SAN FRANCISCO – When All-star forward Draymond Green needs to talk, he calls Bob Myers. When CEO Joe Lacob needs to vent, he turns to Myers. Before Kevin Durant announced he was ready to change employers, he first reached out to Myers.
Any peek into the triumphs of the Warriors in recent seasons leads to the conclusion that coach Steve Kerr is an adept manager, that the roster was populated with exceptional talent and that Myers, the president of basketball operations, is the connective tissue to the operation.
Myers, 44, is living a dream. He grew up in the East Bay, rooting for the Warriors. After initially walking on at UCLA, and then earning a basketball scholarship, he worked at a sports agency while attending law school at Loyola University. After 14 years with two agencies, the Warriors in April 2011 lured him to their front office as assistant general manager.
Two promotions, two Executive of the Year awards and three NBA championships later, Myers has built considerable credibility around the league. Halfway through his ninth year with the franchise, this season looks to be the most critical and taxing since his arrival.
I sat down with Myers this week to discuss a variety of topics, from new challenges and expectations, to what he'll miss about the departed veterans, to whether he's worried about defensive stickler Draymond Green going after new teammate D'Angelo Russell.
NBC Sports Bay Area: You've had three months to adjust from the team you had, with Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, to somewhat of a rebuilding team. What is that like?
Bob Myers: We're untested. There's a lot to figure out for them as a team, for the coaching staff and for us in the front office. Before, we kind of knew what we had, and we were mostly concerned with staying healthy. I've been tested. When you look around now, there are a few of those guys standing, but we've got a lot of guys who either haven't played in the NBA or haven't played with us. And they're still pretty young.
Q: How does one make the transition from watching the excellence you've had to watching a team with so much uncertainty?
A: We don't have a choice. You have to appreciate, if you're in this business, that things are going to change. To be arrogant enough to think it's always going to be as it was is not very smart. We can look back upon that and be grateful for it, because those things just don't happen. And then realize there are many different stages that make up an NBA organization. There will be changes. If you can't accept that, you're asking for frustration.
What we're trying to do is have enough youth and stability to hope those guys can grow. This will be the year where our young guys will get more opportunity than they've ever had. We'll see if we got any of those decisions right, while trying to stay competitive. So, it's a balancing act. Before, we were gunning for the whole thing, which are still trying to do, but in a way that's not as obvious because we don't have all those great players that have won championships. It doesn't change your motivation or your competitiveness. But you have to be honest about what you are and what you're not.
Q: Could you accept a team that plays hard every night and shows development over the course of the season but doesn't make the playoffs?
A: It depends. The first two things, yeah. Of course. But what happened that kept us out of the playoffs. Did we have an injury? Did we miss it by one game? Was the West so dominant? There are so many questions that come with that. But you could have asked me last year if I'd be disappointed if we don't win the championship, and I'd say ‘yeah.' But knowing what we know now, I'd say, ‘not really.' I mean, what are we supposed to do? There's too much unpredictability.
Q: After so much prosperity, is it hard to reset your expectations?
A: It will be hard as we go through it. It's easy to sit here and tell you we'll be OK. But we're used to having the highest level of the elite. So, what will it feel like when that's not the case? There are some really good teams. There will be times when we just have to take it. We were at the top of the mountain. I don't know where we are on the mountain now. But we were clearly at the top. Nobody sits there forever. You have to maybe get knocked down a bit and motivate yourself to go back up. And that's OK.
Q: You're a noted worrier. Are there one or two things that worry you most about this season, what are they?
A: I just want us to keep our culture. It's hard to build culture. Whatever happens, winning or losing, I want to keep our identity. I want to see Steve, and I don't think this will happen, stays true to all the tenets and pillars that he subscribes to. And that we go through this, however it turns out, gracefully. And I hope our young players represent us well and get better. I want to be OK with whatever this new version of us is – but not lose that desire and edge.
An organization can be defined by its championships, and that's OK. But there are other things that define an organization. It's the continuity. It's the leadership. It's the ability to bring in the right people. You want to at least control that part.
Q: Are you worried about Draymond maybe strangling D'Angelo?
A: It's possible (laughs loudly). No, I don't know. I don't know. I think it'll be great to watch this team come together and learn about each other. We haven't had to do that lately. And we'll all get better for it. Draymond might have to expand his offensive game. They're going to ask D'Angelo to defend. Steph is going to have to do things differently. It's all a challenge. But it's also an opportunity for all of us.
The younger players haven't had the kind of rope they'll have this year. Jacob Evans, for example, is going to have to play this year. That is a new place for us. But with that comes having to watch mistakes. You don't have Shaun and Andre out there, guys who trust will make the right decisions. These guys haven't been there.
