TORONTO — After the 2018 NBA Finals ended, Golden State Warriors reserve guard Patrick McCaw sat in the visiting locker room in Cleveland sobbing uncontrollably. While his teammates celebrated their sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was being comforted by then-Warriors performance therapist Chelsea Lane.
McCaw had been through a challenging season. He also felt this would be his last game as a Warrior.
“There were just so many different emotions and thoughts going through my head, and I really couldn’t explain it,” McCaw told The Undefeated. “But I couldn’t do anything but cry because I know what I’ve been through and what I faced and how hard it was for me to deal with that. I had a potentially career-ending injury that luckily, by the grace of God, it didn’t happen.”
As for his belief that it would be his last game as a Warrior, that did come to fruition. And now he’ll get to face his former teammates in the 2019 NBA Finals, starting on Thursday, as a member of the Toronto Raptors. It will be his first time facing the Warriors this season.
But when the series shifts to Oakland for Game 3, don’t expect McCaw to receive his 2018 championship ring like JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Nick Young and Omri Casspi did before home games this season.
“I don’t think so, no. Probably after the Finals or off to the side. Probably after,” McCaw told The Undefeated. “Yeah, it is kind of a little too much to do it now. I think they talked to my parents about sending it, but this was when I was still trying to figure if I was going to some other team. We’ll see.”
It will also be interesting to see what reception McCaw will get from his former Warriors teammates and fans after his mysterious departure from the franchise with which he won two championships in his first two NBA seasons.
The 38th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, McCaw averaged only 4.0 points per game in 128 regular-season appearances with the Warriors from 2016-18. The defensive-minded shooting guard said it was “definitely hard” as he struggled for playing time behind All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and veteran guard Shaun Livingston.
To make matters worse, McCaw suffered a lumbar bone bruise after a bad fall when then-Sacramento Kings forward Vince Carter fouled him on a layup attempt on March 31, 2018. The 6-foot-7, 185-pound guard eventually recovered to rejoin the Warriors during the playoffs last season, but by that time, McCaw said he had come to the realization he wanted more.
“I could say it was playing time, but I think it was just me being emotional as a kid,” said McCaw, 23. “I just wanted more. Not necessarily more playing time, but more opportunity for myself. I’m not discrediting the Warriors and what they chose to do. I just think being a young kid, you see all the younger guys competing and doing their thing and you feel like, ‘OK, I’m just that kid, or I could be doing exactly what he’s doing.’ ”
The Warriors offered the restricted free agent a two-year, $4 million contract before this season, but training camp, the season opener and the ring ceremony all passed without a resolution. McCaw’s agents Marlon Harrison and Bill Duffy encouraged him to take the Warriors’ deal, sources said, but McCaw stood firm on waiting for his next opportunity despite seriously considering taking the Warriors’ offer several times. (BDA Sports, where Duffy and Harrison work, no longer represents McCaw.)
“Maybe I could just go back and finish, just go back for a year, see what happens, see where it took me,” McCaw said. “I just felt like once it got past preseason, I was just adamant about not going back. I was just stuck right there. That’s when I was like, ‘I’m just not going.’ I made it this far and I missed preseason, I missed the season opener, I missed getting the rings. I’ve made it this far just based off of what I chose to do.
“And I believed in what I wanted to accomplish, and I just felt like we’re just going to ride it out and see how long it takes to October to November to December.”
McCaw finally signed a $3 million offer sheet with the Cavaliers on Dec. 28, and the Warriors declined to match it.
“We appreciate the time he spent with our organization,” Myers told The Undefeated. “He was a good teammate and helped us toward our goal while he was here.”
Ultimately, the Warriors wished him the best on his NBA journey.
“Pat has all the intangibles to be a really good player in this league,” Livingston told The Undefeated. “He was in a position where he wanted to realize his potential and didn’t think he could’ve done it here. I wish he could’ve stayed another year, but a player has to do what’s best for him. I still got love for Pat.”
McCaw played in only three games in Cleveland before the Cavs waived him on Jan. 7. While there was a perception that the Cavs did McCaw a favor by signing him so he could get out of Golden State, the St. Louis native said that was false.
“I didn’t like how the media picked it up and ran with it, because I knew going in, signing it, that they could release me if they didn’t really like what they saw after the week,” McCaw said. “I didn’t like how the media portrayed it, like we had something lined up already. Yeah, that wasn’t the case at all.”
On Jan. 10, the Raptors signed McCaw to a minimum contract for the remainder of the season. McCaw averaged 2.7 points and 13.2 minutes in 26 games with the Raptors during the regular season. Although he was also inactive seven times and did not play by coach’s decision five times, McCaw said he is happy with his decision to sign with Toronto.
“I appreciate my teammates, the coaches, the organization, just for embracing me for the rest of this season. Who knows what’ll happen come summer, but I’ve enjoyed my time here and it’s been great,” McCaw said.
McCaw scored two points in seven appearances for Toronto during the first two rounds of the postseason. Then he missed the first five games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks for personal reasons. McCaw told The Undefeated he was absent because his older brother, Jeffrey McCaw, had died.
McCaw preferred not to offer details about the tragedy but said his brother meant “everything to me.”
“Growing up as a kid, that’s who I wanted to be,” McCaw said. “My whole life, I was just looking up to that person. To lose him without saying goodbye was one of the toughest things. There’s just so much left unsaid that I wish I could tell him right now. But he’s in a better place now, and everything I do now is for him and my family.”
McCaw did not play in Game 6 of the East finals, but he was on hand as Kawhi Leonard led the franchise to its first-ever NBA Finals.
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McCaw believes the Raptors can win the title over his former team.
“It’s going to be crazy, just the first game lining up against them,” McCaw said. “I haven’t played against them all season. I haven’t been there with them since we won in Cleveland. The last time I saw them, I was playing with the Warriors. The first game? A lot of emotions. I’m ready for it. I’m excited. …
“We got a shot. They have to come here first. That’s a big advantage. My first two years, [the Warriors] always had home-court [advantage], if I’m not mistaken. That is definitely an advantage for [Toronto].”
McCaw could become the third player in NBA history to play in a Finals one season, then return to the Finals in the other conference the following season, according to Elias. Steve Mix played for the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1982 Finals and for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 Finals. And Warriors head coach Steve Kerr played for the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 Finals and the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Finals.
McCaw said he talks regularly to Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook and Damian Jones. But he is bracing for a tough reaction from Warriors fans, who also took exception to a social media posting McCaw made Saturday night in which he boasted about making it to three straight Finals.
“I don’t know if they’re going to be booing me or what,” McCaw said. “But I’m excited to go back, for real. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited to see what happens in that type of atmosphere. I know what to expect from the fans.
“This s— is crazy. Never would I have thought this. It’s unbelievable.”