Will the bright lights of the Chase Center be enough to keep Durant with the Golden State Warriors? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)Getty
As the Golden State Warriors near their move to the Chase Center, the business side of the organization is firmly focused on the partnerships they are striking. The announcement of Hewlett Packard Enterprises to provide the IT infrastructure at the Chase Center is the latest in a series of sponsorship deals. The Warriors are hoping that state of the art technology will greatly enhance the fan experience at the new arena complex, as Keerti Melkote, Co-founder and President of Aruba, an HPE company providing the networking solutions, explained: “Working with the Golden State Warriors and Chase Center provides us with an incredible opportunity to evolve the fan connected experience by delivering the most advanced wireless technology just now coming to market.”
The bigger question hanging over the fan experience at the Chase Center though is who will actually take the court for the Warriors next year. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are free agents in 2019, and Draymond Green is a free agent the following summer, though he may be eligible for a huge designated veteran extension this year if he makes an All-NBA team or wins the Defensive Player of the Year trophy again. All of that while the repeater tax approaches, a punitive measure in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that amplifies the luxury tax penalties for teams who are repeatedly over the salary cap. The Warriors will almost certainly meet the threshold next season.
The Warriors’ pitch to Durant
So it was interesting that the first player to step foot on what will be the new Chase Center floor was one Kevin Durant. The unveiling of the new partnership with HPE was as much a pitch to Durant as it was to the outside world. Indeed the Chase Center is central to the appeal the Warriors will make to Durant. It’s one of three trump cards they have over every team in the league.
First, the Warriors are better set up to help him win championships over the next few years. They can offer a shot at basketball immortality, while crucially still playing with the kind of joy and freedom that nowhere else in the league can match. Don’t forget, that feeling of a familial embrace was one of the deciding factors in Durant’s original decision to join the Warriors.
Second, they can offer Durant more money than any other team. Next summer the Warriors will finally possess “full Bird Rights” on Durant, meaning they can offer him a five-year contract starting at 35% of the salary cap, with 8% raises. The most another team can offer him is a four-year deal with 5% raises. What’s interesting is that while Durant has previously taken short-term discounted deals with the Warriors, he’s dropped some hints in recent weeks that he’s thinking more about that long-term security.
In a recent profile, Michael Lee of the Athletic wrote that “The only commitment that Durant is willing to make on the record is that he will never again be purchased at a discount price. Durant wants all of the money he’s earned by elevating himself into the discussion as the game’s best player.”That was echoed in an interview with Marcus Thompson about his upcoming free agency process.
“I am thinking about the money I’m going to get,” Durant said. “I never got the (massive) deal. I’ve just seen a bunch of dudes around the league making so much money — and I’m happy for them. But I know I deserve that, too. That’s the only thing I’m probably thinking about, to be honest.”
Finally, there’s the Chase Center. The Warriors promise this will be a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports arena and complex, offering an unrivaled experience. It will need to be to compete with the mystical lure of Madison Square Garden, but it’s hard not to pique the interest of athletes and fans alike. As Durant stepped foot on what the Warriors hope will be his home for the foreseeable future, ESPN reported him saying “My imagination is going wild right now with possibilities”.
The Warriors need the Chase Center
The importance of the Chase Center is not just about offering one of the biggest, brightest stages in sports to one of the greatest teams of all time. There’s also the not-so-insignificant matter of just how the Warriors will afford those luxury tax bills, especially if their players aren’t in a discount-giving mood.
Unlike Durant, no-one’s seriously expecting Klay Thompson to leave next summer. He’s repeatedly said he wants to stay in Golden State. However, Thompson’s father recently stated in an interview with 95.7 The Game that his son won’t be taking less than his maximum, as reported by NBC Bay Area:
“The money thing is basically set in stone,” Mychal Thompson told Damon Bruce on 95.7 The Game. “Everybody knows what the salary cap is, everybody knows what a player of Klay’s caliber and tenure in the league is supposed to get on his next deal…So basically, there’s no need to negotiate — everybody’s number is set because of the salary cap rules.”
If that holds it could provide the Warriors with a financial headache. They are already facing an astronomical payroll and tax bill of up to $300m. While they can pay Thompson anything up to his maximum contract of $190m over five years, they’ll be hoping to get a small discount to help keep the bills down. Thompson himself had previously intimated that may be on the cards. It’s early in the negotiation process, but a contract with an average value of $38m a year is a hefty hit, especially if that then feeds into what Draymond Green demands the following year.
Green himself is openly campaigning for the Defensive Player of the Year trophy already. That will make him eligible for a designated veteran extension, estimated at $235m over five years. If the Warriors want to continue winning titles they can’t afford to lose Green, but paying an undersized center around $50m at age 35 is not something any team will want to be on the hook for, even if that undersized center is one of the greatest defensive minds to play the game.
The Warriors will, of course, negotiate as best they can when the time comes. Even a small discount from both Thompson and Green will make it more palatable to keep some of their supporting cast around. But they’re going to need a lot more income to pay those bills wherever they land.
Which leads us back to the Chase Center. It’s not just the excitement of a new arena in one of the world’s most innovative cities that will influence whether this dynasty will stay together. It’s the money that the Warriors will generate from a huge retail and entertainment complex. Alongside the 18,064-seat arena, there will be a 5,000-person performing arts theater, 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail businesses, and 580,000 square feet of office space across two office buildings.
All of that brings new opportunities for fruitful partnerships, like the newly announced deal with HPE. The Warriors will be hoping that those Chase Center-inspired partnerships extend on to the court as well.Announce, Center, Chase, Durant, Kevin, partnership, tours, Warriors