Sat down with Warriors GM Larry Riley before the game.
Say what you want about the man, he is present and accountable. He didn’t dodge the media, didn’t skirt any questions, nor did he complain about the negative reaction he’s gotten for his decision. And he clearly explained why he made the decision he made.
The gist: he didn’t do anything to hurt the Warriors plans by waiving Speedy Claxton and his $5.2 million contract. Here are his answers in full (The first two questions were from a season-ticket holder who bogarded our interview. They were good questions):
You’re getting blasted on the internet
Would you expect that? All that was anticipated before we did it.
We went through all the trade scenarious, the things that we’ve talked abnout, and the potential trades, and we’re in a situation where we have enough money in the contracts that we have along with some our existing players to be able to make a deal that get you in the range of nine, 10, 11, 12 million dollars. 13. That’s the range where can go to get a player who is a good player.
Now, if you want to get up top $20 million and get into that range of those players – and I’m not supposed to mention their names, but you know who they are – then you would have to have Speedy’s money. You would have to be in position to where then you would take on that money and you would hope to go attract one of those three or four guys – and you know who we’re talking about – in free agency. We cannot get those guys to come here. We’re not a winning tradition team right now and we’re not a major media market, although we’re a good media market. We’re in a situation where we’re just not going to get those guys. So our range is in that range that’s below that and we have enough players where if we find a guy that is making $12 million, for example, who is a good player that we want to acquire, we can still make a trade for that guy. If this money had taken us out of that, we would have never gone in that direction. Plus, you’re also looking down the road at managing your cap.
We don’t want to give anybody away. What we’re looking at is being able to have some money this year to re-sign some of our existing players, which Morrow fits in that category, with the possibility of Raja Bell and maybe another free agent. So that’s the direction that we’re taking on that.
Will you have to trade one of your four highest-paid players?
We’re not trading Monta Ellis, and we’re not trading Stephen Curry. And if we have to trade some of the other players, we’re going to look at it. It’s very difficult to take what we have and trade for a star. So we have to trade for a good player and get some help for our team. There will be somebody who will probably trade that the fan base won’t necessarily like. … We do have to move a guy. We do have to move a guy to get where we want to go.
Why not cut Hunter and stay alive for the unforeseen or unexpected that happens around the deadline?
We have to consider all those options. With the advent of Randolph’s injury becoming long term and the fact that Radmanovic cannot play until well after the All-Star break, we’re sitting here without a (power forward) unless you play Maggette at (power forward) all the time. And he plays there some, we all know that. But if you play him there all the time, he probably gets beat up. We were looking at healthy bodies as far as keeping the team together. I know we’re not making the playoffs, but I owe it to our team and our coaches to put as much on the floor as we can so we can have a chance to compete. Now, that probably doesn’t override the question you’re asking. The fact is, after evaluating all of the trade scenarios that we’ve already been through, and looking at the salaries of the people who would be desirable for us to acquire, we can still acquire those people if in fact the people on the other side are willing to trade them. So it didn’t tie us down to let Speedy go.
If you have enough to get one of the guys you want, that means you gave away the excess. Could the excess have benefited you at the trade deadline?
The excess, talking about roughly that salary range, has gotten me no offers that I want to take right now. And I’ve been down that road in that salary range that we’re talking about, and been down it with several teams and have targeted the guys who are in that range. You’re going to say to me, ‘Then did you target this guy plus another guy plus another guy, which takes you to maybe $8 million, or something like that?’ We did all of the research we needed to do. We had to research all that. We had to go through it and weigh the whole thing out, and so we made the decision to go this direction. I told you today I wore a bright jacket. I expected to get shot. I didn’t expect to get machine gunned. I knew that if I made that decision, it was going to be a problem. And I did it because I believe in the things that we’re working on. It’ll all turn out. We’ll be able to look at the trades that are made and see if it would’ve happened to where maybe we screwed up. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Are you worried about the fact that even though you exhausted everything, somebody might have panicked at the deadline and given you something?
