Click photo to enlarge
FILE -- Warriors owners Joe Lacob, left, and Peter Guber. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

The music has stopped, the snacks are gone and the party is over. Any euphoria felt by Warriors fans with the fall of the Chris Cohan era has given way to anxieties and debate over the capability of the new regime.

Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the men now atop the organizational chart, haven't been instant saviors. They haven't delivered miracles or engineered dramatic improvement.

And with the new Warriors looking a lot like the old Warriors, impatient fans are growing restless. Moreover, clouds of skepticism are forming above Oracle Arena -- directly over the head of Lacob, the managing member of ownership.

It's much too early to conclude that Lacob won't find the right answers. That wouldn't be fair to a man who has been on the job since November. It's not reasonable or rational to expect him to so quickly repair and redirect a vessel adrift for all but a few moments over the past 16 years.

It's not unfair, however, to wonder if he can repair and redirect the thing at all.

By all accounts, Lacob already has influenced the culture at Warriors headquarters. He's asking questions, prodding and probing. It's apparent he wants everyone on the payroll working to improve the product. He projects energy. He said he'd be an active owner and he has been precisely that.


Advertisement

But action isn't always productive or effective. Some of Lacob's words and actions suggest he might perceive himself as not just the managing owner but the unofficial general manager. That's perilous territory.

If Lacob is rolling up his sleeves and evaluating talent, it usurps the authority of official GM Larry Riley. It would compromise Riley's ability to build the team as he sees fit, making him an executive scout, with Lacob making the final decisions.

Smelling smoke and wondering if there is any fire, I went to Riley in hopes of getting a measurement of the new owner's involvement in personnel.

"You can say he's very involved," the GM said, before pausing.

"We have a climate today of new owners coming into the NBA and it seems like all of them are very active," Riley continued. "I would characterize Joe as being right with them. Not over the top, but definitely involved -- and always a guy who's willing to talk basketball, in particular Golden State Warriors basketball."

Owners in sports involve themselves at various levels. Most, like the Lakers' Jerry Buss, serve as CEO and chief investor, paying the bills while allowing others to manage their particular departments. They delegate and oversee and sign paychecks.

A few owners, like Raiders boss Al Davis, do much more. They hire coaches, make trades, choose free agents and make decisions in the draft. They delegate some things and oversee everything, while dictating personnel and signing paychecks.

The fear, emerging recently, is that Lacob might prefer this blueprint.

"Oh, no, not at all," Riley said, offering the anticipated defense of his boss. "We discuss players. We give rationale as to what this player can do, what that player can do. (Lacob) certainly has enough of a feel for players to ask questions about how they might fit. And in some cases, he has opinions about certain players.

"But he's not sitting there saying, 'I know all about basketball.' That's not him."

Yet Lacob's consistently lavish appraisal of David Lee, a good forward with an All-Star salary, is a red flag. And Lacob's much-publicized comments about another player were an enormous red flag, flapping in the breeze, too visible to ignore.

You may recall Lacob defending the team's inactivity at the trade deadline by saying, among other things, that the Warriors passed on Gerald Wallace, then with Charlotte, because he would not have helped.

"He's not somebody we thought would make us better," Lacob told Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami. "I really believe that. He just doesn't fit for us. He's a good defensive player, rebounder, certain things that do fit, certain things that don't."

Let's see. Wallace, who can play either forward spot, was acquired by playoff-bound Portland. The Blazers are 9-6 since his debut, 5-2 since he moved into the starting lineup. He's averaging 20.1 points (on 57 percent shooting) and 7.1 rebounds as a starter.

Though the Warriors likely could not have gotten him from the Bobcats, Wallace is precisely the kind of player -- a member of the All-Defensive team -- that the Warriors need. He would have allowed Dorell Wright to provide quality off the bench.

Riley declined to comment on Wallace, saying he couldn't talk about players on other teams. Fair enough. But if Riley agrees, his evaluation comes into question.

Clueless or genius is a game fans play with their GM. They don't want to play it with the owner. Ever. And Lacob would be wise to avoid it altogether, no matter how much he trusts his instincts.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com