You might not know this, you might not believe it but once upon a time, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship.
The big day happened in the spring of 1975, well before things like cable TV, DirecTV, computers, video games, iPads, iPods, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, e-mails and the Internet. They swept Washington in the Finals thanks to a transcendent effort from Rick Barry, one of the best 25 players of all time and the finest passing forward of his generation. The following spring, the heavily favored Warriors blew their chance to repeat because Barry fought Phoenix’s Ricky Sobers in the first half of Game 7 of the Western Finals, bristled when his teammates didn’t defend him, then refused to shoot for the next hour.
And so it began. Three and a half decades later, the Golden State Warriors have morphed into the most tortured franchise in professional basketball. Unlike the Clippers (a perennial laughingstock until recently), the Suns (a classic came-oh-so-close team), the Cavaliers (not even the second-most tortured franchise in their own city) and Kings (historical nomads), the Warriors lack an identity beyond the whole “they suck every year, they always screw up, but at least they have great fans” tag. Doesn’t that really mean that their fans are just loyal saps? What keeps them coming back? At what point do you just throw your hands up and scream, “ENOUGH”?
After they booed current owner Joe Lacob during Chris Mullin Night on Monday — and booed, and kept booing, and booed some more, and even kept booing after Mullin and Barry begged them to stop — to casual observers, it seemed like an especially mean-spirited act by an especially mean-spirited group of fans. It’s a little more complicated than that. You can’t blame people for failing to act sane after they’ve been already driven insane. Here’s how the Warriors drove their fans crazy in 60 steps.
1. After stealing future Hall of Famer Robert Parish with the no. 8 pick of the 1976 draft, another loaded Warriors team underachieved (46 wins) before dropping a Game 7 to Kareem’s Lakers in Round 2. That summer, the NBA started its first ever “free agency” period and the Warriors immediately lost their two young stars: Gus Williams and Jamaal Wilkes. Their compensation? The no. 5 pick in the 1978 draft (for Wilkes) and cash (for Williams). Cash? Williams and Wilkes ended up winning a combined four titles.
2. With that no. 5 pick in 1978, the Warriors picked Purvis Short. The next pick? Larry Joe Bird.
3. To nobody’s surprise, Golden State’s win total dropped from 43 to 38 to 24 in the first three seasons after Williams and Wilkes fled for greener pastures. Meanwhile, Houston signed Barry in the summer of 1978, giving up talented point guard John Lucas as compensation. Considered the future in Golden State, Lucas became The Future Of Drug Abuse for the NBA. He wouldn’t conquer his addiction until late in his career well after the Warriors dumped him for two no. 2 picks.
4. Right around here, the NBA draft decided to hit the Warriors over the head with a steel chair. No matter what the Warriors did — trade their picks, trade for picks, trade up, trade down, trade sideways, trade upside down while holding their breath — it was invariably the wrong move. They traded their no. 1 pick in 1979 for Boston’s Jo Jo White, who played 120 more games before retiring.1 Right before the 1980 draft, they traded their starting center and their no. 3 overall pick to Boston for the no. 1 pick and the no. 13 pick. The Warriors picked Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown. The Celtics ended up with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. By the way, that was another bad sign for an NBA franchise: Red Auerbach going out of his way to trade with you.
1. The Knicks eventually ended up with that pick (ninth overall) and blew it (Larry Demic). When Demic stunk for the Knicks, Peter Vecsey quickly nicknamed him “EpiDemic.” Nothing hit my funny bone in the ’80s harder than Vecsey’s derisive NBA nicknames.
5. During that same draft, the Warriors gave away the rights to future All-Star center Jeff Ruland for somebody named Sam Williams. They also traded Phil Smith and their 1984 no. 1 pick for the immortal World B. Free,2 as well as Wayne Cooper and a second-round pick for a troubled forward named Bernard King. King worked out his demons over the next two years before signing a 1982 offer sheet with the Knicks. As compensation, the Warriors received former All-Star Micheal Ray Richardson, who was so messed up by drugs at this point that NBA TV eventually made an entire documentary about it. Bernard hit the Big Apple and immediately became one of the league’s best players. Micheal Ray hit the Bay Area and immediately did everything unsavory short of freebasing Alcatraz. He didn’t last four months before the Warriors shipped him to New Jersey for rookie Sleepy Floyd. Hey, anytime you can turn a cocaine addict into someone named Sleepy, you have to do it.
