SAN FRANCISCO — As someone who has spent his adult life as a venture capitalist, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob is used to being the one making decisions, rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to make them for him.
But when it came to Kevin Durant figuring out where he was going to continue his basketball career, Lacob woke up the morning of July 4 like the rest of us: waiting to see whether Durant would choose to join the Warriors, remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder or go elsewhere.
“That’s one of these moments in life when it’s all or nothing,” Lacob said after the Warriors held a Chamber of Commerce Luncheon here Monday afternoon. “It’s like you’re sitting at a card table and you know you either have to get the card or you’re out. We had worked and planned for a long time to go after this guy, like everyone else, because he’s a phenomenal talent.”
Lacob arose that morning at his vacation home in Montana, where his family was scheduled to arrive and celebrate the holiday. But he had his private plane ready to take off at a moment’s notice in case he needed to go back to the Hamptons on Long Island, where Durant had taken his meetings over the prior few days, to make another sales pitch.
“I was supposed to get the call that morning. An hour went by, it didn’t come. Two hours went by, and I’m calling [Warriors general manager] Bob Myers, Bob is calling me and I’m going, ‘What is going on? Was this bad or good that it’s taking longer?’”
Eventually, of course, Lacob got the news he was waiting for. It came in the form of a phone call alerting him to Durant’s decision to join the Warriors shortly before his article on The Players’ Tribune told the entire world what he had chosen to do.
“I think it was 9:20 in the morning Montana time, and I remember getting that call and I was stunned,” Lacob said. “You know, it was 50-50, and I wasn’t really thinking one way or the other.
“I didn’t know what to think. I thought it could go either way. I really did. I think, in my heart of hearts, I thought he was coming, but it’s very hard when you’re right in that moment, on the precipice, waiting for the answer.
“He’s a phenomenal talent, and I know there’s a lot of other owners that are mad at us, and at me. I felt that when I was in Las Vegas this summer [for the NBA’s annual league meetings], but sorry. We got him.”
It’s a good time to be both Lacob and the Warriors, who seem to have everything going for them at the moment. The combination of Durant joining the franchise and Lacob winning a court case that moved him another step closer to getting shovels in the ground beginning in January for a new arena in San Francisco — assuming his side gets another victory in front of an appellate court in the coming weeks — led him to happily tell the audience here Monday that it’s going to be an “incredible five years for this organization.”
But all of the energy and optimism surrounding the franchise can’t erase Golden State’s collapse from a three games to one lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals last June, giving LeBron James his third championship and preventing the Warriors from capping their record 73-win regular season with a second straight NBA title.
For everyone involved, it’s something they’ll always have to live with. But Lacob noted that while disappointed in the outcome, it wasn’t long before he was moving on to the next thing on his agenda.
“There are so many ways we could have, and perhaps should have, won,” Lacob said. “But, we didn’t. And, I have to be honest, I said it on the stand I say it all the time: I was moving on an hour later.
“I don’t have time to think about the past. We had a fantastic year. I will always remember it. It was incredible. There may never be another year like that. We just didn’t finish it. It happens. It’s sports. That’s why they play the games.
“I’m still very proud, and we should all be proud, of what we did. And, honestly, I really don’t have any bad feelings about it. I don’t think about it like that. I think it was a great year … that’s how I remember it.”
Then, Lacob smiled.
“And I plan on winning many more,” he said.
Given what’s happened since, specifically the arrival of Durant, it’s hard to blame him for feeling that way. Lacob sat in his customary court side seat for last week’s preseason debut at Oracle Arena for the Warriors against the Los Angeles Clippers, and it didn’t take long to see just how dominant this team is capable of being.
By the time the starters checked out of the game midway through the third quarter, Golden State held a staggering 51-point lead, and Lacob was seeing unfold in front of him why he, Myers and Coach Steve Kerr pushed all their chips into the middle of the table back in July. The Warriors were willing to sacrifice meaningful pieces from a team that had just won more games than any team in NBA history because of the promise Kevin Durant could bring.
It may have only been one preseason game, but the way Golden State played only reaffirmed the potential this team has both this year and — with Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all in the primes of their careers — for years to come.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget an exhibition game like that,” Lacob said. It was incredible, right? It was just magical. Now, it’s a preseason game, and it means nothing.
“But it was fun, and we expect to see more of that.”
So yes, it’s pretty good to be a part of the Golden State Warriors at the moment. And, with the collection of stars they’ve assembled, it doesn’t look like that’s about to change anytime soon.
“It’s hard to imagine, after two great, phenomenal years in a row, to be even more excited for this year,” Lacob said. “I’m like a kid in a candy store.”