Last night, Golden State Warriors fans relentlessly jeered and harassed co-owner Joe Lacob during a ceremony to retire the jersey of Hall of Fame player and Warrior icon Chris Mullin. The incident at the half of the Warriors 97-93 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves completely overshadowed the game itself, and the tar-and-feathering of Lacob is the result of the fans continuing to watch futility on the court and in the front office.
Last Wednesday Lacob and the Warriors brain-trust traded away high-scoring fan favorite Monta Ellis and promising second-year big man Epke Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for an injured Andrew Bogut and Stephan Jackson (Jackson was subsequently traded that day to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson).
While the move has been applauded by many NBA analysts for it's long-term potential for a more complete and competitive team, it is clear the fans in attendance last night saw the move as an egregious forfeiture of this season. Along with the fact fans pay hard-earned cash to see exciting players such as Monta Ellis, and not necessarily a fundamentally strong center like Andrew Bogut, the co-owner presenting himself front-and-center was a recipe for disaster. And that's just what Mullin's halftime ceremony turned into.
The relentless booing and "We Want Monta!" chants were surely over the top and unnecessary given the circumstance (even Rick Barry called the audience "classless" as the event unfolded), and it was even more embarrassing for Joe Lacob personally. But in a showing of class and resilience, Lacob took to the 50,000 watts of Bay Area sports-talk radio station KNBR for nearly an hour during The Gary Radnich Show today.
Not only did Lacob discuss with Radnich and co-host Larry Krueger how he understands the frustration of the Warriors fan base (who have seen only six playoff appearances in the last 36 years), but he also was bold enough to field questions from fans calling into the show. This fan interaction was far more civil than last night, but that didn't keep the fans of the futile franchise from asking very straightforward questions about his intentions for the team, this season and beyond.
Lacob was clear and articulate in his answers, saying it was hard to let Ellis leave for a player who likely won't play the rest of the year in Andrew Bogut, but that he and the rest of the front office know for certain it was the best move for the club in the long run. He told the listeners of the popular nine-to-noon radio show that reaching the playoffs and winning a championship are priority No. 1 for the franchise, and that they are doing what they can to make that happen.
The appearance was a brave and bold move for Lacob after the humiliation of last night. But whether it was an authentic expression of his sympathy for the fans and his drive for success on the court, or simply an attempt to save face after the much talked about embarrassment is something only Lacob (and the Warriors head of PR) know for sure.