2. That pick ended up being eighth overall — the Clippers blew it by drafting Lancaster Gordon instead of Otis Thorpe or Kevin Willis.
6. Did you know the Warriors spent the sixth pick of the 1983 draft on a center from Purdue named Russell Cross? Yes, Clyde Drexler, Dale Ellis, Derek Harper and Jeff Malone were still on the board. Cross played 45 games in his career. Not 450. Forty-five.
7. During the Cocaine Era (1977-1986), the Warriors somehow ended up with three of the league’s most notorious coke guys (King, Richardson and Lucas) and an interesting stigma: As legend had it, the Oakland Hyatt (where visiting teams stayed) was the best place in the league to score drugs, so struggling players routinely fell off the wagon during their Golden State trip. Oh, and if you’re scoring at home, the Warriors didn’t make the playoffs for nine straight seasons from 1978 to 1986. Everybody lost in Oakland. Even the visiting players.3
3. Their win totals from 1981 to 1986: 39, 45, 30, 37, 22, 30.
8. A few months after the ’84 Celtics won the title with Parish and McHale, Joe Barry Carroll (nicknamed “Joe Barely Cares” by the New York Post‘s Peter Vecsey) signed with an Italian team for one season.4 The suddenly center-less Warriors finished with the league’s worst record (22-60) during the same year that (a) Patrick Ewing entered the draft, and (b) the NBA randomly decided to try their first-ever draft lottery. David Stern picked seven envelopes out of a glass case, one at a time, with the Warriors becoming his seventh-favorite envelope. They ended up taking St. John’s star Chris Mullin with the seventh pick; he battled an alcohol problem for his first two NBA seasons before finally finding sobriety.
4. Carroll was pretty good statistically: For the ’83, ’84, ’86 and ’87 seasons, he basically averaged 20 PPG and 8 RPG. Then again, his nickname was “Joe Barely Cares.”
9. The 1986 Warriors stumbled to 30 wins and lost another lottery, using their third pick on Chris Washburn, a talented but troubled center who only played 43 games as a rookie because of the rarely seen kidney infection/drug rehab double whammy. Washburn never wore a Warriors jersey again, eventually getting banned by the NBA for failing three drug tests in two years. Other than that, it was probably the right pick.
10. Led by a young George Karl, the 1987 Warriors were Golden State’s best team in 10 years: They won a first-round series over Utah thanks to Joe Barely Cares and Sleepy, then got steamrolled by the eventual champion Lakers but not before winning a spectacular Game 4 in which Sleepy eviscerated the eventual-champ Lakers (in what became known as “The Sleepy Floyd Game”). For the first time, the Warriors had some hope.
11. Within five months, the Warriors blew up that team: They traded Purvis Short for a future first-rounder, then swapped Joe Barely Cares and Sleepy for former All-Star center Ralph Sampson who, of course, was battling knee problems and played 90 increasingly lousy games before being flipped to Sacramento for Jim Peterson. The good news: Sampson played two more games for Golden State than Russell Cross and Chris Washburn combined.
12. Three weeks after the Sampson/Carroll/Floyd trade, the Warriors hired Don Nelson as their GM. Karl resigned a few months later, with Nellie taking over and eventually building his team around Mullin, Mitch Richmond (their no. 5 pick in 1988), 1989 first-rounder Tim Hardaway (14th overall) and an exciting Lithuanian guard named Sarunas Marciulionis. The TMC Warriors were born.
13. During the 1989 draft, they also flipped the no. 16 pick (Dana Barros) for Seattle’s no. 1 pick in 1990. Six weeks later, the Warriors flipped that pick back to Seattle for Alton Lister. It ended up being the second overall pick of the 1990 draft. That’s right, Gary Payton.
14. You might remember everyone enjoying the TMC Warriors in 1991: They won 44 games, averaged 116.6 points, broke ground with their wide-open/spread-the-floor/slash-and-kick offensive game and even won a playoff series (over David Robinson’s Spurs) before succumbing to the Lakers (in a series that included multiple ESPN Classic games). Their best three players (Mullin, Hardaway and Richmond) were 27, 26 and 24 years old.
