Bob Myers is five months into his post-Warriors life and, maybe not so surprisingly, you can hear it in his voice and see it on his face. Or really, it’s mostly about what you don’t see and hear this long after walking away.
The stress of managing this machine is gone from his shoulders, and he’s gotten used to it being gone.
Myers still cares deeply about the team he used to run, of course. He still is in touch with his general-manager successor and friend, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and still following all the ups and downs of this season. He’s still the guy who helped build and maintain the dynasty and for 12 years shouldered the load alongside Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr, Joe Lacob, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and all the rest.
He’s not there anymore, though — hasn’t been to a game yet this season — and when he talks about the latest crises, from Draymond’s five-game suspension for putting Rudy Gobert into a headlock earlier this week to the Warriors’ current five-game losing streak and Curry’s minor knee issue, it comes from a tangible, purposeful remove. Dunleavy’s in charge now and Myers is the guy who set Dunleavy up for this.
But Myers is also still the guy who handled so many previous Warriors crises, who understands the headliners better than anybody, and who has seen so much of this before. Important note: We booked this conversation last week, before any of this started brewing, but this turned out to be the perfect time to check in with Myers about his new role at ESPN and definitely about the latest Warriors issues. Starting, of course, with Draymond, who was suspended for Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma City and will not be back in the lineup until after Thanksgiving.
If Myers was still the GM, what would he be saying to Draymond right now?
“If that’s me, I’m saying, ‘That’s it, you’ve made your mistake in Game 10, so now you can’t make any more,’” Myers said on my podcast Friday. “I would assume he’d look me in the eye and say, ‘Yeah, OK.’ Kind of used up your mulligan early. So now we’ve gotta get through the rest of the 18 holes. And I think he would agree, he would say, ‘You’re right, it’s not good for the team, it’s not good for (me).’ I don’t think he’d push back on that.”
That’s just about the perfect distillation of the practical Warriors/Draymond dynamic. There will be blow-ups. You deal with them. And Draymond is worth it. Everybody around the league can argue that Draymond’s lost control too many times, that the Warriors have put up with it for too many years. But the Warriors are built to deal with this. They certainly have a lot of experience doing it.
Maybe it’s not so simple as understanding and absorbing one of these Draymond incidents a year, but Myers’ point is that Dunleavy, Steve Kerr, Lacob, Curry and the rest of the Warriors’ leaders know that Draymond isn’t proud of putting them through it so many times.
“The best thing about Draymond and the thing people may not know, at least my relationship with Draymond, he will listen,” Myers said. “He does listen. If I ever felt like he wasn’t listening, I wouldn’t waste my time. But he will listen. I think that’s the misconception with Draymond — (that) he doesn’t listen to what anybody says, just does what he wants. I think he listens, but he still makes mistakes. And so if I ever felt like in my relationship with him he stopped listening or I wasn’t getting through or he felt like he knew everything, then I would have said years ago, ‘It’s not worth my time, he’s not going to listen to me, he’s not going to listen to anybody.’
“What I would do is keep trying and just say, ‘Look, I know who you are and I think you’re better than these things that happen; that’s not you.’ And many people against him would say yes. And I would say you don’t even know him. I kinda know him. … I always try to approach it from, ‘I’m not going to abandon you now. I’m not going to dump out of it now.’ …
“This is where you lean on your relationships. This is where Steve having coached Draymond for as long as he has (is valuable), and Steph and Klay having played with him (for so long), where they just say, ‘This is not who we are, that’s not who you are. Let’s be a proud brand, let’s represent the team in a way that it deserves.’”
Again, I repeat: This conversation was planned more than a week ago. Myers honored the agreement but also underlined that he didn’t want anybody thinking that he expressly wanted to be heard at a time of trouble for the Warriors. He does have a ton of perspective, though.
“This is a tough moment — Curry’s hurt, Draymond’s suspended,” Myers said. “You’re going to go through that stuff. We went through that every year. I’m trying to think of a year, ’14-15 we probably didn’t have any, which is crazy to say, that first championship. And then ’16-17, (Kevin) Durant’s first year. Those years out of 12 for me were the only ones where it felt like a smooth ride without any bumps. It’s normal to have adversity, so it’s here. Now this adversity could’ve come 20 games into the season, it could’ve come 40, it could’ve come 60, but it’s coming for every team. So to fans, I would say, this is the moment.
