Basketball

The Warriors’ Owner Is A Tech Doofus

Joe Lacob fancies himself a visionary tech titan who is revolutionizing basketball. The truth is far more mundane

Basketball
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Jul 07, 2016 at 9:15 AM ET

By now you’re well aware that Kevin Durant has joined up with the Golden State Warriors, and the Destroyer of Worlds lineup that they will trot out on the regular will undoubtedly result in bushels of gorgeous basketball, even if they lay waste to the entirety of the NBA while Draymond Green pounds a few dudes in the gonads just to add injury to insult. Within the grand spectrum of takes, it’s fine to love or loathe the colossus that the Warriors are constructing, as long as you steer far clear of the bleating about Durant’s manhood and groaningly sexist nonsense emanating from the stupidest corners of our national sports discourse.

But if adding a recent MVP to an already-loaded roster just feels wrong, or you’re inclined to reject our new Golden State overlords, your ire should be squarely directed at one man and one man only: the Warriors’ majority owner, Joe Lacob, who’s probably wilding out in the streets or fornicating with a shiny trophy, firm in his belief that acquiring Durant validates all the tech-infused blather he’s been spewing about the team.

In an inexplicably fawning New York Times Magazine profile that ran in April, Lacob went on and on about his very special flavor of hoops disruption, one that is “light years ahead” of whatever abacuses opposing front offices are fiddling with. Why? Because he knocked down a few office walls and let the smart people working for him talk to one another, a process that he called—with a straight face—“architecting a team.”

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“We’ve crushed [other teams] on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team,” Lacob boasted. “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things.”

How he measures the Warriors’ best practices vis-à-vis any other franchise, Lacob doesn’t say. One thing he is sure of, though, is that the Warriors path to greatness was predetermined, because venture capitalism.

“The great, great venture capitalists who built company after company, that’s not an accident,” he added. “And none of this is an accident, either.”

Actually, there were quite a few quirky twists of fate and ill-considered moves along the way, any one of which had they come to fruition might have derailed the Warriors’ run to the 2015 title. Way back in 2012, Lacob nearly architected Stephen Curry to Milwaukee in exchange for Andrew Bogut. Instead, they forked over Monta Ellis because the Bucks were too worried about Curry’s then-fragile ankles. “We would have traded either (Curry or Ellis) to take the next step for this franchise,” he said.

In 2013, before they shipped out multiple future first round picks to Denver in exchange for ur-defensive wiz and eventual Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, their primary target was expert fart launcher and Brobdingnagian candy eater, Dwight Howard. And of course, no one, not even the futuristic, analytically-inclined Warriors, knew that Curry would evolve from a good point guard in a league littered with very good point guards to a wondrous, reality-warping imp of the perverse and two-time MVP.

Not that the Warriors’ 73-win season and/or last year’s crown should be scoffed at or dismissed as the product of mere luck. They absolutely nailed a bunch of mid- and late-first round draft picks, did an outstanding job of molding the talent on the roster into a collective whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, and hired a boffo coach in Steve Kerr, who might be the most interesting, well-adjusted person ever to mash a clipboard. That said, any championship team, even a legendary one, will rack up a lucky bounce of the ball or two along the way, but that’s something Lacob either can’t or won’t consider, lest he be forced to deviate from sounding like a self-satisfied, tone-deaf triumphalist.

“We drove this idea of small ball, and it’s a different style of play,” he sad, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. “Having said that, I think it’s important to know that whenever everyone else starts doing things, it’s time to start doing what’s next. We’re on to the next idea — How can we iterate to evolve to get an advantage? I can assure you we’re very forward thinking in that regard.”

Either Lacob’s unaware that Don Nelson trotted out relatively tiny lineups with the early 90s Warriors—though they didn’t have much success against the Olajuwons, Robinsons, and O’Neals of the world—and he’s crammed the Seven Seconds or Less Suns straight down into some ancillary server that he uses as his personal memory hole. That or he’s willing to wipe the past clean when it doesn’t justify a few more firm pats to his own backside.

For Lacob, any and everything the Warriors might do is indicative of some Uber-like disruption. Assistant coach Luke Walton’s decision to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers is dandy because it “does great things for our legacy.” The free agent market “is like the talent market in Silicon Valley,” he said. “It’s about hiring the best people and letting them do their job. I set the highest goal and pay them whatever it takes. Great people attract great people.”

Oh yeah, Joe. That’s one helluva radical, Thought Leader-ish move. Hire talented workers, try to optimize their skills and performance, and not only will good things happen, but other smart, talented individuals will want to work with smart, talented individuals. Genius!

And yes, they’ve been gunning for Kevin Durant for quite some time, though no one should mistake acquiring the third-best (at least) basketball-playing human on the planet as anything other than the most conventional of all wisdoms. If anything, the Warriors are acting like late-period Google, devouring its rivals as opposed to innovating their way past an Oklahoma City Thunder team that came oh-so close to finishing them off in the Western Conference Finals. If this heel turn does represent the Warriors’ final form, maybe we should have seen it coming. After all, Lacob’s dogs are named John Galt and Howard Roark.