Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob infamously said, “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team,” roughly two months before his franchise blew a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. And the venture capitalist still isn’t ready to admit he may have been mistaken.
Following his team’s sweep of the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Lacob made clear his preference to face the Cavs in a Finals three-match, while maintaining the Warriors “were the better team,” despite relinquishing the title in a Game 7 at home, per San Jose Mercury News columnist Marcus Thompson.
Joe Lacob said he wants Cleveland: "We were the better team but they did win. We need a chance to go in there and prove that."
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) May 23, 2017
An argument can be made the Warriors were the greatest regular-season team in NBA history after winning a record 73 games last season. And you might even believe Golden State would have defeated Cleveland in 2016 had Draymond Green not been suspended for Game 5. But to maintain you “were the better team” after watching LeBron James obliterate you in the final three games of that series, leading the Cavaliers to the greatest comeback in Finals history, it comes off as slightly disingenuous.
But don’t worry, Lacob provided the Cavs plenty more bulletin-board material, via The Mercury News:
How much redemption you feel is on the mind?
“A lot. I kind of honestly feel that we’re on a mission. We’re not done. We got to go back and get some of what kind of feels taken from us last year. I’ll just leave it at that.”
At this point, Cleveland looks like they’ll probably be the East champions. Do you want it to be Cleveland?
Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season.”
The complete disregard for the Boston Celtics — who Lacob grew up rooting for in New Bedford, Mass., and the team he co-owned from 2006-10, until he bought the Warriors — is the least flippant part of his comments. Boston’s Game 3 comeback against the Cavaliers sans Isaiah Thomas was remarkable and sliced its Eastern Conference finals deficit to 2-1, but few expect the Celtics to advance, and even fewer would like to see anything but a Finals rubber match between Golden State and Cleveland.
Oddly enough, these Warriors could do what last year’s edition couldn’t: prove Lacob correct in that boastful New York Times Magazine interview. As a refresher, he said in April 2016, “We’ve crushed them on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team. We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things. We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the NBA to deal with for a long time.”
(Did we mention two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry was drafted in 2009, before Lacob’s arrival?)
The 2017 Warriors own a 12-0 playoff record through three rounds, the best record for any team after that many postseason games. A big reason for that was their ability, despite believing they “were the better team,” to reconfigure the roster in order to add Kevin Durant to a lineup that already featured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. It’s hard not to think you’re “light-years ahead” when you’re rolling them out on a nightly basis, but thinking it and saying it are two different things.
Then again, Lacob never seems afraid to say what he thinks. More from his media session on Monday:
Is this team better than last year’s?
“I think it is. Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”
While it is true Curry played the 2016 Finals through the after-effects of a knee injury he suffered earlier in the playoffs, Lacob failed to mention the Cavaliers were without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for the majority of the 2015 Finals, when the Warriors won their first and only title of the Lacob era.
By Lacob’s logic, if the Warriors are better this year than last, they must also be that much better than the Cavs in 2017. And he may be right. But that still doesn’t mean they were the better team in 2016.
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