Jerry West sounds like a proud father when discussing the Golden State Warriors.
A Hall of Fame player whose silhouette serves as the NBA’s logo and an executive who helped construct many of the league’s greatest dynasties over the past four decades, West may work as an adviser for the Los Angeles Clippers now, but he’s much more bullish on his former employer.
Sample JW: "Everyone talks about, well, this team is loading up to beat the Warriors. Well, everyone’s playing for second place right now."
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) August 21, 2017
On multiple occasions during a wide-ranging and must-read interview with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, the 79-year-old said nobody, including his Clippers, will challenge the Warriors. In addition to telling Kawakami, “everyone’s playing for second place right now,” West added, “I just don’t see anyone being able to beat them, period,” and, “I don’t think this team can be beat, I really don’t.”
“There are too many players there,” West told The Athletic. “They’re all in the prime of their careers. To me the best years of a player’s life are from 28 to 33. I just think that these guys are going to get better as a team.”
Granted, there are countless people who believe the Warriors will coast to a third title in four years, but there are few front-office folks around the NBA who will readily admit publicly they’re unbeatable.
West’s affection for Golden State, where he spent six years as an executive board member before leaving for the Clippers this past June, trickles down from ownership to GM Bob Myers, coach Steve Kerr and the players. He even went so far as to call Kevin Durant “my favorite player in the league.”
West called the Clippers job “different,” and while he sounded optimistic about the additions of Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic in the aftermath of the Clips dealing Chris Paul, he readily admitted of the Warriors, “I did not want to leave. I was very happy there.” All of his comments offer perspective on his reasons for leaving Golden State for Los Angeles back in June:
“I want to see the Clippers get to where the owner and the people who work there internally want to go,” West told The Los Angeles Times at the time. “They have some really lofty goals over there, really lofty goals, and they thought I can help. I’m thrilled that I was wanted. I’m thrilled that they thought I could help and I’m hopeful that I can.”
“I will really miss that Warriors organization. I really will. But honestly, there was nothing left for me to do. When I left there Monday night after they won the championship, it was probably the worst feeling I ever had in my life as a basketball person. I knew I wasn’t going to be part of that anymore.”
If there was bitterness about his departure, it did not come through in West’s conversation with Kawakami. He will still root for the Warriors, even though he’s now working for a team operating in the same division that has often positioned itself as Golden State’s rival in recent years. West’s youngest son, Jonnie, was recently promoted to associate GM of the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz.
West’s role on the Clips seems less influential than it originally appeared. He joined a team that still had Doc Rivers in place as both head coach and president of basketball operations, but after owner Steve Ballmer made clear his intention to clear some of the operating duties from Rivers’ plate and subsequently hired West, it appeared the two-time Executive of the Year would be taking them on.
Since then, though, Ballmer has taken the president of basketball operations title away from Rivers and given it to Lawrence Frank, who became the team’s vice president of basketball ops last year. Additionally, the Clippers are reportedly close to hiring Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Michael Winger and ousted Cavaliers executive Trent Redden as the team’s GM and assistant GM, respectively.
Now, West tells The Athletic, “I’m not going to be making any decisions. I’m just an observer, basically.”
During his introductory news conference with the Clippers, in which he said of trying to keep Paul in LA, “Change is terrible, absolutely terrible,” and, “I like continuity of people I work with,” West offered similar sentiments about his role within the organization, albeit more forcefully and clearly defined:
“I’d like to think the people I work with, if they think I’m going to have an ego, I’m not. I’ll give my opinion, but somebody’s going to make a decision. But in this case, I’m not making a decision, which I’m fine with. I will not be a shrinking violet when giving my opinion. But at the end of the day, I’m not making that decision. I just hope I can help make a difference here.”
In Golden State, West didn’t carry the responsibility he did working as GM of the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies from 1982-2007, although he was credited for “threatening to resign” if the Warriors traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014. It now appears he will play a similar role for the Clips, and there have even been reports he was hired to help them recruit LeBron James to Los Angeles.
Since leaving the Lakers in 2002, West has owned homes in Southern California. He was hospitalized in January after “tumbling” at his country club in LA. His latest job puts him closer to that home, even if it means advising a team that may have no hope of challenging the Warriors for years to come.
And if you thought West’s Golden State praise was him blowing smoke for a team that employs his youngest son in his absence, consider another son, Ryan West, serves as director of player personnel for the Lakers and Jerry told Kawakami of a possible reunion there, “Absolutely not. I had no contact with the Lakers. Honestly, I would’ve never gone back there even if they would’ve contacted me.”
Sounds as though West will fit in just fine with the Clippers, after all.
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