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PHOENIX – By Sunday night, the Warriors are expected to close the book on the Patrick McCaw saga.
But say, the Warriors decided otherwise and matched McCaw’s two-year, $6 million offer sheet to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Would the Warriors’ locker room welcome him back?
“I’m cool with him. That’s my guy. If he came back today, I would treat him like he was here the whole time,” Warriors second-year forward Jordan Bell said. “It wasn’t anything against us personally. It’s a business. So if they brought him back, I’d say, ‘Pat’s my guy.’ I’d accept him with open arms. But I can’t speak for anybody else.”
Warriors forwards Draymond Green and Kevin Durant respectfully declined to speak too much about McCaw’s two-year saga with the Warriors that will likely end after rejecting their $1.7 million qualifying offer and two-year, $5.2 million deal. Both of them walked away after fielding a handful of questions related to McCaw, his prolonged holdout and how much contact they had with him during his unresolved free agency from July through the first three months of the 2019-20 regular season. They simply followed the unspoken rule in professional sports not to comment on other players’ business matters.
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Said Durant: “It’s not my forte. I just hoop.”
Said Green: “That’s good for him, if that’s what he wanted. So we’ll just wait and see what our organization does and go from there.”
The Warriors have not entirely ruled out retaining McCaw so they can horde another asset in a potential trade, according to league sources. After paying the Milwaukee Bucks for the rights to the 38th pick that was used on McCaw in the 2016 NBA draft, the Warriors still remained encouraged with his upside as a defender and shooter.
But the Warriors are not expected to match McCaw’s offer sheet for a variety of reasons.
Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob remains “dumbfounded” and “befuddled” about the situation, according to league sources, a feeling he also expressed in an interview with Bay Area News Group in mid October. After having a breakout rookie season in the 2017 NBA playoffs, McCaw labored his second season with inconsistency and a spine contusion injury that sidelined him for the last six regular-season games and the first 15 playoff contests. The Warriors are leery of footing a luxury tax bill that would cost an additional $11 million. They want to keep their 15th and final roster spot open for financial and roster flexibility. The Warriors also do not plan to waive forward Alfonzo McKinnie before his contract becomes guaranteed on Jan. 10.
Lastly, the Warriors are sensitive what the integration process might entail involving McCaw’s return. How long would it take for McCaw to feel comfortable on the court after not playing professionally since logging limited minutes in the 2018 Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals? How long would it take for the Warriors’ bench to adjust considering Kerr has managed varying bench rotations to accommodate for new arrivals (McKinnie, Jonas Jerebko) and larger roles for young players (Bell, Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook)? To what extent would the Warriors’ locker room welcome McCaw back?
“It would be an adjustment just because he hadn’t been playing with us and we have a new roster and a couple of new guys. But I think most of us would take him back with open arms,” Looney said. “Of course, we would talk to him and tease him a little bit and say, ‘It’s been a while’ and ask what he’s been up to. But we all love him. We won a championship together. At least for me, I definitely would’ve taken him back with open arms.”
Still, McCaw’s former teammates conceded they felt confused with how things have transpired in recent months.
“This industry and game is wild at times. Some stuff doesn’t make sense,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said. “Guys make decisions and you try to look out for their best interests and whatever that means for them. At the end of the day, that’s what you hope for that Pat’s happy and we obviously wish the best for him whether it’s back here or wherever he ends up.”
Curry described his level of communication with McCaw as “not much.” Warriors third-year center Damian Jones said “it’s been a minute” since he last spoke with McCaw, and respectfully declined to comment further. Durant and Green suggested they respectfully kept their distance.
Said Durant: “We never talked on the phone anyways, even when we played together. I don’t have nothing to do about him. I know how he feels about me. All I can do is give him his space instead of pushing (stuff). Hopefully it’ll work out for him.”
Said Green: “That ain’t never got anything to do with me. I don’t focus on the business side of basketball. Whatever they do, that’s on the business side. So that’s on them. I’m here to play basketball. That ain’t got nothing to do with me.”
Bell and Looney kept in touch with McCaw more closely. Bell said he spoke with McCaw shortly after he accepted the deal with Cleveland, though he respectfully wanted to keep those conversations “between me and him.”
“It’s a weird situation. Obviously he’s doing something he believes is best for him. You better yourself; people have always told me. I don’t understand it, but I support it,” Bell said. “I checked on him. But I wasn’t trying to get in his business. He has a lot of people in his ear about it, especially with being in the NBA and everyone knows what you do. If he brought it up, we talked about it. If he didn’t, we didn’t.”
Looney kept that same respectful distance about McCaw’s unresolved free agency. But when they spoke earlier this month, Looney reported McCaw telling him that “he’s been working out” and “he’s ready to hoop.” McCaw has kept a low profile and has often been in his hometown of St. Louis.
“It’s been kind of crazy. You don’t really see stuff like this happen,” Looney said. “It’s been kind of weird. But I’m just happy for him. He was in a tough spot the last couple of months not knowing what’s going to happen. He needs to stay in the NBA. Knowing he has a job, I’m happy for him.”
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