15. Naturally, the Warriors blew things up again, flipping Richmond to Sacramento for the rights to Billy Owens, a talented but sluggish forward who (you’re not going to believe this) never reached his potential for Golden State. The Warriors spent two other first-rounders on Chris Gatling (no. 16) and Victor Alexander (no. 17) in their ongoing quest to land a center you know, as Parish was starting his 12th season in Boston.
16. The 1992 Warriors won 55 games, featured two of the league’s best 10 players (Hardaway and Mullin), averaged an astonishing 118.7 points per game and grabbed a 3-seed in the playoffs. What happened? The upstart Sonics shocked them in four games, with the defining moment being Shawn Kemp’s ferocious dunk on Lister you know, the guy Golden State acquired for the future rights to Gary Payton.5
5. That summer, the Warriors spent their first pick (no. 24) on Latrell Sprewell.
17. The following year, Mullin, Hardaway and Owens missed a combined 107 games for the 34-win Warriors, who earned the third pick and pulled off a blockbuster trade: They sent the draft rights to Penny Hardaway and three other no. 1s (1996, 1998 and 2000) to Orlando for the no. 1 overall pick (Michigan star Chris Webber). Of course, this happened during the worst possible season to have a high draft pick — salaries were totally out of control and rookies had too much leverage, so the Warriors were forced to sign Webber to a 15-year, $74.4 million deal that, incredibly, gave Webber an out after his first season. Hold that thought.
18. The ’94 Warriors featured an incredible starting five on paper: Webber, Mullin, Hardaway, Latrell Sprewell and Billy Owens. And that’s where it stayed: on paper. Hardaway blew out an ACL before the season. The team was talented enough that they won 50 games before being swept by Phoenix in Round 1. Somehow getting demolished by Barkley’s greatest game (56 points in Game 3) would end up being Golden State’s only ESPN Classic-worthy highlight for 13 solid years.
19. That summer, assistant coach Gregg Popovich left to run the San Antonio Spurs, eventually winning four titles and becoming one of the best NBA coaches ever.
20. That fall, Webber decided that he didn’t want to play center anymore, exercised his one-year option and demanded a trade. The Warriors quickly dealt Owens to Miami for center Rony Seikaly to make him happy. Webber still wasn’t happy — he wanted the trade. New Warriors owner Chris Cohan backed Nelson and sent Webber to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round picks (1996, 1998 and 2000). All three of those picks eventually landed in the lottery, and yet the Warriors ended up with Todd Fuller (no. 11), Keon Clark (no. 13) and Chris Mihm (no. 7; sent to Washington).
21. We can’t just casually skip over this Webber thing. He had just won Rookie of the Year and unleashed a free-flowing, up-and-down, uber-athletic, cerebral offensive game that had absolutely nothing in common with anything that had ever happened in the NBA before. If 1994 Me wrote my annual “Who Has the Highest Trade Value” column that summer, Shaq would have gone first, Robinson and Hakeem would have gone second and third, and Webber would have gone fourth yes, ahead of Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Kemp, Grant Hill and everyone else. When someone that talented blows through your city and disappears just as fast, you don’t just salvage that, and you certainly don’t recover from it. The Warriors were never, ever the same.
22. With Webber gone, the Warriors became Latrell Sprewell’s team. The good news: Spree was coming off a First-Team All-NBA nod the previous year. The bad news: He was Latrell Sprewell.
23. Within four months, Nelson resigned as coach and GM, just a couple of weeks before Golden State flipped Gugliotta to Minnesota for the perennially disappointing Donyell Marshall. The Warriors won 26 games and the no. 1 overall pick, taking Maryland star Joe Smith ahead of the next four selections Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett. Defensible at the time. I swear.
24. Over the course of the 1995-96 season, the Warriors turned four former no. 1 picks (Hardaway, Gatling, Alexander and Carlos Rogers) into some guaranteed mediocrity (Kevin Willis, Bimbo Coles and BJ Armstrong), winning 36 games behind up-and-coming coach Rick Adelman. Of course, that knocked them out of the top six of a loaded lottery (Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker). They took Todd Fuller 11th. Four of the next six picks: Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal.
