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Warriors GM Larry Riley on Losing Jeremy Lin: “We Have to Face Up to That”

UPDATE: Interesting info from ESPN’s J.A. Adande. He talked to Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso about Lin and learned the Warriors were shopping Lin overseas. My guess is so they can keep his rights while taking him off the books.

“We were offered Jeremy Lin, but we did not think much of him,” Laso said. “… Last summer, during the lockout, he was being shopped all around Europe. We were actually offered a lot of players, a lot of better players. Now, he has emerged with all the injuries New York is going through. He’s playing well. Maybe he has a strong year and then his level (of play) declines. You never know.”

The outbreak of Lin-sanity inevitably turns a spotlight to the Golden State Warriors’ front office, where the decision was made to waive Jeremy Lin.

Initially, the whispers from Warriors brass was that Lin’s captivating run was more a fluke, that inevitably Lin would come back to earth.

But as the Lin-credible run continues, the Knicks now having won six in a row with the Bay Area native at point guard, the reality is becoming more obvious. The Warriors missed on this one.

Even Warriors general manager Larry Riley admitted as much Wednesday.

“We can’t take the position he’s a fluke because he isn’t,” Riley said in a phone interview. “Jeremy Lin will have a 10-year career in this league. People are expecting him to fall off the face of the earth. That’s not going to happen. He’s going to have a long career.”

So the question begs: How did this happen? The refrain coming from the Warriors has been that cutting Lin was a necessary move. The Warriors’ play for restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, which required clearing up more than $10 million of salary cap space, dictated that Lin’s salary of some $700,000 be axed from the payroll.

But with Lin blowing up, and the Warriors winding up not landing Jordan, it’s hard for fans not to second-guess the move.

“With a certain degree of reluctance, we did it anyway,” Riley said. “At the same time, I’m not going to duck the issue — we went after a center.”

Were there other options? Yes, but those options were either vetoed or not given much consideration. They team could’ve used its amnesty clause on center Andris Biedrins, who was making $9 million per over the next three years, which would have allowed the Warriors to keep the likes of Lin and swingman Reggie Williams, also let go in the bid for Jordan.

“It’s truly hard to ask your owner to amnesty $27 million when you have three years to figure out how to deal with it,” Riley said.

The team also could’ve renounced its rights to rookie guard Charles Jenkins, an option several team sources said head coach Mark Jackson was against. They team also could’ve offered Jordan $400,000 less.

“We had to get (the offer) up high enough to make it viable,” Riley said.

Clearly part of the problem was that keeping Lin was not a top priority. According to Riley, several in the organization wanted to keep Lin but weren’t willing to miss out on a chance to get the center they needed. Riley would not pinpoint who was the biggest advocate of moving Lin. But he said by the time Golden State made the decision, everyone was on board.

Riley did, however, point out the one person who was most against getting rid of Lin.

“Joe (Lacob) was the most reluctant,” Riley acknowledged. “He really didn’t want to do it, more than any of us. But we knew we had to. We needed a center and we felt we had a good chance to get one.”

Part of the problem, Riley admits, was not knowing what they had. They knew they had a nice player, but little more than that.

“I never saw Jeremy Lin as a starter on a winning team in the NBA,” Riley said. “I did see him as a backup. So he did exceed our expectations. He exceeded everyone’s expectations, except probably his own.”

With all their basketball minds — from Riley to Jerry West to Mark Jackson to assistant coach Mike Malone to player personnel director Travis Shlenk — how did nobody see it?

Jackson said he never got to see Lin play because Lin was pulled before the first drill. But, certainly, there was more NBA film on Lin than on rookie Charles Jenkins, who Jackson has vouched for since Day 1.

Perhaps that leads to another problem: Lin didn’t play enough as a rookie. Even with starting point guard Stephen Curry’s ankle issues, time for Lin was limited to 9.8 minutes in 29 appearances as a rookie.

Under then-coach Keith Smart, veteran guard Acie Law (currently playing in Greece) appeared in 40 games and averaged 15.8 minutes. Of the 17 players who donned a Warriors uniform last season, 15 totaled more minutes than Lin, including forward Al Thornton and swingman Rodney Carney.

“Let’s say that is 100 percent accurate,” Riley said. “He should have played more, probably. But you understand where Keith was coming from. He was trying to win games, trying to save his job. Had Jeremy Lin played more as a rookie, we would’ve known more. You can say that.”

Despite the recent developments, one could argue that Lin-sanity might never have been unleashed if Lin was still a Warrior. Riley said Lin likely wouldn’t get the minutes since Golden State’s backcourt is stocked with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.

