Last night, I thought of the Jordan Peele flick Get Out and how Chris and Rose were in love. On the way to meet Rose’s parents at the summer house, it felt as if nothing could go wrong. Until Rose turned into a killer and her creepy parents were as motivated to kill Chris and steal his brain matter as Rose was. What felt good was suddenly a horror. The horror part of the movie aligned perfectly with what happened to the Warriors revolution in year 5. The Raptors were determined to steal everything that the Warriors had come to represent: depth, teamwork, elite talent, their brain. The Raptors turned the Warriors into an average NBA team and like Chris, the Warriors fought back. But unlike Chris, the Warriors were the big loser. They couldn’t kill the team that was out for their blood.
It was always going to end like this one day but not like this. The Klay Thompson ACL injury was the last straw in a Finals that seemed to be pre-written. Everything the Warriors had amassed over this run was going to come apart. Their bench was thinner than thin. Their stars were hobbled, injured and/or decimated by bad luck. The coach was outcoached. The Warriors were coasting on their championship mettle when they needed innovation but Steve Kerr was same old thing and was easily to strategize against. The Warriors clowned the Box and 1 but the Warriors went zone so who were the desperate ones?
The Warriors of course. They had everything to lose. Very few teams have an opportunity to 3-peat. Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics couldn’t get it done. Neither could Hakeem’s Rockets, Wade’s Heat, LeBron’s Heat, Duncan’s Spurs. So for the Warriors to do what the very, very rare have done would have put them in such elite company no one could- without being drunk- dismiss their inclusion into the fraternity of all time best dynasties.
Even with 3 titles, the Warriors have always had more to prove because of how they won the title before Durant. They had to convince skeptics it wasn’t a gimmick.
And so 3-peating, then walking into the Chase Center in San Francisco, was the perfect ending, except almost every ending is not perfect. First the bench was thin. Then Durant was missing. Then Klay pulled his hamstring. Iggy was already playing on one knee and in brutal pain he hid behind his competitive façade. Shaun Livingston has very old knees now and he just doesn’t have the athleticism he used to possess. Boogie was up and down and couldn’t be counted on. Steve Kerr had his worst regular season as a coach, confused half the time, annoyed half the time, and then resigned. But this is what happens when you win so much you take it for granted, you lose humility, insight, and the ability to see that the challenge is attrition more than it is any team that can beat you.
The Raptors, and not the Rockets, were designed perfectly to shut the revolution down. The Raptors had a lot of bodies. They were young and athletic. Like the Warriors, they were ego-less, no one trying to be a star. Their longest tenured player was a gritty North Philly dude who controlled the game and wasn’t into all the offensive stats romanticism. Kyle Lowry is old school, just as excited at taking charges as he is making buckets. No one mentioned it quite like this but Steph Curry was everything Kyle Lowry has never been: beloved, popular, adored.
A day after the heartbreak of Klay, the Warriors, and the team that changed the Bay, I am reminded about the revolution being televised. It was such a crazy idea in 2015 when the Warriors were in the NBA Finals and beat a terribly undermanned but dynamic LeBron James team. Then the next year when they won 73 games but lost the title. And added Kevin Durant and earned two more titles. It all came back in linear memories but instead of celebrating what the Warriors accomplished, the vignettes had a nightmarish hue because winter is coming and the revolution is bittersweet. Things are transitioning back to normal, to the world the way it used to be before 2015.
Except Oracle will be empty. The Warriors roster will be gutted with two massive injuries. Sure, they’ll get the injury exceptions and a little cap relief but nothing to get them into the WCF. The Warriors have no money left after paying Durant and Klay. Even if Durant goes to Brooklyn, there still isn’t money to save 2019-20. The Warriors will have to sit it out. Play hard. Develop players. Experience life from the cheap seats.
We will see how good a coach Steve Kerr is. We will see how good a player Steph Curry is with half his backcourt missing. We will see how Draymond’s leadership adjusts with a skeleton crew in his free agent year. Will Dray be all about himself and getting paid? We will see how the Looneys and Cooks of the world handle the increased playing time. We will see Bob Myers.
The Crying Game is over. No one has sympathy. The Warriors gambled and got a bunch of black eyes. They were greedy. They were arrogant. They thought they were beyond the catastrophe that has happened up and down the league. Now they have to own it, move on, but first decide what they are as a franchise now that they are shell shocked.
It never was a revolution. Not really. A revolution is an overthrow of a system for something new. We got something new. But a lot is still the same. The NBA is not going to change. There are adaptions and modernism and a new look but regression to the mean is always on the horizon, looming, like the shotgun Rose tried to shoot Chris with. She missed.
Injuries didn’t. They shot the Warriors in the heart. Winter is coming.