— Story reported by Anthony Slater, Marcus Thompson II and Sam Amick.
The six huddled, in open view, in the equipment area of the Warriors’ locker room: Joe Lacob, Bob Myers, Kirk Lacob, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kent Lacob and Shaun Livingston.
The Warriors had just suffered maybe their worst loss of the season, beaten by a Phoenix squad without Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. And it happened at Chase Center, the night Stephen Curry’s return from injury was supposed to spark a resurgence. Instead, after the embarrassing defeat, the Warriors sat 20-21 at the halfway point, a large and concerning enough sample to prompt this quick summit of Golden State’s brass.
But as they simultaneously manage the defense of a championship and the development of the future, bigger picture questions whirl above the franchise, threatening to speed up the waning days of one of the sport’s most distinguished dynasties. And perhaps the biggest question mark stood 6-foot-7 and had already changed into a hoodie and sweats for that postgame session.
How long will Bob Myers be part of this brain trust?
In his 12th season as head of the Warriors basketball operations, he’s the second-most influential voice in that room full of organizational power brokers, but his contract runs out in July.
As the clock ticks and extension talks remain flat, many around Myers are wondering whether – and even predicting that – his days with the Warriors are about to run out. That outcome would present some critical questions: Why? What could be next? What kind of ripple effects would it have on the Warriors?
Myers’ departure would assuredly be unsettling to Curry. Myers is the Warriors’ executive with whom Curry is closest.
The reigning Finals MVP has become increasingly vocal about his win-now perspective and Myers has been the primary voice easing Curry’s concerns regarding the franchise’s direction and commitment to the present. Curry’s bent is for Warriors’ management to maximize the championship window, insistent it’s still open. One has to wonder how the face of the franchise would respond to losing the face of the front office — whose signature moves for Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Andrew Wiggins were pivotal to winning rings.
In addition to Curry, Steve Kerr’s and Draymond Green’s close relationship with Myers are well known. Green has a player option for next season and could opt to walk. Kerr’s current contract expires after next season. Dunleavy is Myers’ right hand and was brought on to be his confidant. Several key figures in the organization have strong ties to Myers, which is why his departure has the potential to be the first domino in the transition to the next era.
For all the nuance that surrounds the situation, this much is clear: team and league sources, who like all of the sources in this story were granted anonymity so they could speak freely, say Myers believes he should be among the highest-paid front office executives in the league, if not the highest. He’s been the architect of four NBA title teams, was the lead recruiter in the Durant free agency signing, and has been the trusted conduit between players, coaches and ownership. Myers also has served as chief problem solver, the coolant in an ecosystem that periodically overheats.
Myers, who declined comment for this story, would strongly prefer his contract situation stay out of the spotlight as the Warriors try to defend their title. He has managed to keep all of his past negotiations largely behind the scenes. But the expiring status – and perceived obtainability – of one of the NBA’s most sought after executives looms as one of the most significant under-the-surface stories in the league. And money, as is almost always the case, appears to be at the core of this potential divide.
Joe Lacob told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami in early January that Myers is already “top three among general managers” in pay. That’s where a disagreement clearly lies.
According to several people with ballpark knowledge of executive salaries around the league, Myers falls somewhere in the range of either sixth, seventh or eighth on the base salary totem pole.
While front office salaries are typically kept even more private than those of coaches, executives such as Philadelphia’s Daryl Morey, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri, Miami’s Pat Riley, Minnesota’s Tim Connelly, San Antonio’s R.C. Buford and New York’s Leon Rose are considered by industry experts to be among the highest paid, and likely above Myers, when it comes to annual salary. The upper echelon of executives, league sources say, make upwards of $10 million. Incentives are often added to these deals. Myers reached an incentive for the Warriors winning this past title.
Money may not be the only factor. Some existential pondering is possibly undergirding these negotiations. Part of the equation for Myers, known for his deep conversations and intellectual curiosity, is the contemplation of what’s next. After more than a decade of building a dynasty, and managing it through the intensity of modern scrutiny, and living beneath the relentless pressure of the Warriors’ championship standard, might Myers be interested in a new challenge? Would it be better for him and his family to move on, build up another franchise away from the Golden State fish bowl? He walked away from a successful career as a player agent to become an NBA executive. Is it now time to leave the front office behind and try his hand in another industry? He’s recently launched a mainstream podcast. Curry was his first guest.
Considering some of the opportunities that have come Myers’ way, who could blame him for wanting an elite offer from the Warriors? Most notably, the Sixers’ recruitment of Myers in the summer of 2018 spoke volumes about his value beyond the Warriors’ walls.
In the wake of the public relations disaster that was the Bryan Colangelo firing, the Sixers, sources say, went to extensive lengths to woo Myers. Philadelphia was prepared to put him atop the league’s payscale, or at least really close to it. Ultimately, Myers chose to stay put with the Warriors. If he were to leave Golden State this summer, he’d likely be the most sought after front office free agent on the market.
