The turnaround has taken place. The total transformation might not be far away.
And if they want to be considered true title contenders, the Warriors will have to develop their promising young talent even more and show they can be consistent — and consistently healthy — for longer stretches.
That was the message from Warriors general manager Bob Myers and coach Mark Jackson on Monday, when the brains behind the franchise’s rapid renaissance pushed ahead to a promising offseason. After finishing two wins from the Western Conference finals, Golden State has gone from needing a complete makeover to a touch-up job.
“I think that sense of desperation has passed,” Myers said. “I think that whereas when you’re trying to do anything to get over the hump you do sometimes chase things that may be difficult to acquire. Whereas now, doesn’t mean we’re satisfied, it doesn’t mean we think our work is through, but we can be prudent and patient with opportunities as they come along.”
The Warriors went from a 23-43 record during the lockout-shortened season to a 47-35 team, earning the conference’s sixth seed and dominating Denver in the first round of the playoffs. Mounting injuries eventually wore them down and the four-time champion San Antonio Spurs sent Golden State home in six games.
Myers, a former sports agent who was promoted from assistant general manager last year, had talked about building the team through the draft and trades when he first took over basketball operations. Simply put, the native of nearby Danville said his hometown team was just not an attractive place for free agents.
Now those days might be done.
“What’s the best word to describe a 180?” he said. “People do enjoy watching this group of players play. They do enjoy watching our games on TV and seeing what the crowd brings. They do enjoy watching our coaches get the most out of the players we have. What does that say? Well, if you’re a player in the NBA and you’re witnessing all these things, it does make it a desirable place to go and be a part of.”
The toughest challenge Myers and Jackson said they are facing is finding a way to improve the team without disrupting continuity and chemistry.
The entire starting lineup — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut — is signed through next season. Top reserve Brandon Rush, out since tearing a ligament in his left knee in the home opener, will be back. Rookie reserves Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Kent Bazemore along with veterans Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins — and their hefty expiring contracts — also are among those signed.
“I don’t want to overreact because we had a great year. I want to build on it,” Jackson said. “This is a great offseason to challenge every one of them to come back better. And I’m excited about it. I have no problem coming back with the same group, but this is truly a business.”
While the franchise is set up to be big spenders in the coveted 2014 free agent market, there are still more immediate concerns.
The two biggest questions will be deciding whether to re-sign free agent Jarrett Jack and possibly Carl Landry, who is likely to opt out of the final year of his two-year, $8 million deal. Both players said they hoped to be back next season, and Myers expressed the same sentiment about each.
Whether the Warriors can afford will be determined in free agency.
If Landry does opt out, Golden State will be at about the $70,307,000 luxury tax line. Warriors owner Joe Lacob already has given Myers the go-ahead to go into the tax if warranted, but that could complicated matters under the new collective bargaining agreement, which penalizes teams more each year they cross threshold.
“Anything’s possible,” Myers said.
Jackson, as of now, also has only one more guaranteed year left on his deal. The coach has a team option for the 2014-15 season, though both sides are likely to work out a longer extension soon — and it shouldn’t be too tough.
Jackson is represented by renowned agent Arn Tellem, Myers’ mentor and former boss at the Wasserman Media Group. Jackson, who doubles as an ordained minister, said his situation will “work itself out.”
“I trust in God. I’m in the best hands possible, and I don’t mean Arn Tellem,” he quipped.
It’s unlikely the Warriors will make any dramatic changes this offseason.
Myers wants to see Curry, Bogut and Lee all playing together at full strength. He said the injuries to Bogut and Lee, in particular, makes it difficult to evaluate the roster.
Myers expects Bogut’s surgically repaired left ankle to be completely rehabilitated by training camp. Lee has doctor visits scheduled to see if he’ll need surgery on his torn right hip flexor. And if Curry’s ankles can hold up, the Warriors are excited about the possibilities.
“To have another year of continuity, I do think we’d come back with a better product, assuming health,” Myers said. “But I’d have to balance that against what options we had on the table and decided not to do. And that’s the thing that the draft brings, and free agency brings, and trades bring.”