The Golden State Warriors are finished with the pretenders. Their title defense begins tonight in Houston as they face the team that was structured to defeat them.
The classic rule about team building is you build your team to beat the best team in the conference. Daryl Morey obeyed that edict. He has shot makers and creators and pick and roll finishers but an average defense and only Trevor Ariza who has won a conference final. The Rockets are trying to slay the offensive monster who, by the way, has the best defense in the playoffs.
The Warriors are well aware of who the Rockets are and what they have been saying all season while they try to be too cool for school until this moment. This moment of greed. The Warriors want more.
The Warriors have not accomplished what the great teams have accomplished, the Russell Celtics, the Magic Lakers, the Isiah Pistons, the Jordan Bulls, the Olajuwon Rockets, the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, the Kobe-Gasol Lakers, the LeBron Heat. They have not repeated as champions.
Repeating means you are building a dynasty and that the first title wasn’t flukish, you weren’t lucky that year. Winning a title is hard; doing it two years in a row is special and elite. On average, it happens to one team a decade. The Warriors want to be that team.
The Warriors are greedy. That is why they are moving from small town Oakland, their home for four decades, to San Francisco. They are leaving the cheap seats as any smart entrepreneur will do. They are acutely aware there are windows for all things. You better take advantage while you can. Windows close.
Greed is acceptable in two business models. Finance and sports. Because finance is structured around the bottom line you often get crooks trying to game the system. The NBA way of gaming the system is stacking the deck with talent and even that doesn’t guarantee you anything.
Sports greed, get as many titles as you can get, is acceptable because competition is the lifeblood of the industry. Competing to win. Competing to be the last one left. Competing for immortality. The 2017-18 Warriors own all of that and if they fall to the Rockets, if they take a L it will be a lost season, one they cannot get back. You have to take your moment when it comes, each and every time. The Warriors think their time is now. But here’s the thing, so do the Rockets.
The hunter is always more excitable and enthusiastic than the hunted. The hunted has been here before. For them it is business as usual. But the hunter is anticipating a breakthrough. They imagine possibilities. They are giddy with the opportunity in front of them, willing to do whatever it takes to wound the prey because often, the first shot and the second shot isn’t a kill. You have to, as Kobe Bryant once said, take their heart. Do you have it in you?
Rockets, do you have it in you?
The Warriors easily could have joined the Lakers and Bulls with a three-peat but Draymond Green got in his emotions and even then they needed a LeBron block, a Kyrie dagger and a not 100% Steph. Things can get really blurry and mixed up when you are trying to be legendary.
You can say “we got rings” all you want. You can say we got money. You can say we got fame. But can you say “we got a repeat”?