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New Warriors owners out to revive lagging franchise, more mail

Much has been said of the record $450 million purchase of the Warriors by Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and their partners, which is $49 million more than the previous record purchase of a team, held by Robert Sarver when he bought the Suns in 2004.

Hefty price tag aside, the new Warriors owners bought the franchise at the right time.

While most NBA teams claim to be losing money at the moment, the owners are optimistic that a new collective bargaining agreement will change that ink from red to black. Their view: When the new rules are negotiated and installed after this season, owners will be positioned to break even or turn a profit, and as a result, franchise values will begin to rise.

So it makes sense to invest before the prices go up. If you're going to buy an NBA team, the best time is now.

"I'm not supposed to comment on the CBA, but you might have a valid point there," said Lacob, who will have the final say in all of the Warriors' day-to-day decisions. "I've looked at franchises for a long time -- I was a part-owner of the Celtics, and I think I know what the value is and I know how to compare the values of different franchises in other sports. I'm comfortable saying we paid a fair price and that we will increase the value over time substantially."

Lacob lives near Stanford University, where he earned an MBA. He has stepped back from his managing partnership of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Bay Area venture capital firm, in order to devote most of his time to running the Warriors.

"I try not to comment too much on the previous administration, and [former owner Chris Cohan], in particular," Lacob said. "But making the playoffs once in 16 years is unacceptable to the fans, to everybody here."

The Bay Area's basketball passion emerged during the Warriors' lone playoff series victory of Cohan's ownership, the 2007 upset of the top-seeded Mavericks, when the fans' relentless cheering turned Oracle Arena into the league's noisiest gym. Lacob talks of creating a style that marries the current Celtics' defensive toughness with the up-tempo style of the '80s Lakers.

"I don't want to overpromise, and certainly, we have a lot of work to do," he said. "But I will say that I think we have made some changes in the offseason here that certainly look like they're having quite a good impact. Our goal is to be a .500 team [this year] and be a relevant team, and our stretch goal would be to make the playoffs. I think it's possible."

Lacob made an unexpected impact when he held his private plane in Chicago last Thursday in order to rush forward David Lee back to the Bay Area for surgery on his left elbow, which had become dangerously infected after it was punctured by Wilson Chandler's tooth the previous night during the Warriors' win in New York.

"It got a little scary in Chicago, so I said that's it, we're going right back to our doctors to have them deal with it," Lacob said. "It is an unusual and unexpected situation, and a dangerous situation. It does make an argument for whether there should be a mandatory rule for mouthguards in the NBA."

Lacob hopes to learn from the example of a diverse group of NBA owners, from Wyc Grousbeck and his partners with the Celtics, to Mark Cuban of the Mavericks, Peter Holt of the Spurs and the Jerry Buss of the Lakers.

Lacob called me on Wednesday, 20 minutes before he was scheduled to meet with the players for the first time.

"I'm addressing the team and I can't wait," he said. "It will be more from the heart, I have nothing planned going in. I'm going to tell them how proud I am to be the new owner here, and I'm very proud they've all come together to get a great start for the team, and I want to make sure they know that, as an ownership group, we're here to provide them with whatever they need. We're all together in this and we're going to win."

Now on to your mailbag questions ...

What do you make of Kobe's recent comments to CBS' Ken Berger regarding the ongoing labor negotiations: "I think the owners need to look in the mirror," Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. "They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They've got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we've got to do."-- Brandon, Atlanta

Bryant is right. The owners created this mess, and now they need to decide where to take their league. Bryant is not going to like their decisions -- shorter contracts, smaller salaries and a potential reduction in contracts already signed, including the $83 million the Lakers have "guaranteed" over his final three years starting next season. Not many employees around the world will be able to relate to Bryant's demand that the players shouldn't be forced to make adjustments as a result of that mismanagement -- the global recession was influenced by gross mismanagement in the financial sector, but that didn't change the fact that millions of people lost salary or employment as a result. Because of the pain and angst suffered by everyday people over the last few years, I have a feeling the public backlash will be stronger than ever if a player like Bryant should complain about making $20 million instead of the $30 million salary the Lakers originally agreed to pay him in 2013-14.

How come Joe Dumars is getting a pass on all of his poor contracts and poor draft choices and poor trades? If the Pistons didn't have the Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva deals, they would have had plenty of cap space last year. I think it's a conspiracy of ex-Pistons slowing killing the league: Isiah [in New York], Joe D., Bill Laimbeer crying about no NBA coaching jobs for him, and Rick Mahorn wanting a head-coaching job also.-- David

The Chauncey Billups trade put the Pistons on a bad course, and the signings of Gordon and Villanueva haven't paid off. But I don't know how the Pistons would have been able to spend cap space last summer. They weren't going to outbid the Bulls for Carlos Boozer or the Knicks for Amar'e Stoudemire, and they were never going to land the Miami threesome.

Every good GM has had a stretch where he hasn't looked very good at all -- Jerry West, Donnie Walsh, Geoff Petrie have all had their rough times. No one is immune to it. Overall, Dumars' record as GM is 492-345, including a championship, seven straight seasons of 50 or more wins, six straight conference finals and a 2009 Sporting News award for the decade's top NBA executive. Hasn't he earned some benefit of the doubt?

According to a recent report, several teams have inquired about Denver point guard Chauncey Billups. Where could he go? Which team could give Denver someone of value in return?-- Mike, Boulder, Colo.

The Knicks and the Bobcats have the most urgent need for leadership at point guard, and a move to Charlotte would reunite Billups with Larry Brown. What makes Billups especially attractive is his contract, currently in its final fully guaranteed year at $13.2 million. I doubt the Nuggets will be willing to take on extended salary in a trade for Billups. The Bobcats don't have promising young talent to send to Denver, and the Knicks appear to be focusing their limited assets on a potential deal for Carmelo Anthony.

Mike D'Antoni essentially got a free pass his first years in New York while the Knicks cleaned up their books. At what point will he start feeling some pressure to deliver results?-- Norman G., Framingham, Mass.

I promise you that D'Antoni is feeling the pressure to deliver. But he doesn't have enough talent. The Knicks haven't assembled a winning roster for nine full years, and now we're supposed to believe their problems are the fault of a coach who won 232 games in four years before coming to New York? That doesn't make sense.

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