Q: You guys have 10 coaches now, by far the most you've had . . .
A: Aren't some of those guys going down to Santa Cruz? (laughs)
Q: Well, the head coach says you actually need them all.
A: We do. There's no better way to teach. And it's an opportunity for our coaches. You're not going to teach Andre and Shaun and Kevin that much new stuff. You can, and they did. But now, you've got a blank slate with young guys who are fresh and ready and willing to listen.
It's all in how you look at it. If you look at it purely from the point of view that we're not as talented, what are we going to do with that? Cry about it? Give up? No, let's get better. Even our veterans. I've got to get better. Our coaches, too. We've got to get acclimated to a new arena. The league is getting better. The Western Conference is a monster. So, we meet that challenge head on. Just like you meet the challenge of being in a place where everybody expects us to win. We can run from it, or we can embrace it and say, ‘OK, we have a great team. We're talented enough. Let's see what we can do about it.'
As long as we're doing this with the right people, and I'm lucky to have the support of everybody here, the journey can be fun. That's how we have to look at it.
Q: What will you miss about not having Kevin, Andre and Shaun and, for now, Klay?
A: I loved watching that team play; I think everybody did that loves basketball. I'll miss the greatness of those guys, all of them. I just like watching great players play. To have them in our facility on a daily basis was kind of blessing. I'll miss that. And they're good people. Watching them compete was special. We get to meet new people and see how they do, but you don't forget those guys. You don't forget about anybody when you go through what we went through together. The championships. Five straight years going to The Finals. That stuff lasts.
Q: I know you can't answer this, but I'm looking for a reaction. Nod your head if you like. If at some point, Kevin wants to come back, would you welcome it?
A: I can't answer that. (Laughs) I'm not even allowed to. I can't nod. I can't do anything. I can't. I can't. I can't. You can think anything you want. But I can't. Not even any body language. (Laughs) We appreciate what he was for us, though. He was great. Next question.
Q: Assuming Stephen and Draymond are relatively healthy and nothing major strikes the rest of the rotation, how would you define success for this season?
A: Hmm. Growth. I know it's not a specific answer. But we'll know at the end of the year whether we got better or if we didn't. I don't know what that would mean for our record. When I started here, it was fun to watch Klay getting better. Watching Steph become what he is. Watching Draymond emerge. So, maybe we get to watch some of the guys emerge. Maybe we get to see a version of Steph we haven't seen in a few years. Maybe we see Draymond do more offensively. We get to know D'Angelo. I'm excited about the unknown.
Q: There is a bit of a vibe, and you touched on it with your ‘blank slate' comment, that this is almost like a development year for where you might go in the following years. Is that fair?
A: I don't think it's unfair. There is an opportunity to grow, and we haven't had that in a while. We haven't been constrained, but we've been near the ceiling of our team. Now there's a big gap between what we are and what we can be. Before, that version of us . . . I don't know that we could have gotten much more from that group. Now . . . D'Angelo Russell is 23 years old. Guys don't peak at 23. Steph wasn't Steph at 23. Klay wasn't Klay at 23. How will Steph and D'Angelo complement each other? It's a totally different narrative. If we can the most improved (over the course of the season) award, that would be OK. It's not a championship, but it's good. Then we're going into next season hopefully with a healthy Klay and not being hard-capped and we can springboard off that. I think it's impossible not to get better in some ways. One of these young guys is going to be OK. Who knows which one?
At the end of Klay's first year, we were thinking maybe he can be something. With Draymond, it took maybe a year and a half. We'll see.
Q: Do you think everybody is aware of the reality that's ahead?
A: People know it's going to be different. But nobody knows how it's going to be. There are many reasons why know it won't be what it was because of the guys that left, and Klay being out hurt. Brand new arena. Brand new situation.
But it had better be OK. Because if we can't be OK, what does that say about us? That we can only function if we have the best team in the league? What's wrong with us?
I do assume we'll have to deal with losing more than we've had to. But if you want to do that, you can walk around and assume you're going to have more talent than everybody else every year.
[RELATED: Warriors taking a break from greatness]
Q: You've made the playoffs seven years in a row. Does that streak matter?
A: Yeah. We want to make the playoffs for sure. But it depends how it ends. Look at last year in The Finals as an example. Everybody hates to lose, but the way it went down . . . what do you say? I think we were as much champions in that moment as we were in winning championships. You don't get the trophy. People may forget it as years go by. But I may remember more about that effort than one of the years we won it.