25. You know what’s sad? We’re not even close to being done yet.
26. In November of ’96, the Warriors traded Seikaly and Clifford Rozier (yet another Warriors first-round pick who didn’t make it) to Orlando for Felton Spencer, Jon Koncak and Donald Royal. If you remember, they acquired Seikaly for Billy Owens, who was acquired for Mitch Richmond who, by the way, averaged 24 points a game in Sacramento and made five straight All-Star teams from 1993 to 1997.
27. Coming off another lottery season (30 wins), the ’97 Warriors fired Adelman, hired college coach P.J. Carlesimo and spent the eighth pick of the draft on Colgate center Adonal Foyle. The next pick? Tracy McGrady. I love the mind-set that it’s too risky to take a high schooler, but it’s not risky at all to take someone from Colgate. Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden State Warriors!
28. That concluded a 20-year run with the following lowlights: five playoff appearances; 13 playoff victories total; three no. 1 overall picks and two other picks in the top three; eight players traded who ended up starting for a championship team or making a first- or second-team All-NBA (McHale, Parish, Webber, Hardaway, Richmond, Williams, Wilkes, King and that doesn’t include Payton), three future Hall of Fame coaches who passed through on their way to a better place (Popovich, Karl, Adelman), two valuable bench guys buried in Golden State who thrived elsewhere (Mario Elie and John Starks), an All-Rehab Starting Five (King, Richardson, Mullin, Washburn, Lucas) and a Hall of Fame Absolutely-Coulda-Drafted-Him Starting Five (Bird, Garnett, Kobe, T-Mac and Payton, with McHale coming off the bench).
29. Somehow, things would only get worse. From that point forward, no Warrior would make an All-Star team.6
6. Sprewell was the last one (in 1997).
30. In August of 1997, the Warriors traded their most popular player ever (Mullin) to Indiana for Erick Dampier and Duane Ferrell. Four months later, their best player (Sprewell) was suspended for the rest of the season for choking Carlesimo during practice not once, but twice.
31. Read those last two sentences again.
32. With another season imploding and Smith possibly heading toward free agency, the Warriors sent him to Philly for Clarence Weatherspoon and Jimmy Jackson. That’s right, they somehow turned the first overall picks in 1993 and 1995 into Donyell Marshall, Weatherspoon and Jackson. Even Billy King couldn’t do that. (Thinking.) You’re right, Billy King could probably do that.
33. Still reeling from a 19-win season highlighted by an agonizingly boring lawsuit — the Players Association suing to get Sprewell paid during his suspension, and somehow winning, even though, again, HE CHOKED HIS COACH — Warriors fans finally caught a break when electric rookie Vince Carter fell to them at no. 5. Naturally, this lasted about 15 minutes: They ended up flipping Carter’s rights to Toronto for Antawn Jamison’s rights, even throwing in some cash to make it happen. The silver lining, if there was one: They never had a chance to have their hearts won and eventually broken by Vince Carter.
34. After the ’99 lockout ended, the Warriors traded Sprewell to the Knicks for two expensive veterans (Chris Mills and John Starks), then signed Jason Caffey for $35 million, obliterating Golden State’s cap for the next few years like it was the climactic scene of a Michael Bay movie.
35. A rejuvenated Sprewell ended up leading the Knicks to the 1999 Finals, where they lost to Gregg Popovich’s Spurs. Also happening that season: Hardaway led the no. 1 seed in the East (and made second-team All-NBA); Mullin started for the no. 2 seed in the East; a rejuvenated C-Webb led Adelman’s wildly exciting Kings team to the playoffs (and made second-team All-NBA); Nelson rebuilt the Mavericks around Nash and Dirk Nowitzki; and Carter won the Rookie of the Year award. Other than that, the Warriors fans weren’t bitter at all.