But where might he go?
According to sources close to the situation, Washington, Phoenix, and New York are all worth monitoring as possibilities. Meanwhile, the recent focus in front office circles, where Myers’ situation has become a hot topic, is on the Clippers. They have the richest owner in all of professional sports in Steve Ballmer, the 66-year-old former Microsoft CEO with an $83 billion net worth who has taken the blank-check approach to his title pursuit since buying the team in 2014.
Myers’ roots run deep in the Los Angeles area. He played at UCLA, earned his law degree at Loyola Law School and was a prominent agent at the LA-based Wasserman Media Group before joining the Warriors as an assistant general manager in 2011. Yet, while Ballmer’s injury-riddled team has been a disappointment so far in this Kawhi Leonard–Paul George era, a source with knowledge of the Clippers’ operation pushed back on the widely discussed Myers possibility.
Bottom line: it’s far too early to tell where Myers might land if he leaves the Warriors, or if he’ll remain in the NBA at all. Sources close to Myers have also left open the possibility he could pursue opportunities outside the sport. That would give credence to the idea Myers may leave the Warriors because of burnout.
There are competitive advantages to working under a majority owner like Joe Lacob. He has spent historical amounts of salary on the roster. When a coaching staff overhaul was requested two summers ago, he opened the checkbook. They continue to expand their front office workforce, scouting department and medical staff.
That’s the case for Myers to stay. It would be hard to find a place that provides him with more resources. He gets to work in the Bay Area, where he was born and raised, and be a legend for the franchise he grew up watching. All while making significant money, even if not the most in the league, and receiving the perks of running the NBA’s glamor team.
In the NBA world, what the Warriors have is considered elite living, driven by an unquenchable desire for rampant success. This is why some insiders believe, if presented with a deadline and must-match dollar amount to keep Myers, Lacob will pay what it takes to keep him around. Executive salaries don’t count toward the luxury tax.
But the same constant ambition that makes the Warriors an elite franchise is the same constant ambition that grinds on those in direct orbit. Sources say Lacob is more involved than ever in the day-to-day personnel choices. He studies the draft, attends workouts and crafts big boards. He played an influential role in the franchise’s choice to use its five recent picks on upside teenagers instead of rerouting some of that capital into older and reliable help to maximize the present.
The Warriors struck that two-timeline balance and still won a title last June. This season, after flooding the back end of the roster with more unprepared youth, the mix has become more problematic. The losses have piled up, creating extra tension for everyone involved in threading the win-and-develop needle.
Myers is the leading mediator of this high-stakes clash. When ground-level concerns arise from Kerr or the All-Stars on the roster, Myers is the trusted ear. When agents wonder why their young clients can’t gain career traction, Myers is the explainer. When Durant tore his Achilles, when James Wiseman missed an entire season, when Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole, it is Myers who faces the public. When Lacob turns the temperature up, Myers is closest to the fire and the staff’s buffer.
This summer is trending toward a culmination. The Warriors’ increased luxury tax concerns and rising salary numbers are creating wrenching personnel decisions. That could involve a choice between whether to part with Green or Klay Thompson, two living franchise legends who have both voiced a relative unease about their future with the Warriors beyond their current contracts.
Myers can’t be thrilled at the prospect of making that call, especially considering he’s going to have to break that news to No. 30.
Not that any of the other executives, who also poured themselves into this franchise, would want to make that call, either. But if the dynasty is coming to an end, and the Warriors end up leaning toward the future, that might convince Myers to ride off into the sunset. Perhaps being the league’s highest paid executive could persuade him to stay. Or maybe leaning into the remaining years of the championship window triggers his loyalty to the stars and convinces him he still has work to do with the Warriors.
A lot must play out before Myers’ future is decided. What happens on the court could end up being the deciding factor. Do the Warriors make a late run in the regular season, look like a contender in the postseason, and provoke the Warriors to spend what it takes to keep the core together? Or do they continue on their current path of mediocrity, unable to sustain excellence long enough to keep the focus off the future?
Three nights after the Phoenix loss, the Warriors helped draw an NBA-record crowd of 68,323 in San Antonio. More importantly, they drubbed the Spurs for a feel-good road win, their fourth in 20 tries away from Chase Center. It was the start they needed on a five-game trip.
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But then they went to Chicago and lost to the Bulls without their best player, DeMar DeRozan. The Warriors gave up 73 points in the second half in a lackluster effort dropping them back under .500.
After that game, the Warriors’ brass huddled again. Dunleavy – who some have pegged as a possible successor to Myers – Kent Lacob and Livingston were around. But Myers wasn’t in the room. He’d later join the team in D.C. But it was a window into the possible future, a debrief and problem-solving session without the 6-7 guy in the hoodie.
(Photo illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photo: Bart Young / Getty Images)