I will root against the Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong. Stephen Curry’s shooting may be the most enjoyable thing to watch in all of basketball. I love Steve Kerr’s demeanor. The arc on Klay Thompson’s jumper is a thing of beauty. I admire the underrated Andre Iguodala. His habit of kicking opponents in the groin notwithstanding, Draymond Green’s passion is worthy of praise.
I will still root against the Warriors.
I don’t blame Kevin Durant for what he did on July Fourth, announcing his independence from Oklahoma City and signing on with the mighty Warriors, the 2015 NBA champs who lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games this year. Durant is entitled to go where he wants. That’s the way the system works. Durant is taking advantage of a system that once was stacked heavily in the owners’ favor. More power to KD.
I’m still rooting against the Warriors.
And give credit to the NBA. Here at the start of July, in the middle of the Major League Baseball season, just before the start of NFL training camps, a month before college football practice begins, few are talking about those sports. They’re talking about Durant and the Warriors and the idea of a super team. Come late October, Golden State will be the team everyone will want to watch.
Here’s the thing: I don’t like the idea of a super team, and I’m guessing plenty of others don’t either. We don’t like all-star teams put together through fantasy-like drafts. That’s for a league with your friends or your co-workers, not a league for the real world. The development of a championship team should be an organic process that takes time and sacrifice and hard work.
My friend and former colleague Jerry Brewer, now of the Washington Post, made a strong case to praise Durant’s decision, but he used the word “conglomerate” to refer to the Warriors.
It will be interesting to see how the Warriors react to the way they will be perceived. Media and crowd darlings for their style of play much of the last two seasons, now they will be cast in a different light. (Some of the glow began to fade down the stretch of this year’s playoffs.) Golden State is the Evil Empire now, too big to fail. With Oklahoma City, Durant was seen as the nice guy who helped lift a small-market club. How will he adapt to having his motives questioned?
That said, despite the optics, I’m not sure Durant chose the easier path. Super teams on paper aren’t always super teams on the floor. There’s only one ball. Curry likes to shoot it. Thompson likes to shoot it. Will the trio mesh? Will they know when to defer? What will Green’s role be? Can the Warriors top 73-9? Plenty of questions remain unanswered.
I didn’t like it when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. It seemed like a shortcut. Before the Spurs tangled with James’ Miami Heat in back-to-back finals in 2013 and 2014 — the Heat won 4-3 in 2013; the Spurs won 4-1 in 2014 — I thought of San Antonio as a boring, faceless franchise. Battling Pat Riley’s all-star collection made me appreciate San Antonio’s teamwork and guile.
I admired James much more when he returned to Ohio to try to help his hometown team win its first NBA title. The James who won two championships in Miami is no doubt an all-time great player, but the James who led the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the mighty Warriors is a hero. That’s the one who will be remembered.
How will Kevin Durant now be remembered? If Golden State grabs back the title next season, will he be considered a key engineer or someone who just jumped on the bandwagon?
There’s no shame in chasing a title. It’s just better to earn one than join one. After two years of rooting for the Warriors, I think I’ll cheer for somebody else.
Recent NBA champions
2016: Cleveland Cavaliers
2015: Golden State Warriors
2014: San Antonio Spurs
2013: Miami Heat
2012: Miami Heat
2011: Dallas Mavericks
2010: Los Angeles Lakers
2009: Los Angeles Lakers
2008: Boston Celtics
2007: San Antonio Spurs
2006: Miami Heat
2005: San Antonio Spurs
2004: Detroit Pistons
2003: San Antonio Spurs
2002: Los Angeles Lakers
2001: Los Angeles Lakers
2000: Los Angeles Lakers
1999: San Antonio Spurs
1998: Chicago Bulls
1997: Chicago Bulls