I hope I know who those teams might be that would’ve panicked and I’ve had a lot of discussions with them and I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think you’ll see a panick move in this year’s trade dealine because of the economy, the salary cap itself and the up and coming collective bargaining agreement.
Are you totally behind this decision?
Yes. It’s a decision I was presented with, needed to make. And it’s on me. And I understand that, and I understood when I made it that it would be criticized. It’s my day to take one bullet. I hope not 50.
Do you think about the judgment? A lot of the moves you made so far are all kind of waiting on what you do at the trade deadline or in the offseason, and this is one of the moves.
This is one that everybody will have some judgement on and some will lineup on the opposite side of it. Those who are cautious about will be saying, ‘Ok, let’s see what the next move is because this guy may not know what he’s doing.’ I’m well aware of that. I’m Ok with that.
Do you feel like the injuries hurt your ability to make moves?
The thing that squeezed us was we’re on a 17-man roster. If we hadn’t had these injuries, we might be sitting here with a 14-man roster and then you would be able to acquire this next guy no problem at all and you don’t have to cut somebody. So the injuries have caused the entire situation. Is that an excuse for the decision? No. But it put us in position to have to make the decision. You would hope that we won’t be into that kind of stuff in future seasons and we won’t have this kind of dilemma.
You traded Crawford and now with Speedy being waived, it looks like you got nothing for him. Is that an OK thing for you?
We looked at the overall picture in the Crawford trade and in that particular scenario, we felt it was important to try to create some playing time for Anthony Morrow. We did that before the draft. We weren’t 100 percent certain that we were going to draft a point guard, but frankly it looked like that it was going to be somebody else other than Stephen Curry for a while, but there was another point guard that could’ve been taken there. We felt if you’re going to end up in a istuation like that, and you need Morrow to play, and you’ve got Monta, then we need to move Crawford. Nellie was vocal last year about how he didn’t fit the system and stuff. But this was a move that we made to free up some playing time at that spot where Morrow could get a little bit more time. It also shortened the contract so to speak and, in that regard, it gave us some freedom that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
What do you say to fans that don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All they see is players going out and nothing coming in yet?
We have to draft well. There’s no question about that. We can’t just build the team around the next draft, but we have to draft well. And then what we have to do is sign a free agent this summer that’s going to be helpful to our team. And there’s going to probably have to be a trade in there that involves some player that is popular enough with our fans that it may not be a popular trade. But we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to use all three of those areas to do that. It hasn’t been done yet, so therefore people are going to have to say ‘All right I’m skeptical.’ So we’re going to have to show that we can accomplish those things and put a better team on the floor.
Still considering trading this year’s draft pick?
It’ll be hard to say whether or not we would move that pick. I like having the pick itself. If that pick got us a veteran player that would fit with our team, I would certainly consider it. There is no doubt that I would take a look at it. What I didn’t want to do is get encumbered where we had to give up a draft pick down the road or something like that. I like having this year’s pick available to do something with it if I need to or having next year’s pick available to do something with it if I need to.
Do you see somebody at three to five, where you guys could end up. that you think could help this team right away?
I do. The question is would we stay in that range of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. It’s like all drafts – the farther back you go, the harder it is to find a guy. But I’m confident we can get some kind of help out of this draft should we choose to keep the pick.
So you believe it was not possible to get a player in the range of $9-$12 million by using just the expiring contracts you had?
It was not. In all of our discussions with the other teams, I didn’t find anyone who was willing to have a serious conversations about taking those expiring contracts and giving up a player of significance. Now there would be no point in giving up three expiring contracts, or two, for a player who is overvalued or who doesn’t add anything for our team.
You talked about signing Morrow and Raja Bell? Would you have enough to sign a free agent?
There wouldn’t be a lot, but it depends on the economy and what the number is that you have to use to sign Anthony Morrow, what the number might be to sign one of your own guys like a Raja Bell. If the economy takes over and those numbers go down, you probably can go get one more free agent.