36. The lockout team finished 21-29, just good enough to knock them out of the top nine of the ’99 draft (narrowly missing Rip Hamilton, Andre Miller and Shawn Marion). Their big moves that summer: They signed Dampier to a seven-year, $48 million extension, then turned Bimbo Coles and the 10th pick (Jason Terry) into Mookie Blaylock, Vonteego Cummings and a 2001 no. 1 pick. Could any other team make a trade that involved Bimbo, Mookie AND Vonteego?
37. At this point, Warriors fans were rooting for another lockout. Their team won 19 games the following year and somehow didn’t have a no. 1 pick because they gave their own pick up six years earlier in the C-Webb trade (turned out to be no. 5 overall: Mike Miller), then traded the rights to Washington’s no. 1 pick (turned out to be seventh overall: Chris Mihm) with Starks for former lottery pick Larry Hughes and old friend Billy Owens. Don’t worry, they made some other lousy moves that summer: re-signing Foyle for $18 million; trading Caffey for Bobby Sura; and trading Marshall and Billy Curley for Danny Fortson and Adam Keefe.
38. If you’re scoring at home: Chris Webber > Tom Gugliotta > Donyell Marshall > Danny Fortson.
39. The 2001 Warriors had more players (22) than wins (17). The league’s second-worst record earned them the fifth pick (Jason Richardson); they also drafted Troy Murphy (with the pick from the Blaylock/Terry trade) and stole Gilbert Arenas in the second round. Naturally, they celebrated that draft haul by egregiously overpaying Jamison (six years, $85 million).
40. Next year’s team won 21 games which somehow made them the most successful Warriors edition of the last five years. Their win totals following the catastrophic C-Webb trade: 26, 36, 30, 19, 21, 19, 17, 21. And that still doesn’t capture how much it killed the franchise to lose Chris Webber.
41. That summer, Larry Hughes signed a free agent deal with Washington. The blossoming young Warriors didn’t miss him, gelling behind Jamison, Arenas, Richardson, Murphy and rookie Mike Dunleavy Jr. (the no. 3 pick in 2002) for 38 wins and official “up-and-coming” status. Even if it knocked them out of the LeBron/Wade/Carmelo/Bosh sweepstakes, Warriors fans didn’t care — they knew they probably would have ended up with Darko, anyway.
42. Things fell apart yet again that summer: Because Arenas was a second-round pick, he became a restricted free agent after two seasons and signed a blockbuster offer sheet with Washington and the Warriors couldn’t match it because they had already clogged their cap with Jamison and Dampier. Shaken, the Warriors responded by drafting Mickael Pietrus, signing Speedy Claxton, flipping Sura for Cliff Robinson, and trading Jamison and a clump of contracts (Fortson, Chris Mill and Jiri Welsch) to Dallas for Nick Van Exel and a bunch of nobodies. And just like that, “up-and-coming” turned into “down-and-going.”
43. That made four straight times (along with 1987, 1991 and 1994) in which the Warriors responded to a promising turn of events by immediately blowing things up. Anyway, the 2004 Warriors overachieved (37 wins), fired their coach (Eric Musselman) and GM (Garry St. Jean), hired Stanford’s Mike Montgomery (their sixth head coach in nine years, not counting interims) and put local hero Chris Mullin in charge. Mully kicked things off by drafting Andris Biedrins 11th, spending $79 million on Adonal Foyle and Derek Fisher, giving Dampier away to Dallas for a bunch of crap, then trading all of that crap to Denver four months later for lottery bust Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Uh-oh.
Some good news: Mully also traded Claxton, Dale Davis and cash for Baron Davis. If you’re scoring at home, that’s our first good Warriors trade since I mean Wayne Cooper for Bernard King? Chris Washburn for a ham sandwich? I can’t remember. After their 10th straight lottery season (34 wins), the Warriors blew another lottery pick (Ike Diogu, no. 9) but stole Monta Ellis in Round 2. The pieces of the “We Believe” season had finally fallen into place, only we didn’t know it yet.
44. Lather, rinse, repeat: After the 2006 Warriors won 34 games for the second straight year. Mully went old-school, fired Montgomery and hired good God, that’s Don Nelson’s music! Warriors fans were so excited, they didn’t even care that the Warriors just blew another lottery pick (Patrick O’Bryant, ninth overall). In January of 2007, Mully jumped on Indiana’s need to clean house post-melee by swapping three former top-14 picks (Diogu, Dunleavy and Murphy) for Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson.
