Technically, the pain lasted two years. In their minds, the Golden State Warriors felt like it lasted longer.
After collecting three NBA titles in five consecutive Finals appearances, the Warriors’ championship fabric was ripped up amid key departures (Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala), key injuries (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson) and a key retirement (Shaun Livingston). Following a short purgatory in the NBA Draft lottery (2019-20) that included a trip to league’s Play-In Tournament (2021), the Warriors have since resewn part of that fabric.
After nursing overlapping injuries during the regular season, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green are back and fully healthy for a postseason run. Though Iguodala (who returned to the team this season) remains sidelined with his own ailments, the Warriors have also leaned on a freshly minted All-Star (Andrew Wiggins) and a handful of young players.
That gives Warriors general manager Bob Myers more perspective on what it means that Golden State hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals (9 ET, TNT).
“What makes it most gratifying is how hard it is,” Myers told NBA.com. “Having a couple of years out of the playoffs was not fun. But I have a better appreciation for being here and where we are now.”
Myers reflected on that journey with NBA.com, touching on the star trio, Jordan Poole’s development, declining to acquire a center before the trade deadline and more. The following Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
What were your expectations of what this group could accomplish both with the results and development, and how has that played out this season?
Bob Myers: Having the health issues we had the last few years gave me pause as far as hoping or expecting anything. It made me realize how fragile this stuff is. What we did with the front office and Steve [Kerr] is just try to put the best team we can together, hope for good health and see what we can make of it so that we really give Steph, Klay and Draymond another shot at everything. They deserve it. That’s been great seeing them have a chance to try to do it again. Expectations change day-to-day. I liked our signings and our Draft. But you never know how it’s going to go.
How would you evaluate how the team has done with leaning on the championship-tested players while also developing the young guys?
The coaching staff has done a really good job. We believe it’s nice to have a mix of veterans and youth. It makes sense with the rigors of the season to have some fresh, younger legs. You can win with young teams. You can win with older teams. Having experience matters, but the coaching staff has done a really good job with finding pockets to develop the youth. Steve has started [rookie Jonathan] Kuminga and Poole in some games. It’s a fluid and imperfect process that every team goes through with figuring that out.
The challenge for us was less about integrating youth as it was having our core play together. It was internally hard not to see Klay, Steph and Draymond play the entire season. That was not ideal. The struggle was less about the need to develop youth as much as it was knowing what kind of team we have, because we haven’t been healthy the entire year to see it. We tried to do that on the fly. Thank goodness they got back in rhythm pretty quickly. That was the hardest part.
The playoffs are the most informative time of the year. You can’t hide during the playoffs. It’s just too competitive, too physical and too high level.”
— Warriors GM Bob Myers
Given that, to what extent were you concerned that Steph, Klay and Draymond played only 11 regular-season minutes together? On one hand, they’ve already played together in five Finals. But on the other hand, they have plenty of teammates that never played with them before this season.
It’s easy to think this team is the same as those past championship teams. But they’re different. Andre is back, but hasn’t played much in the playoffs. Kevon Looney has been playing and had a good Game 6 [vs. Memphis]. Around them, we’ve had different guys that help. We’ve had different coaches. The constant is those players — their leadership, competitiveness and pedigree is invaluable in the playoffs. That never went away and will probably never go away.
That’s so important as you try to navigate the playoffs to have guys that have had the confidence with never having done it before. It doesn’t mean you’ll do it again. But it gives you a sense that you’re capable of it. You don’t have that fear or doubt. But it’s still daunting and never easy. Those three paved the way for the organization as we try to do it again. It’s inspiring to see them go through the journey together again.
You obviously drafted Poole for a reason. But what has gone into his development this season and in the playoffs?
We saw the potential. But when we Draft players [late in the first round], realistically it’s really hard to know where it’s going to go. We thought it was possible, but we didn’t know he would reach it. But credit to him and the coaching staff that put the time in to perfect his craft. I’m happy for him that he’s showcasing this on a big stage, showing his skillset and fitting in with guys that are leading him.
He’s been great, and I don’t know if we’d be where we are without him. It’ll be interesting to see where it all keeps going. It’s a great experience, but he’s never been in the playoffs before this year. That’s what you want from any young player — to taste the playoffs and get a sense of it. A lot of players play a long career and don’t get this far. For him to be this young and get an opportunity, it’s really very valuable.
