Sometimes success comes by making unpopular decisions.
One of the first unpopular moves for Golden State happened in 2012, when the Warriors traded fan favorite Monta Ellis in a deal that brought center Andrew Bogut, who was injured at the time, to the East Bay. So when owner Joe Lacob took the floor after the trade as part of Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony, Lacob was booed.
“I felt bad for him,” Bogut said. “ ... It was a head scratcher. Monta was a fan favorite, but at the same time there hadn’t been a lot of success.”
There is a lot of success in Oakland now. The Warriors are in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975 after eliminating the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors had key players fall to them in the draft and have made some wise decisions in free agency. But the biggest key might be decisions that were unpopular with even their best players.
“It starts with management,” Bogut said. “They made the right decisions in the offseason; they brought in the right coaches and the right guys as far as player personnel. Guys that have high basketball IQs, guys that are good guys in the locker room, and that’s underrated in this league.”
They chose not to retain coach Mark Jackson after last season, even though the Warriors won 51 games in the regular season and qualified for the Western Conference playoffs for the second consecutive season for the first time in 20 years.
League MVP Stephen Curry was a big backer of Jackson and made it clear he wanted his coach back, but management went forward with dismissing Jackson and bringing in first-time coach Steve Kerr.
“It was a shock to have a coaching change, but I assessed it as two separate decisions,” Curry said. “I didn’t agree with the first one, but you’ve got to make the right hire, and I think they did that. Obviously, they did that.”
Drafting Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson also helped. The time off before the start of the championship series will be good for Thompson, who suffered concussion-like symptoms after being accidentally kneed in the head by Houston forward Trevor Ariza on Wednesday. Even though his father, Mychal Thompson, said on radio in Los Angeles on Thursday morning that his son was “doing much better after a good night’s sleep,” Thompson must pass the NBA’s concussion protocol to play in the Finals.
The 2012 draft brought starters Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and key reserve Festus Ezeli.
“We made small little splashes draft-wise and trade-wise,” Bogut said. “We didn’t try to hit a home run. (I came) from a small market (Milwaukee), and the Warriors of old probably always felt the draft pick had to be a home run or the trade had to be a home run. I think now we have a core group where there’s just tweaks along the way.
“And we’re on the fortunate side now where guys want to come and play here, so that obviously helps.”
The biggest name to arrive in Oakland in recent years is former All-Star Andre Iguodala. In July 2013, the Kings made a max offer to Iguodala, but he took less money in a sign-and-trade to go to the Warriors.
“I just looked at a team where I could insert myself in a lineup and do some great things,’ Iguodala said. “Winning was No. 1 on the list, and when you look at a team, a roster and I could help them as well, this was the best opportunity.”
Best-of-seven series will be televised on Ch. 10
- Thursday, June 4: at Golden State, 6p.m.
- Sunday, June 7: at Golden State, 5p.m.
- Tuesday, June 9: at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Thursday, June 11: at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Sunday, June 14: at Golden State, 5p.m.*
- Tuesday, June 16: at Cleveland, 6p.m.*
- Friday, June 19: at Golden State, 6p.m.*