Do you believe? You better believe. Because
The Warriors finished over .500! (42-40, but still.)
And made the playoffs! (As an 8-seed, but still.)
And shocked the no. 1 seed Mavericks in Round 1! (Wait, what????)
And nearly toppled the Jazz in Round 2! (Sooooooo close I’m still shaking my head.)
Other things that happened that spring: A rarely seen triple rejuvenation (Baron Davis, Don Nelson, Stephen Jackson); everyone realizing/remembering that the Warriors’ home crowd trumps just about everyone when it actually has something to root for; the Warriors becoming YouTube’s first official NBA team; the “We Believe” tidal wave; and, of course, Golden State’s first playoff appearance in 13 years, first trip to the second round in 16 years and sixth taste of the postseason since 1977.
45. In true Warriors fashion, the team celebrated the previous paragraph for exactly one month before blowing things up.
46. They traded Richardson to Charlotte for the eighth pick of the 2007 draft, then took Brandan Wright one spot ahead of Joakim Noah. With their own pick (no. 18), they drafted Marco Belinelli to replace Richardson. So yeah.
47. The ’08 Warriors won 48 games — their highest win total since 1994 — but somehow made history by winning the most games by any team that didn’t make the playoffs. Only the Warriors. That summer, they lost Baron Davis (signed by the Clippers for $60 million), missed out on Elton Brand (went to Philly), then panic-signed Corey Maggette to a five-year, $50 million deal. That summer was the equivalent of the gang fight in Anchorman — things got out of hand pretty fast, and I think Brick killed a guy.
48. I forgot: That same summer, they traded a future no. 1 pick to New Jersey for the rights to troubled rookie Marcus Williams who ended up playing nine games for them. On the bright side, this made Russell Cross and Chris Washburn feel better. Four years later, Utah owns the rights to that “future” draft choice; unless it lands in the top seven, Golden State will lose that pick. We No Longer Believe.
49. That same summer, Mully spent $129 million on six-year extensions for Biedrins (gulp) and Ellis who celebrated a few weeks later by crashing his motor scooter, tearing ankle ligaments, then trying to cover up the accident before getting caught. The Warriors suspended him without pay for 30 games, which he couldn’t have played anyway because, again, he ripped up his ankle riding a motor scooter.
50. Needless to say, the 2009 Warriors won 29 games and declined to renew Mully’s extension. His replacement? Larry Riley, who kicked things off by trading Jamal Crawford (acquired for Harrington a few months earlier) for Acie Law and Claxton (he’s back!), then dealing Law and Jackson to Charlotte for two overpaid role players (Vlad Radmanovic and Raja Bell). At this point, frustrated Warriors fans were doing everything but staging daily “PLEASE COHAN YOU HAVE TO SELL” protests outside Oracle Arena.
51. One lucky thing happened: Thanks to David Kahn, Stephen Curry magically fell to Golden State at no. 7. That didn’t stop Nellie from mailing in the 2009-10 season, allowing Keith Smart to run practices, burying lottery pick Anthony Randolph (yet another Warriors pick that didn’t work) and seeming openly bored during games. Like he was daring the Warriors to fire him so he could move back to Maui or something.
(Oh, wait, he was. I forgot.)
52. Turns out that having a negligent coach affects your team: The Warriors won 26 games and capped things off by picking Ekpe Udoh sixth right between DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. Just when you thought they were running out of ways to annihilate their fans, they overpaid free agent forward David Lee (six years, $80 million) and dumped Maggette for two not-quite-as-awful-but-considerably-more-useless contracts (Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell). To recap: Baron Davis > Elton Brand > Corey Maggette > Dan Gadzuric & Charlie Bell. WE BELIEVE IN AN ANAL PROBE!!!”
53. In July of 2010, former Celtics minority owner Joe Lacob purchased the Warriors from Cohan, said all the right things, seemed intelligent/confident/competent and promised to turn things around. Still, the emotionally scarred Golden State fans agreed it was probably a good idea to keep their guard up.
