Steve Kerr and the Warriors are paying 'the price of success'


Steve Kerr and the Warriors are paying 'the price of success'

OAKLAND -- It’s becoming a summer ritual, competitors swooping and raiding the Warriors, hoping to break off pieces of their prosperity. This time, however, it’s cutting fairly deep.

There are, as expected, departing players. Centers JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia are out, with key reserve David West probably to follow. Those veterans earned two rings, and each knew this could be his last season in the Bay Area.

The team’s infrastructure, however, is being hit considerably harder.

Chelsea Lane, who presided over physical performance and sports medicine, is leaving, poached by the Atlanta Hawks. Joining her in Georgia is Michael Irr, who served as strength and conditioning chief. That’s one-third of the Warriors' training staff.

Longtime scout and consultant Larry Riley, whose influence had waned in recent years, also is heading to Atlanta, reportedly as a special adviser.

It’s not a coincidence that Travis Schlenk, who spent 12 seasons in the Warriors’ front office, is entering his second season as general manager of the Hawks.

Gone, too, is Sammy Gelfand, the analytics guru who supplied valuable information to the coaching staff. After six seasons with the Warriors, he’s bound for the Detroit Pistons, where new coach Dwane Casey is assembling his staff.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of change,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr conceded to NBC Sports Bay Area. “But that’s the price of success. Sometimes teams come after your people.”

That’s what happened last May, when the Hawks plucked Schlenk from his assistant GM position. Accompanying him to Atlanta was Dan Martinez, who was senior public relations director for the Warriors but ascended to the title of senior director of basketball operations for the Hawks.

(Side note: Schlenk’s drafting of Oklahoma guard Trae Young no doubt centered on deep shooting and passing ability reminiscent of Stephen Curry. So, yes, the Hawks are actively lifting from the Warriors blueprint.)

Less than two months after Schlenk left, Jerry West, executive board member and trusted adviser, also walked. His was a reluctant departure, but his contract was up, and he was feeling marginalized. He quickly landed a handsome salary with the Clippers as a special consultant.

The previous year, when the Warriors won 73 games but lost to Cleveland in The Finals, also brought significant off-the-court changes, with superstar Kevin Durant walking in as lead assistant coach Luke Walton -- who excelled as interim head coach -- was walking out to become head coach of the Lakers.

The previous top assistant coach, Alvin Gentry, left a year earlier, in 2015, after the Warriors won their first title under Kerr, to become head coach of the Pelicans.

So, where do the Warriors go from here? Head trainer Drew Yoder will stay on and assist in completing the staff that operated under Lane. A new strength and conditioning coach will have to be hired. Much of Gelfand’s load -- and maybe his role as Shaun Livingston’s personal practice partner -- will fall upon Pabail Sidhu, who spent last season working with Gelfand.

There is one more notable departure, this one sentimental. Team security manager Ralph Walker, who doubled as Curry’s individual protection, is retiring. Though the former Oakland cop had no voice in personnel, training, scouting or analytics, his understated approach made him popular with players and staff alike.

Which is not to say the others were not popular. They were, particularly Lane and Gelfand.

After four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and three championships, though, the Warriors find themselves rebuilding subtly on the court but considerably with ancillary staff.

While each departure presents a greater opportunity for those leaving, another factor is quality of life. Each of those leaving are bound for a place where salaries go appreciably further on the housing market. Martinez gleefully disclosed that the Oakland dwelling his family left behind is dwarfed by their Atlanta-area home, which cost about half as much.

That said, plenty of candidates are willing to work for the league’s top marquee team. But if the Warriors continue to thrive, and the real estate market remains insane, how long will they stay?

Steph Curry sheds light on Game 1 trash talk with LeBron James, promises there are 'adversarial relationships' in NBA

Steph Curry sheds light on Game 1 trash talk with LeBron James, promises there are 'adversarial relationships' in NBA

Do you remember what happened with about 35 seconds left in OT during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals?

In case you forgot:

The Warriors led by 11 points and with the shot clock winding down, Steph Curry attempted a driving layup and LeBron James blocked it.

LeBron proceeded to talk some trash to Curry and even used a little forearm to nudge him away when Curry said something in return.

On the most recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Curry shed some light on the exchange.

Simmons: "He blocked you and he talked sh*t to you. I thought you guys were gonna fight."

Curry: "It was never going to spill over to that. But it was an interesting moment ... I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn't see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

"And I was like, 'That's what we're really on right now? We're about to win and you're worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?' And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, 'Yo, what's up? Is this really what we're about right now?'

"And he was like, 'I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I'm a mentor' and it's a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, 'I don't want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.' (laughter). Come on man, that's messed up."

Simmons: "I want more of it. I don't want you guys to like each other. This is my biggest problem with this decade. I like that I'm not positive you and LeBron like each other (Curry starts laughing). Watching from afar, it doesn't seem like you like each other. I'm sure there's a mutual respect."

Curry: "There's definitely a mutual respect. I would say though when you see guys working out with each other in the summers and you see guys playing pickup and all that -- when you step foot on the court during the season, it's a totally different environment.

"Guys can be buddies and friends and whatnot and have whatever type of relationship they want to have in the summer and off the court, but the rivalry and competition and egos and all that stuff that lives in an NBA game and when you're trying to hold that trophy ... it's really there and it's not going anywhere."

Simmons: "I don't want you guys to get along. I want adverserial relationships."

Curry: "They're there. They're there. I promise you."

Good. That is awesome.

A couple other takeaways from the podcast:

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

Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'


Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'

With the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Ricky Rubio.

With the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Jonny Flynn.

With the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select... Stephen Curry.

And the rest is history.

As you all know, the man in charge of those selections -- David Kahn -- was fired in 2013 and no longer works in the NBA.

"My guy David Kahn. I don't know where he's at right now," Curry said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. "I don't know if that ever came out -- there's a story. Everybody knows how much I love golf -- play it in my spare time and what not.

"I think the word on the street was that he didn't draft me because in Minnesota it's cold and I wouldn't be able to play as much golf so I would have been miserable."

A shocked Simmons asked Curry: "Is that true?"

"I hope it's true because that's hilarious (laughter)," Curry said. "That's hilarious."

To which Simmons responded: "It was idiotic in the moment. I did a draft diary. I was going nuts. Because if you're gonna take two point guards, how are you not one of the two? And then if you're gonna go all-in on Rubio and you don't even know if he's gonna come over..."

Rubio didn't leave Spain for the NBA until the 2011-12 season, and a hip injury unfortunately ended Flynn's career after just two plus seasons.

There's no way we will ever find out if that golf story is true, but just like Steph... we certainly hope it is.

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