“The hard part is how long are you going to be in it? How long do you sit in the adversity? The good news for the Warriors is (Lacob’s) a winner and you mentioned, he’s not happy. Well, he cares to the highest level … so he will continue to lead, continue to provide resources to figure this all out. Steve’s one of the best coaches ever to coach. You can’t have a better guy leading the charge. Dunleavy, I think, is a fantastic GM. He’s a friend, he’s going to do whatever it takes to get this thing in the right direction. You’ve got Curry. You’ve got all these great leaders in place, so now it’s up to them to align and say let’s figure out a way out of this. Sometimes it just happens. Klay could start making more shots, (Andrew) Wiggins. Guys are better than they’re playing. That’s one thing. They’re not this bad of shooters. They’re going to make more shots.”
Here are some other highlights from our conversation …
• When I asked him how the last five months have gone, Myers said that he’s had no regrets about stepping away from the Warriors but does miss the daily interactions with everybody.
“The clarity around the decision remains sound,” Myers said. “I don’t look back and wonder if I should’ve stayed or not. For me, it was the right decision. And so that’s the best part, it’s just having that clarity and knowing what I did was right for me.
“The hardest thing not being with the Warriors is the people that I have relationships with that I just don’t get to see as much. Whether that’s Mike Dunleavy, who’s a really good friend, who I do still talk to a lot, Steve, a lot of the players, Steph, Draymond, Klay, coaches, Joe, Kirk (Lacob), Kent (Lacob), all these people. Larry Harris. They are my friends, but I just don’t get to talk to them as much. So that’s been hard, to be honest, because you’re in these bunkers with these people and you develop such a closeness each day, each game, each transaction, the highs and lows and everything in between. … I guess I reconcile that with the idea if I had stayed it wouldn’t be fair to them, because I couldn’t give what was required. So part of leaving was a responsibility to the organization, the fans, to players, coaches, Joe, that to do that job, at least the way I did it, it has to be everything. And I just couldn’t do that.
“I’m happy. I’m looking at new and different things. … It’s just a transition, and it’s been like many would assume, some days that are fantastic, some days, well, I wish I could talk to that person more, the competition you miss. So there’s a lot of different emotions around it.”
• Myers has engaged in several lively back-and-forths during his first ESPN appearances, most notably with Stephen A. Smith and several times on Warriors issues or on topics that seem to allude to past Warriors decisions.
“Just like you, when you are in disagreement with somebody, it tends to elevate your energy a little bit, right? Or you can just sit back and say nothing,” Myers said. “But letting something be said when you have a different opinion is just not, I don’t think anybody’s nature. …
“I love basketball. I love the NBA. So when I have a thought, I’m going to say it as powerfully as I can say it. I don’t go onto the set thinking that way. I ended up there. I don’t know why or how. But I’m never off the handle or never mad. Doesn’t go to commercial and I’m pounding the table. … That energy thing, maybe a little surprised myself.”
• During one “NBA Countdown” segment about dealing with a star, Myers said he never dealt with a serious issue without asking Curry what he thought. Many viewers interpreted that as Myers confirming that Curry suggested trades or dictated the roster. Which is definitely not the case. Curry is a resource, Myers said. Obviously, a hugely important one.
“I think there’s this assumption that I’m unwilling to give an honest opinion of the Warriors,” Myers said. “But what I’m giving is an honest opinion. If people want to try to connect dots outside of that, I can’t stop them from doing that. But when I talk about the Warriors, I’m going to talk about it from a very intimate, personal place. And that’s just because that’s the truth. I’m not talking about ‘any’ team. So when I talk about Curry or when I talk about Dunleavy or Kerr or any of the players, I’m going to be sensitive or respectful of who they are as people. But if somebody wants to jump to the (opinion) of, because I talked to Curry, he makes every executive decision — I can’t stop them from doing that, because there’s a nuance to all of this.
“Yes, if you’re smart in any front-office job — the Chiefs should talk to Patrick Mahomes. I’m sure they did before they traded Tyreek Hill. And explained it to him. That’s different than saying, ‘Do you think we should ask for a second-round pick back for Tyreek Hill or a first-round pick?’ That’s not what happens. So for the people that are wondering, there is a partnership. Some players, not a ton, like a Curry, Mahomes, they earn the right to be partners in the process.