54. Last year’s team underachieved because of its undersized backcourt (Ellis and Curry), bad luck (an elbow infection ruined Lee’s season), poor management (see above) and the usual problems that happen when you build around three players who happen to be three of the league’s worst defenders. The 2011 Warriors eked out 36 victories and earned themselves yet another lottery pick (Klay Thompson, picked 11th). The best thing that happened to them that summer? The lockout! You can’t do anything dumb when there’s a lockout. I’m almost positive.
55. The facts heading into this season: The Warriors missed the playoffs 29 times in 35 years the Warriors won four playoff series total in 34 years the Warriors haven’t made the playoffs for two straight seasons since 1977 the Warriors haven’t made the Conference Finals since 1976 the Warriors haven’t had an All-Star since 1997 the Warriors have earned spots at 16 of the last 17 lotteries (impossible but true) the Warriors have made 22 top-14 picks since 1985 (including 11 in the top eight and five in the top three) and the Warriors made so many bad first-round picks and overpaid so many guys over the past 35 years that I don’t even have time to type all their names again.
56. For some reason, despite everything you just read for more than 4,000 words, Lacob decided to guarantee these tortured fans that their Warriors would make the playoffs this season.
57. He hired Mark Jackson as his new coach (someone with no coaching experience whatsoever) and signed off when Jackson vowed to turn Golden State into an elite defensive team despite the fact that, you know, its best three players couldn’t defend anyone.
58. His team used its amnesty on Charlie Bell (one year, $4 million) instead of Andris Biedrins (three years, $27 million) so the Warriors could overpay DeAndre Jordan (four years, $43 million) only the Clippers matched their Jordan offer, leaving Golden State without any outs with Biedrins (who’s been in a funk for four solid years, but hey, who’s counting?).
59. His team waived Jeremy Lin to sign second-rounder Charles Jenkins, then claimed after Linsanity took off in New York that they loved Lin and never wanted to lose him.
60. When his team struggled to compete in a brutally tough Western conference, Lacob’s staff promptly reversed course and made two of the weirdest trades in a while: sending Ellis and Udoh7 to Milwaukee for the defensive center/rebounder they’d been recklessly pursuing for months (settling on Andrew Bogut, who’s injured until April and missed a whopping 108 games these past three-plus years) and Stephen Jackson’s Non-Expiring Contract (two years, $19.3 million remaining), then flipped Jackson’s Non-Expiring Contract for Richard Jefferson’s Apocalypse of a Contract (three years, $30.5 million remaining) and a late first-round pick AND THEN tried to spin the deal as “We can’t make the playoffs, we need to bottom out this season so we finish in the top seven of the lottery and don’t lose our first-round pick to Utah.” You know, the pick the previous regime gave up for nine games of Marcus Williams.
7. Udoh was never going to be Cousins or Monroe, but he was becoming a competent backup center at the very least. The salaries of Ellis/Udoh and Bogut were basically a match and a totally defensible trade. Adding Kwame’s expiring deal and Jackson’s contract was where the Warriors screwed up.
Imagine you’re a Warriors fan. Imagine you just endured everything just laid out these past 35 years. Imagine you didn’t trust your owners, your front office, anybody. Imagine they just traded your most entertaining player for an injury-prone center who can’t play, and imagine knowing that you can’t sign anyone else for two more summers because Biedrins and Jefferson have clogged your cap like a freshman dorm toilet. Imagine you have some of the best fellow fans in the league, only you rarely if ever have a chance to cheer anything. Imagine hearing that, after months and months of Chris Paul rumors and Dwight Howard rumors and “PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS!” rhetoric, your team just abruptly told you, “Oh, by the way, we’re going to tank the rest of this season because we don’t want to be haunted by a stupid trade from four years ago, but seriously, thanks for paying for season tickets this year.”
Imagine you were a paying customer and Chris Mullin Night doubled as the last bankably fun night of the season. Imagine the emotion inside the building with those Warriors legends on hand. Imagine everything cresting with Mully’s humble speech. Imagine the arrogance of Lacob grabbing that microphone — somehow deciding that he should be the last speaker of the ceremony, not Chris Mullin — and imagine your resentment over the past 35 years suddenly swelling as you realized, “Here’s my one chance to be heard.”
I ask you would you boo?