Where do you see Poole going from here?
Each round gets harder, but it’s all informative. You look for consistency, confidence and skill. The playoffs are the most informative time of the year. You can’t hide during the playoffs. It’s just too competitive, too physical and too high level. As an executive, it’s the best time to evaluate your team assuming that you are healthy. If you don’t make it to the playoffs, it’s hard to know much. But if you do, it’s fantastic because you get to see what’s what. With Jordan, it’s another chance to watch him grow. He’s answered the bell: Started, not started, played big minutes, played fewer minutes. Credit to him for always being ready. We’re going to definitely need him in this round and however far we can go.
What was the thought process with not adding a big entering the trade deadline, and how have you seen the team adjust toward not having a traditional center?
The league is realizing that size is really important, but it’s more about positional size than size at the center spot. We didn’t have a great option available to us. Secondly, I was under the impression we would have James Wiseman. He was trending well. We thought he’d be back, ready to go and help us with that vertical space. That didn’t happen and his rehab hit a bump in the road post deadline. That put us in a tough spot, and the market was pretty dry. We had to march forward.
Size still matters. But Looney’s been an unbelievable, steadfast guy that often gets overlooked. When we need to go bigger, Draymond and Looney have shown they can do it. They’re capable. They’re not 7-feet tall, but they’re versatile, switchable and very smart. We found a way. We’ll see if it keeps working and if we continue to win.
Wiseman credited your positive reinforcement during his recovery. What’s been your message to him?
The only thing I’ve been saying is he has so much time left in the NBA and is still very young. He’ll overcome it. It’s different than Curry’s ankle [injuries], but I remember when Curry was going through the frustrating ankle rehab and stopping and starting. It’s very frustrating for a young player. You just tell him to stick with it and he’s going to get through it. It was great for James to watch Klay with his rehab and comeback.
James is a really bright guy, hard working and very diligent. He has a positive attitude. He’s handling it the best he can and knows he has a lot of years left in the NBA. I’m sure it isn’t easy. But he’s taking it day-by-day. He’s starting to get back on the court now, so it’s all moving in a better direction.
How have you seen Andre [Iguodala] handle his different role and his injuries?
He’s frustrated. He wants to play. Frankly, he could help us. He’s trying to get back. Because he hasn’t been able to play, he’s used his voice and has been very vocal. He’s one of the most respected players in the league and is very, very bright. He communicates on the bench, whether it’s with our coaches, young players and our older players. That matters, especially as you go deeper in the playoffs.
The cameras caught your reaction shortly after Gary Payton II’s injury against Memphis and then talking to Joe Lacob at your courtside seats afterward. What do you remember about that moment?
Bob Myers just returned from the Warriors locker room to give Joe Lacob some news pic.twitter.com/vndoXUGA0P
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 4, 2022
Those are the hardest things. Postseason injuries, I’ve been seeing too many of them. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been in a lot of playoff series. You’re going to have some good times and some adverse times. Hearing that Gary’s X-ray showed a chip in his elbow, it sucks. There’s nothing good about it. There’s no words that can help. It’s the players’ best time of their lives. To see Gary despondent and back in the locker room and hear he’s done for the game, series and more, those are tough moments. I was just explaining to Joe that Gary is done, and that it’s not good. Thankfully, there’s no surgery. We didn’t know at that time. But those moments are bad.
When Steve Kerr was in Health & Safety protocols, how much did you touch base during his recovery?
Quite a bit. He was texting me during the games. It was so tough. I felt bad for him. His whole season is geared up to make the playoffs and coach in the playoffs. Not to get that opportunity was brutal. But he was texting me in Game 6 [vs. Memphis], ‘Why are we turning it over?’ I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely that’s a problem’ (laughs). It’s weird to have your head coach text you during the games. But it’s fine and he’s back now. I just felt bad for him.
With Mike Brown taking the head coaching job at Sacramento following the playoffs, what do you take away from his six years with you?
He’s been great. I’ll miss the guy and the coach. You develop relationships with people that are more than just work related. I’ll miss seeing him everyday. But his acumen and what he brought to our defense is going to be hard to replace.
I presume too early to know how you’ll address his eventual departure?
We’re not even thinking about that stuff right now. People think we are, but we’re not doing that right now. We got more games to play.
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