expected back, maybe not on opening night but likely at some point during the first half of the season. It’s irrational to believe the Warriors – already in repeater-tax hell – are going to pay $20 million to Oubre to start 30 or so games and then slide over to the bench as Klay reentered the starting lineup.

For two, it’s also irrational to believe the Warriors are ready to give any reserve a $20 million annual salary when their most accomplished Sixth Man, Andre Iguodala, topped out at $16 mil.

For three, consider that Golden State’s presumed core – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Thompson – will account for more than $140 million in salary.

For four, Kerr has already hinted at the possibility of Jordan Poole moving into the Sixth Man role next season, though he still is more suited to bringing instant offense than two-way effectiveness.

For five, the Warriors never seemed comfortable with the lack of team discipline within Oubre’s spirited on-ball defense or his ill-advised shot selection. Though he improved in both areas, there remained lapses.

RELATED: An Oubre sign-and-trade is complicated; Warriors would need help

Oubre’s future with the Warriors, who own his Bird rights, was dim in April and dimmer by mid-May. He knows it. They know it. And no matter how well the Warriors express objectivity and open-mindedness, the rest of the NBA can feel it.

 

Acquiring Oubre was a financially ambitious attempt to save a season sure to begin with a limp and a wheeze. He did help. He could help if he returned, too, but logic dictates exceedingly long odds of that.

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