“Steph Curry never forced anything. It’s just not his nature. But did he want to be informed? Yeah, he deserves that. If anybody deserves it, it’s him, amongst every athlete I’ve ever encountered. You might say there’s no one more deserving of (knowing) what’s going on in the organization than Steph Curry. But if you know him, and I think a lot of the fans do … he’s not a closet general manager. The best compliment he gave me always was ‘you’re better at this than I am.’ But that didn’t mean I didn’t go to him and say, ‘This is what we’re thinking.’ It’s just smart business. But if people want to take a line from ‘Countdown’ and make it the reason why (Jordan) Poole got traded, you know, that’s fine, whatever, they can do that if they want. That’s not the reality of it.”
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• A great example of when Myers checked in with Curry at the cusp of a very large move and how Curry communicated his approval:
“I remember when we lost Game 7 in Oakland (in the 2016 finals), the next morning we had exit interviews,” Myers said. “So it’s me at my desk and across from me each player would come in individually. And we had just lost I suppose at 8 o’clock the night before. So this is probably 12-14 hours removed from a Game 7 home loss in the NBA Finals, which is probably the most pain or closest to the summit you can get without reaching it. … And I remember Curry coming in and looking at him and we were talking about the season and the team.
“At the end of it, I said, ‘Hey, what if Durant wanted to come? … If Durant wants to meet with us, if he would be willing to or if he’s taking meetings, what do you think on that?’ And I was looking at his body language. Because there’s a way to say yes and no. He could’ve looked at the floor and said, ‘Yeah, I mean, whatever you want if you want me to.’ That’s a no, right? That’s a no. That’s ‘I don’t want this.’ Could’ve just said, ‘No way, this is my team, we just lost, I’m not sharing the spotlight with anybody.’ But the beauty of Curry is he looks me in the eye, he says, ‘You think he’d want to come here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but if he takes meetings, where are we at with it if it’s a possibility?’
“And he looks me in the eye, says, ‘Yeah, for sure!’ That’s a lens into Curry’s selflessness, because it’s his team, it’s his thing. But many people would have said no, very quietly, and it would’ve never happened. I think the reason why, for me, I could’ve thought, if Durant five days later says, ‘I’m taking meetings, you’re a team we want to meet with,’ then going there without having that conversation with Curry, it’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. These are the types of conversations that are meaningful that maybe people don’t quite get.”
• Kerr, like Myers last year, is on the final year of his contract. But Myers agrees that Kerr seems destined to end up re-signing with the Warriors for several more years after this one.
“Seems to me that Steve really wants to be there,” Myers said. “I don’t know how long, but he definitely wants to be there. Years out, he wants to be with the Warriors, and I think he should be. And I think the Warriors are feeling the same way. I don’t sense any part of the organization that doesn’t want Steve there. He’s been unbelievable for the team. He’s almost the best you could find as far as a front-facing coach in any sport and is just an unbelievable human being. And I think Steph would probably echo some of that same sentiment as far as wanting to see it through with Steve.
“So I see a lot of alignment. And I just see a situation where two motivated people, the Warriors and Steve, just haven’t kind of clicked on that specific number or whatever it might be. But I’d be very surprised if that didn’t get worked out at some moment in time.”
These are not the same conditions that pushed Myers to his inevitable decision at the end of last season.
“My leaving the Warriors wasn’t out of frustration or out of money,” Myers said. “My leaving the Warriors was more kind of, like, 12 years, I did everything I thought I could do, brought in Mike, thought he could be great in the role, and just said in my mind, my work is kind of done. Joe had just bought the team and just showed up (when Myers was hired). And Kirk was there, so they’d been there a year when I got there. They’re 12 years in. They know the business. When I first got there, I’d been in the business much longer than they had. … For me, it was more, ‘You guys are well equipped. Mike’s well equipped.’ But Steve, he’s not going to hand off the coaching responsibilities to anybody. I see a solution. I don’t know when, but I imagine they’ll figure something out.
• OK, Bob, any clarity on what you might be doing in a year or two?
“The good news is I don’t have to answer that right now,” Myers said. “I’m really enjoying the TV. The people are great. It’s a good time for me to experience something kinda different and not feel the weight of managing a team. That doesn’t mean I’ll never do that again. But for this moment in time, it feels right doing what I’m doing. And it could continue to feel right for as long as I maybe wanted or hoped. I don’t sit here right now looking at who might need a GM next year. I’m not doing any of that stuff. I know what that job is, I know the responsibility of it. I know what that requires. If that’s what I wanted, I would’ve stayed where I was. What will I feel like two years from now, three? We’ll do another podcast and I’ll tell you where I’m at then.”
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(Top photo of Myers at the Warriors’ media day in 2022: Godofredo A. Vásquez / AP)