Remember that welcome party the Miami Heat put on before last season? The smoke-machines, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sitting on little stools in their uniforms, and James guaranteeing more championships than Michael Jordan ever won? The Golden State Warriors held their own hype-filled event on Wednesday evening, only instead of players in uniforms, the men the Warriors were promoting wore expensive suits. And due to rules prohibiting even one mention of a current NBA player by NBA employees, the only players getting the spotlight were ones that retired long ago.
Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Jerry West and Mark Jackson all came out to enthusiastic applause from the 3,000 or so season ticket holders who ventured out to Oracle Arena. No smoke machines, but a couple machines tossed flames in the air for each of the four as they walked out to their seats (no little stools, either). Each man was introduced in a video on the board above by a big NBA name. Lacob was introduced by David Stern, who touched on how Lacob ended up with the Warriors. Stern didn't mention Larry Ellison by name, but he may as well have when he stated, "It would be not a stretch to suggest it was a thriller, the acquisition of the team. It wasn't cloak and dagger, but it kind of was to a degree."
"21st century mascot"
Guber, who during his introduction was labeled as an "Entertainment Visionary," was the most entertaining guy with the microphone in his hand during the event -- at least according to this observer. He was introduced by Magic Johnson, who said, "There's not a better marketing person in this world than Peter. He's an out of the box thinker." That was especially on display when a STH asked a question about replacing Thunder, the muscle-padded trampoline dunker with no real relevance to the franchise's history in any way, shape or form.
"It's gotta capture the ethos, the mythology of this marketplace," said Guber, who said the Warriors should go for a modern mascot that isn't furry. "It can't just run around!" So get ready for a mascot that sits on the sidelines and checks its Twitter and Facebook feeds on a smartphone during timeouts. Should be riveting.
Close, yet so far away
Getting a chance to listen to West (with an intro from a goatee-sporting Pat Riley) provided the biggest thrill, even if the words coming out of his mouth weren't quite as outlandish as what Guber uttered. West again said, "This franchise is very close to being very, very good," and mentioned how he hopes to see fewer Kobe Bryant jerseys in the stands when the Lakers come to town. Throughout the event West seemed very worried about showing the Warriors fans in attendance that he isn't a Lakers spy on a covert mission to wrest Stephen Curry away from the Warriors for Luke Walton.
But the spectre of the lockout hung over everything. Like Ernie Pompin wrote, Mark Jackson preached "DE-FENCE," even leading the crowd in the chant on two separate occasions. But will they ever get a chance to defend Bryant and the Lakers at Oracle during a 2011-12 season that's very much in doubt? Jackson (introduced on the video board by Reggie Miller) and the other three on stage used the words "accountable" and "accountability" at least a dozen times over an hour, but couldn't mention anyone they'd hold to that standard. No players, no games, just talk about mascots and a team that's supposedly on the verge of great things.
After each of the four men were introduced and did a short monologue at center court, Warriors TV play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald settled in for a little Q&A. The highlight, or at least the most noticeable exchange? When Fitz asked what Lacob found to be his biggest challenge since taking over as owner of the Warriors. "The media, Bob. The media's a challenge," Lacob said.
It seemed to me like the Spurs gave the Warriors more trouble than Matt Steinmetz, Marcus Thompson II or bloggers like myself, but Lacob doesn't have to defend Tim Duncan.
The "L" word
The questions from STHs were carefully chosen -- in the same vein as the previously mentioned one about mascots. After a question to Jackson about whether the Warriors would remain an uptempo team, someone in the crowd yelled out "LOCKOUT!" But alas, the only thing remaining in this event would be the final tryout for the Warrior Girls, who will probably continue to be heavily promoted in the coming months, with the franchise unable to talk about guys like Monta Ellis or Curry.
The night was full of flattery. Each of the intros flattered the four men under the lights. Jackson said, "It is awfully to cool to have owners that have swag." Fitzgerald trumpeted the fact that the Warriors had the highest home winning percentage of any Bay Area team last season (ignoring the fact that they also had the worst winning % of any local team on the road), saying that if there was a hall of fame for fans, the Warriors fans would be in it ... or something.
Sorry, it was tough to follow some portions of the event. Guber's unpredictability, Lacob's near defiance when talking about the media and all those non-playoff seasons of the past (including last year, when technically he owned the team and made quite a few decisions), West's aura, Jackson's religiosity -- all interesting. More talk about the team's loyal fans and an elite "experience"? Yawn. Winning basketball by definition makes everything surrounding it elite, and with no more reason to believe there will be an NBA season than before everyone filed into the building, it was just a way for ownership to remind their most loyal fans (in financial terms, at least) that they haven't been completely forgotten.