Even though David Lee may be the highest paid Golden State Warrior, this is still Stephen Curry's team. Directly before the 2010 draft, Jonthan Givony of Draftexpress.com tweeted that "[t]here's a firesale in Golden State & everyone's available except Curry." Although GM Larry Riley denied firesale in a Q/A with San Jose Mercury sports writer Tim Kawakami, Riley did not deny that certain players were not untouchable in the trade market: "It's possible that anybody on this team, other than a few, could be traded."
Rumors or otherwise, this sent a message loud and clear to Warrior fans and current Warrior players, perhaps what we already knew, that Stephen Curry is the face of the franchise. While Curry had a statistically surprising rookie season to go along with the leadership skills he showed at the point guard position, it seemed a little premature of Golden State to declare Curry as the franchise. I find it premature in the sense that what kind of signals does this send to Curry that the organization is looking to blow up a much maligned team that a season ago called many of these same players the future "core" (by jettisoning their "core" of just a season ago in Stephen Jackson)? Although putting the team in the hands of Stephen Curry has probably been the smartest PR move by the Warriors corporation in arguably decades, these moves towards change seem more like the historical same:
Another lost season, which the Warriors front office tries to show the glimmer of hope by propping up the next ‘big thing.'
This is clearly representative of poor long-term planning by the Chris Cohan era, which Avinash Kunnath blogged about earlier. And while this has been the sad state of this franchise for a while, I wonder whether the new ownership will follow in these footsteps. I mean, the Cohan-era could aptly be described by the temporary solutions of BP...except strung out over the last decade and a half. We've seen this before time and time again with the Warriors where when disaster strikes, the Warriors turn on the amnesia of its poor management by trying to wash away evidence of what happened with the façade of something shiny, special and new already existing in the pipelines.
Case in point, as the franchise was unable to keep in-tact the "We Believe" Warriors, the only competitive team it's been able to put together in practically the last two decades, the Warriors gradually cleared a path for Monta Ellis partially generated by poor relations with its existing players. As discussed by fans and media, the trade of Jason Richardson was legitimized in part by the argument that Monta Ellis was more effective since he lacked Richardson's shortcomings in terms of ball handling and scoring. As Baron Davis made his departure for Los Angeles, the Warriors secured their future by declaring Monta "the man" and, worse yet, their point guard when he never showed point guard instincts prior. While Monta was clearly up for the challenge of ‘leader,' his moped accident and his body language on court with teammates seemed to contradict that he was ready for that role. He seemed more ready to jack-up shots and collect stats like Ricky Davis or perhaps a young Kobe Bryant post-Shaquille O'Neal.
All this is to say that this Warriors strategy seems more intent on just riding the wave of fan loyalty instead of building a legitimate contender by putting pieces that might fit better together.
In the Latrell Sprewell fallout of the 1996-1997 season, the Warriors suddenly sought "character guys" (Todd Fuller) as a means of forgetting what happened. In addition, I remember they used other off-the-wall gimmicks like hyping up Jason Caffey as a legitimate pick-up. In spite of what then GM Gary St. Jean said was "nothing major," Caffey was described at the time of the trade by some sports writers and the front office as having winning instincts because of his two years under Michael Jordan's tutelage while with Chicago, which supposedly was going to pay off on the court. And while Caffey was exactly who he was supposed to be, a decent contributor but nothing close to star quality, the example shows the historical gimmicky-ness of how the Warriors manage team crises.
Granted, quick fixes are sometimes the best thing a franchise can do, especially when they have overstayed their welcome. The quick jettisoning of Stephen Jackson from the Indiana Pacers and then the Golden State Warriors show how much that trades can help team morale. And sometimes you do that to protect your young guys from getting the wrong ideas from disgruntled vets. But the particular method that the Warriors have used to try to assemble a team has shown us nothing more than bad gimmicks ending in high turnover. And no, we're not just talking about Monta Ellis' horrendous assist-to-turnover ratio.
And this is glaring clear with how quickly the Warriors are seemingly dumping Ellis or withdrawing his title of team leader. Just last summer the Warriors promoted Ellis as the future and now have taken that away from him while he's still on the team. That's awkward and unprofessional. The NBA "is a business" but teams still value business etiquette as evidenced by the maelstrom of hate directed at Lebron James for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers high and dry with 120 million dollars to give to leftover players like Kyle Lowry (Houston Rockets matched the offer), Jordan Farmar or Adam Morrison.
This isn't to say Curry will end up like Monta. Curry seems to have the right perspective and the skills to possibly elevate the team. And for this, he may be the piece that the Warriors really need to build around.
But the Warriors off-season trends of thoroughly cleaning house and rebuilding, while seemingly a smart move as their teams are poorly assembled in the first place, is cause for worry given the Warriors existing track record for flipping their team completely year-to-year. In other words, what we see this year may not be anything new but possibly more of the same. But the sudden upgrade in skill and character can't go unnoticed in picks ups like David Lee, Reggie Williams, and the skinny Ekpe Udoh. Until there are actual wins, however, do we expect this to happen again next summer? And what is the fate of young Stephen Curry? Can he expect to be shipped out too if things go down in flames like they have the last several years? As fans, we should proceed with caution in the Warriors annual ‘summer madness.' The sale of the Warriors gives us fans plenty of reasons to cheer and sigh in relief, but lets just stay cautiously optimistic about the next season until we see some wins.