2017 Free Agency: The Golden State Warriors Achieve Peak Think Piece
by Fox Doucette
If you got a bunch of think pieces about how the Golden State Warriors are nothing but a “superteam” of players who care more about stacking the deck than about competition and are ruining the NBA together with a bunch of think pieces about how all of the Big Four taking below-market deals and Andre Iguodala hardly even considering free agency before signing for $16 million—the same amount the Lakers pay Timofey Mozgov—so he could keep playing for a winner are signs that they're “doing it the right way” and “aren't all about the money”...
...well, just add some dilithium crystals to that mix and you could achieve faster-than-light space travel.
Deadspin has a nice breakdown of the upcoming salary structure (assuming Kevin Durant is true to his word and re-ups at something in the neighborhood of his present number rather than, I dunno, decamping to Oklahoma City to play with Russell Westbrook and Paul George and make a lot of Okie yokels look real damn stupid for badmouthing him for the last year), and it brings up the dichotomy in stark detail.
See, we always want to praise players who “take less money for the good of the team”—this is the basis of everything nice ever said about Tom Brady by the NFL press. Scottie Pippen is practically a folk hero for those pittances that Chicago paid him before he cashed out in Houston and Portland on the downside of his career. Every player who re-ups with his own team despite a max offer from somewhere else gets this treatment.
And yet somehow “he cares more about winning than about money” doesn't apply when, say, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all made less in Miami than they would've made on the open market (or in Wade's case, if he'd demanded a max deal that would've made the Heat his team at the expense of not having the cap flexibility for the other two guys in that Big Three.) Bron gave Cleveland a hometown discount to ensure that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love could be part of the fun for the 2016 title, and the 2008 Celtics are the ur-example of a team full of guys who were there to win titles and chew bubble gum and they were all out of bubble gum.
So when a guy takes less money for your team, he's a loyal hero, and when he takes less money to sign with the other guys, he's a ring-chaser. Glad we're clear on this, sports fans.
Even though Joe Lacob will be paying the GDP of a mid-sized Third World country in luxury tax and salary to keep the band together for a possible fourth straight Finals and third title in four years, joining the '11-14 Heat, '84-87 Celtics, and '82-85 Lakers as the only teams to do that in my 40-year lifetime, he's still getting value for every dollar. All of his Big Four are making less money than they'd get by ditching town (again, assuming Durant re-signs at a figure that makes sense to the accountants), and Iguodala already got his rings; he could've cashed out anywhere in the league but chose to stay where he's clearly happy.
Golden State just achieved the ultimate example of overcoming every single objection that fans of lesser teams have when they're lamenting a first-round playoff exit (Pacer Nation, looking at you):
“If our skinflint owner would open his wallet, we'd get better players...”
Again, Lacob's paying out the ass for this group to win another ring.
“Nobody wants to play here, we can't keep free agents.”
News flash: Oakland isn't some place where either favorable tax treatment (Florida and Texas), glitz and glamour (Tinseltown, the Big Apple, South Beach again), or a storied tradition (San Antonio, Boston) creates a natural draw. The Warriors were very bad for a very long time until Lacob treated his team like a sporting rather than business culture; he's one of those owners who is rich enough to treat his team like a competitive toy rather than a minimize-cost operation.
“We never get the right guys, the GM is an idiot.”
I see you there, Philadelphia. But Draymond Green was a second-round draft pick. Klay Thompson went 11th overall, and Sacramento could've had him instead of Jimmer Fredette at 10 (via trade; Milwaukee could also have kept the pick and taken Thompson). Had those picks been reversed, history is quite different. Steph Curry landed in their lap at 7 when (according to David Kahn, anyway) the Curry family made it clear that Steph wouldn't play in Minnesota.
Iguodala was a castoff believed to be on the downside of his career when the Dubs snapped him up. David West came in on the guy-just-needs-a-job salary slot. JaVale McGee came back from the dead when for the first time in his life he got to play for a real quality NBA organization with a role he could grow into.
Everything Golden State has done for the past three years has been “doing it the right way”; the only thing remotely “morally” dodgy was Durant violating the unspoken code about honor and competitiveness and instead applying his considerable talent to a team that had shown it was able to give him what he wanted in terms of winning.
But sure, they're villains. They blew a 3-1 lead. Haters gonna hate.
What do you really care about, NBA fans? Sportsmen competing and creating teamwork and chemistry at the highest level? Or some idiotic notion of “ring chasing” as if winning titles weren't the one and only true goal of every sport, not just basketball?
Just don't start bandwagoning. The code for fans, now that is inviolable.