Plus, the Warriors’ system arguably doesn’t fit Lin the way New York coach Mike D’Antoni’s system appears to fit Lin.

But Riley said one part of the equation can’t be overlooked: Lin improved.

“He got better,” Riley said. “Every month he was a little bit better player. He’s a picture of growth. The shortcomings he had, he worked on them and got better.”

In some ways, Riley and the Warriors could actually find some form of vindication in Lin.

After all, the Warriors are the ones who signed him. The Warriors also get some credit for developing Lin. They spent a year working with him. They sent him to the NBA Development League, where he got much-needed game experience.

“It wasn’t a publicity stunt,” Riley said. “We saw a young man with some real intelligence and skill, but we knew he needed to get better. We gave him a guaranteed contract that first year, which people thought was crazy.”

So Lin’s success is perhaps a nod to the Warriors’ ability to spot and develop talent. Of course, the problem here, in the mind of many Warriors fans, is the inability to keep that talent.

“We had a player,” Riley said. “We let him go to go after another player and we didn’t get him. We have to face up to that.”

 

Marcus Thompson

  • J Canseco

    Last four paragraphs are comedy gold.

  • Mike Gold

    We really need to fire Riley. He’s the last remaining cancer from the Cohan regime and needs to go. From his days with the Grizzlies, where he did such a bad job they had to leave Vancouver, to his work here, the guy has not NOTHING worth having a job in the position he does.

  • wg

    there are decisions that one can legitmately criticize because they were questionable decisions at the time (e.g., taking jamison over pierce; taking udoh over monroe).

    it’s not credible to criticize just because a bad outcome (for the warriors) occurred. i have mixed thoughts about riley, but i respect that he very frankly explained the GSW thinking, and it’s reasonable thinking, given all existing information at the time. (not a fan of mark jackson’s excessively defensive tone in response to lin’s being let go)

    lin got a shot to show what he could do only because of NYK’s desperation, not because they made decisions that were any better than GSW’s.

  • Ron

    I can understand trying to get Jordan. Who really thought Lin would do what he done. However the Biedren’s decision was aweful! If you are trying to replace your under achieving center why the heck keep him when you have the chance to shed yourself of his salary cap hit? You are paying him either way. Makes zero sense.

  • Trevor Walker

    The simple fact is that if the Warriors had kept Jeremy Lin, there would be no such thing as Lin-sanity. He wasn’t going to get regular minutes behind Curry (except for the games Curry missed because of his ankle, but there was no way for the front office to anticipate that) and D’Antoni’s system is perfectly suited for a point guard with Lin’s skill set (Jackson’s is not).

    Riley deserves to be roundly criticized for decisions like drafting Udoh instead of Monroe. He does not deserve to be criticized for not keeping Lin. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that HAD the Warriors kept Lin, Kawakami would be writing articles about how 1) the Warriors continue to foolishly overvalue their own talent and 2) keeping Lin instead of trying to make their best offer to DeAndre Jordan is the very definition of mistaken priorities.

  • Former season ticket holder

    You know what NY did right? They played him!! Yes, they were desperate at the time but so were the Warriors. D’ntoni knew enough not to stick with Douglas or Bibby and give Lin a shot. The Warriors gave all those minutes to Law and Bell and even with the Dubs out of the playoff picture still didn’t give him quality minutes and trust to play through some mistakes. If they gave Lin some decent amount of run and then let him go, I won’t fault them for releasing him because at least they did something called “evaluating talent”. It’s a novel idea.

    Yeah, you might lose some games in the process but the long term gains are worth the short term attempts at grasping at the 8th seed and continually being a mediocre team.
    Even now, they rather play Biedrins over Udoh. It doesn’t make any sense. The Warriors are all about, to borrow a term from coach Jackson, “fake hustle”. They rather say to their fans, we’re trying to make the playoffs, but to the detriment of long term success.

  • PhillyJ

    Enough is enough. Too many bad decisions, personnel blunders. Someone needs to be held accountable, whether it is Riley, Myers, West, Jackson, Lacob, etc. Someone needs to be fired. If it is Lacob, best way is to stop supporting his wallet and stop buying tickets and merchandise.

  • Frustration Sensation

    i can’t disagree much with what the other posters have said here. but i do want to add that the lockout also hurt us here too. lin looked way more confident and improved in the little we believe vs. dubs charity game. but not having a summer league for him to play in, and since coaches and players weren’t allowed to work with work with each other during that time – none of it worked in our favor.

  • Kevin Schaefer

    What does everyone think of this trade?

