Joe Lacob praised Kevin Durant for taking less money on contracts when he was with the Warriors.
Lacob’s Durant comments came unprompted while discussing Stephen Curry’s future with the team.
Curry is eligible for a $215 million extension this offseason.
While discussing Stephen Curry’s future with the Golden State Warriors, team owner Joe Lacob brought up Kevin Durant’s contracts, unprompted.
Speaking to Tim Kawakami on The Athletic’s “The TK Show,” Lacob was asked about rumors that LeBron James has been subtly recruiting Curry, who can become a free agent in 2022.
Curry is eligible to sign a four-year, $215 million extension this offseason, according to Kawakami. He’d be the first player in NBA history to sign back-to-back $200 million deals.
Lacob said while he believes Curry wants to remain with the Warriors, NBA superstars also dictate their own futures. He then mentioned Durant leaving the Warriors after three seasons, noting that Durant gave up money to give them flexibility.
Here was Lacob’s full quote:
“Steph Curry, if he really wanted to leave at the end of his contract, he’s a free agent. He’s earned the right. He can do it.
“I said that with Kevin Durant. I’m still friends with Kevin Durant. I still really like him. And I will always love him for what he did for this franchise. By the way, he took less money when he was here. He really helped us. We were able to get a couple of other players. I don’t know if you remember that. Players don’t usually do that. He did that. So I have great respect and admiration for that, for Kevin. And I would for Steph, no matter what he does, too.
“So he’s done a lot for us, and we’ve done a lot for him. I would hope that we provide the environment that he wants to be at for the rest of his career. I’m not really worried about that kind of thing. I don’t think we can totally control it. And I’m certainly not worried about the guy you mentioned recruiting him. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Lacob said earlier in the show that he expected Curry would be with the Warriors for his entire career.
“My full expectation is that Steph will be with us for the remainder of his career,” Lacob said. “I think he wants that. We want that. I really don’t have anything to say about that other than we’re in the middle or start of that process. That’ll go on this summer.
“I think we all want to see what it looks like with the draft and free agency first. I think that just makes sense to see where we’re going. And Steph sees where we’re going. Our expectation is we’re gonna be with Steph for a long time. We love him, and the fans love him. He’s obviously fantastic, and we’re gonna do everything we can to keep him here and keep him happy.”
Lacob’s comments are noteworthy because it had previously been reported that in 2017, Lacob had to be talked out of offering Curry less than the max to stay with the team. This was when Curry was eligible to sign a five-year, $201 million contract, a massive pay raise after he had been the league’s biggest bargain for years.
Curry became a two-time MVP while on a four-year, $44 million extension that paled in comparison to most MVPs’ salaries. His relatively low cap number allowed the Warriors to re-sign Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and have the flexibility to sign Durant as a free agent in 2016.
In other words: it was a well-earned raise for Curry.
Durant’s situation was slightly different than Curry’s, however. If Durant had taken his full max contract in the offseason in 2017, the Warriors would have been forced to renounce the rights to Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, two key role players. Instead, Durant took slightly less money so that the Warriors could keep their team together.
The Warriors have $139 million committed to the core of Curry, Thompson, Green, and Andrew Wiggins. They had the league’s highest payroll this season. Though Lacob said the NBA’s tax penalties for spending over the salary cap are harsh (and the Warriors will pay them again next season), there is no benefit to Curry taking less than his max, other than saving the team some tax dollars.
Curry may approach his extension cautiously. Though the Warriors have publicly said they are confident in Curry taking it, the team is also at a bit of a crossroads. Curry is still in his prime, but Thompson has missed the past two seasons with injuries, and Green has shown some signs of decline. There will be great pressure on the Warriors to package young players and draft picks in a trade for a veteran to help them win now – something Lacob told Kawakami he didn’t see happening this offseason.
Curry could opt to sign his extension with a guarantee that the Warriors go all-in on building another contender. Or he could also hold off on his extension, dangling his free agency as a threat if the team doesn’t go in the direction he wants.
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