Stephen Curry changed the way basketball is played. Draymond Green altered the way scouts evaluate talent. Klay Thompson raised the bar for two-way shooting guards.
Curry, Green and Thompson represent the abiding core of a Warriors team that made seven consecutive playoff appearances, five straight trips to the NBA Finals and won three championships.
So, it’s not out of the question to get more than a handshake and a paycheck from CEO Joe Lacob and executive chairman Peter Guber. Every NBA player gets those, regardless of whether his team had 60 wins or 60 losses. Curry, Green and Thompson have accomplished enough to warrant a valuable gift at a time when they need it most.
Like, well, now. Give them the help that would come by utilizing the Traded Player Exception created by the July 2019 trade of Andre Iguodala.
Recent weeks have brought several reports that the Warriors are willing to let that $17.2 million slot go unused. Multiple league sources, two citing the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, believe this is a very real possibility.
Insofar as using the TPE could push the luxury-tax bill well beyond $100 million, letting it lapse is not irrational from a financial standpoint.
But letting it pass without exploring all options would make the kind of statement the Warriors generally have avoided since they escaped from the NBA outback.
Lacob and Guber were so committed to reaching the top that they made a habit of aiming as high as reasonably possible. They pursued the NBA legend Jerry West and got him. They chased the league’s most respected business executive, Rick Welts, and got him. They had the gall to believe they could persuade future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant to join an organization that only a few years earlier was shunned by all but the most desperate free agents.
And they pulled it off, inviting an envy that at times reached toxic levels.
No longer were these the Warriors who couldn’t afford Wilt Chamberlain, disrespected Chris Webber, gave Troy Murphy a $58-million contract, balked at paying Baron Davis and actually convinced themselves that acquiring Jason Caffey would fix what was so broken.
These were the New Warriors, zooming full throttle to the top. Ownership and management, with Lacob at the top, provided the means. On the floor and in the locker room, where games are won and lost, Curry, Green and Thompson led the labor force. The two sides collectively took an abject failure of a franchise and made it a global powerhouse.
Moreover, the Curry-Green-Thompson core over-delivered on an audacious promise Lacob made in 2010, a few days after he and Guber led a group that paid $450 million to rescue the franchise from the bumbling and litigious Chris Cohan.
A few months after taking over as CEO, Lacob took the floor at Oracle Arena, glanced up toward the north end of the building and pointed at the banner hanging in the rafters representing the franchise’s 1975 championship.
“If you look up there, that is a very lonely flag,” he said. “We want another one.”
Five years later, in 2015, Lacob got what he wanted. He got another in 2017. Yet another in 2018.
The best chance to rinse the catastrophe that began with the 2019 Finals and continued through the 2019-20 season is by acquiring the kind of talent that could augment the current roster – even if the Warriors remain willing to keep Andrew Wiggins and decide to keep the No. 2 overall pick in the Nov. 18 draft.
Curry, Green and Thompson have given this franchise and this region enough to merit a favor from ownership. Sure, having fans streaming into Chase Center for Warriors games and other events would make this an easier pill to swallow. There is no knowing when that will happen, and it might not come until 2021-22.
But if there is a bullet to bite, it’s one that sends an appreciative, supportive message to Curry, Green and Thompson.
They’ve given Lacob & Co. a lavish return on investment. The Warriors are worth more than $4 billion, according to annual valuations issued by Forbes. Ownership’s dream of a San Francisco arena was realized primarily due to the popularity of Curry & Co.
Current ownership has fostered a culture of thinking big. It has been extraordinarily successful. Why stop now?