    Orlando trades Howard/Turkoglu to the dubs for Ellis, Udoh, D. Wright and Biedrins.

    Warriors roster:

    Curry/Robinson/Jenkins
    Thompson/Rush
    Turkoglu/McGuire
    Lee/C.Wright
    Howard/Tyler

    Add a PF/C or even two and we our now cooking with greese!

  • Niners in 2012

    Last April instead of going for that MEANINGLESS 10-win improvement we should have let Lin and other youngsters get major run to see what we had. NY was going to waive JLin but gave him a start first to see what they got and look what happened. We never gave Jeremy Lin a chance. This is why you pull the plug when the season is essentially over. Struggling for wins in April(remember Nellie’s stupid record??) have hurt the Warriors not only in lottery position but now development.

  • they do not have a clue

    They do not have a clue

    What is the plan???

    Now even the stupidity of the Wlosers got to JWest

    How about dissolve this franchise completely and create a brand new one

  • Lin-guistic

    Looks like Lin will be leading the Knicks into the playoffs this year while Mark Jackson’s promise of the playoffs Linguishes into the Warriors waste bin of hopium.

    Jackson needs to Linger up to the bar and admit he did not do his homework on Lin nor Charles Jenkins. While warriors fans continue to suffer at the hands of the inept, at least they cut Jermey Lin free to find success where it is truly wanted.

  • Gav

    Please enlighten me when was the last time Monta led the Warriors to 7 straight wins, . In any season. I am just curious since Monta is obviously such a great player.

    Lin did this with guys like Landry Fields, Bill Walker and Jared Jeffries, surely Monta has done something like this with a guy like David Lee around?

    Surely the great Monta has led his team like Lin has? Surely Monta would have stepped up to win games like Lin has done like vs Portland last night. Oh oops…..

    Please enlightlen me on this, besides scoring points, and being “exciting” to you, what does Monta do better than Lin in terms of

    -Leadership, getting teammates to follow him because they know he make them better. ? Common critique of MOnta is he doesn’t make others better

    -Playing well in crunch time? Monta is at his worst in crunch time…

    -Decision making, it’s obvious to anyone who knows basketball this is Lin’s strength and one of biggest Monta weakness.

    - Floor vision and space the court, Lin is great at this and Monta isn’t.

    So lets see, Monta scores and is exciting but is worse at everything else THAT HAS TO DO WITH WINNING?

  • Young

    I’m very proud of Larry Riley.

    It take a big man to admit he was wrong.

    Now will someone please act like this is a business and show him what happens to executives who make GLOBAL headline mistakes?

  • manhattanproj

    nicely done marcus.

    good job of calling out mark jackson. he of the no-excuse and accountability talks, he couldn’t even own up that he never thought much of an asian PG. just say you missed like d. morey and move on. to say you never saw him do a layup is just making an excuse. i’m starting to get the feeling that mark jackson is just full of hot air ala mike singletary. if mike malone leaves, the w’s are in trouble.

  • robert rowell

    somebody fire this clown. i don’t care if he “owns up”, he’s a bumbling moron. you cannot possibly for one second tell me that this fool deserves an NBA job, especially one in charge of assembling a competitive, cohesive team.

  • robert rowell
  • Stan

    HE’S PAID TO SPOT LIN TALENT. What good is Riley if he cant make the right choice? The Warriors had their answer for point guard,they then could have packaged Ellis or Curry for that big man. Beidrens? more Riley stupidity..the Giants WISH they could amnesty Zito. Do the Warriors EVER learn?
    Riley has killed this team..no Greg Monroe..even last year when Love was rumored..oh no,Riley wasnt going to break up that sub .500 duo of Ellis and Curry.
    Lacob hung on to Riley,and Smart last year,and is hanging on to Don Nelsons small ball. The only person he should have kept-LIN- they GAVE away!

  • Will Hung

    Larry Riley should not have a job for making the idiotic descision to release Lin. He admits he made a mistake, so Lacob, show some balls and get rid of him. You will never get back into the playoffs let alone win a championship with this moron running your team. Also if that selfish idiot Smart had played him instead of looking out for his own skin, we would have found out how good he was and would be able to trade Ellis and Curry for a Big Man we so desparately need. Thanks for screwing our team.

  • laup123

    As always the Warriors made the right move. That’s why we have….. Biedrinsantiy.

  • laup123

    Correction: Biedrinsanity. Go Andris. Keep proving them…..

  • JJLin

    Trade either Monte or Curry, and offer Lin a big contract to come back to Golden State next year.