Here is a link to my Wednesday column about the Warriors. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — The Warriors’ gym, high noon on Tuesday. Steve Kerr kept his team working an hour longer than planned. He’s not coaching the Warriors against the Grizzlies or Trail Blazers. No game planning yet. Memphis and Portland have to finish their business first.
Kerr walked over to his high chair by the wall in front of the Warriors logo.
“Are you guys going to match any offer for Draymond Green no matter what?”
Me wanting to know.
Not what Kerr liked to hear, not the general feel-good, adore-the-Warriors tone that prevails.
“I’m not allowed to say,” he said in the sense of not saying. “The NBA has told us we’re not allowed to talk about any restricted free agency stuff.”
“Meaning you get a fine?”
“Yeah, I would be fined.”
“I’ll pay it for you,” I offered extremely generously.
“Will you?” Kerr said. “They’re paying you guys well these days.”
He has no idea.
Why the impertinent question? Because of the window.
Yes, the window of opportunity. Something that may have closed for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. They once had windows. The Warriors have a window. Right now.
We assume the Warriors’ window is just beginning to open. All of us do. We assume this amazing bunch could win the championship this season and just keep on getting better, the window opening wider and wider until it becomes a pair of fancy French Doors opening onto the Garden of Eden.
Just as that one little complication entered the Garden, the Warriors may be facing their own little complication. Not the serpent. The salary cap. The cap may prematurely close the window before anyone gets used to the view. And the cap could enter the story through Green, who earns $915,000 this season, big money for you and me. (No, I was not in a position to pay Kerr’s fine.) But it’s chump change in the dripping-with-dough NBA, on the wallowing-in-mazuma Warriors.
Other teams have noticed the shrimp salary. Other teams have noticed Green is a restricted free agent after this season, his breakout season. They have noticed Green could be the second-most-important player on the Warriors. Could be. Andrew Bogut and Klay Thompson are pretty important, too. You know who the No. 1 player is.
Other teams can make offers for Green when the Warriors write The End to this season. The Warriors have the option to match any offer. The offers could go as high as $15 million. Please don’t ask me why the top number is 15 big ones. The NBA salary cap is hard to understand — as hard as the IRS rule book. But the Warriors have some big matching to do.
Any sane person assumes the Warriors will match. Green is the heart and soul of the Warriors, a great defensive player, the tough guy the Warriors need. And he can lead the fast break and he hits 3s. He is a load for any opponent to handle.
Still, a chance exists Green might leave. Scary. But if the Warriors match offers for Green, they could end up in Luxury Tax Land — a highly expensive place to live. Add to Green’s enhanced contract David Lee’s contract for next season. Another 15 big ones. Fifteen for a guy who is extra, no longer in the plan, not Kerr’s kind of player.
Don’t expect other teams to compete for Lee. Good backup player. Nice guy. But not worth the money. He may be impossible to unload. Expect the Warriors to be stuck with him.
Let’s break for an interesting anecdote. Spoke to a retired player early this season — when Lee was hurt and not playing and Green took his spot, as a substitute, we thought. This former player told me the Warriors would cede Lee his spot when he got well. “They play the guy with the big contract,” he told me. “It’s how the league works.”
Maybe it’s how the league works. It’s not how Kerr works. He saw Green “grab” Lee’s position. “Grab” is Kerr’s words. The hell with the big contract. Good coach, that Steve Kerr.
To pay Lee and keep Green will cost the Warriors. They will face tough decisions. Like should they let one or two good players leave? Like whom those players will be?
That’s what I mean about the window closing early — or not opening all the way.
Kerr’s chief assistant coach is Alvin Gentry. He is the hottest assistant in the league. Bar none. Assume he is gone, when they close the book on this season. Assume he becomes a head coach somewhere.
Call it the Warriors’ road through the playoffs. It’s a favorable road. It’s no road at all. It’s an eight-lane super highway, due north, straight as a ruler.
The Warriors get to wait around while the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers beat each other’s brains out. The Trail Blazers are no big deal. Should be easy for the Warriors if they survive. And the Grizzlies just lost their point guard, Mike Conley, with a busted face. Bad injury. Poor guy. Who knows when he’ll play? If he can play. How good he’ll be if he plays. The second round of these playoffs should not be fear inducing for the Warriors.
In the conference finals they get either San Antonio or the Clippers. The Spurs are the reigning champs and the Clips eliminated the Warriors last season. Very good teams. Worthy teams. It’s just they could exhaust themselves playing each other.
Assume the Warriors get to the NBA championship series — a big assumption. But today we’re assuming. Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers used to loom as a threat. LeBron James is some loomer. But Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder. And J.R. Smith is in trouble with the league and will miss games in the second round. Who knows how that affects the Cavaliers?
What about the Atlanta Hawks as the Warriors’ opponent in the finals?
Nice little team. Probably not a threat.
Which means the Warriors’ road to the championship may never be easier than this moment. Grab the moment. Windows will close.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.