There is nothing remotely glamorous about saying I told you so. But. I told you so. The average contenders in the Western Conference are doing absolutely nothing to rain on the Warriors parade. The Warriors will be in the NBA Finals for the fifth year in a row. But that is not the story. It is how the Warriors are getting to the Finals that has been pretty sweet.
Without Kevin Durant, the Warriors have done an instant turnaround, as if they looked in the mirror and didn’t really like what they saw. No more gloomy, dark, been there-done that Warriors. No more too edgy to be believed Golden State frowning. Within seconds it seems, they have remembered who they used to be when they took the league by surprise. Happy. Fun loving. Shot making. Defending. Energetic. Passionate.
Steph is back to being Steph and he has reminded us how much we missed him. Draymond is being loud and energetic and competing 24-7. Iggy is doing the Iggy defense thing and Klay is keeping Damian Lillard’s double teams fresh and intense so Lillard is exhausted and mentally fatigued.
Strength in Numbers is back. Kevan Looney is playing his best ball of the year. Shaun Livingston has had his moments. Jordan Bell is shooting 57%. Quinn Cook is making half of his threes. Even Alonzo McKinney is having valuable minutes.
It has to be reiterated the Warriors are playing a team without much fire power. If you can manage the two guards for Portland, then it’s a wrap. Enes Kanter can’t be on the floor and Meyers Leonard isn’t someone who should be starting a Western Conference Final game. The Warriors have the talent advantage and it’s not that close. But it feels very different. The Warriors aren’t winning the way they won all season long.
They are happy. They are joyful. They are having a good time out there making Portland look like they are stuck in cement. Without Kevin Durant, the Warriors have rediscovered their soul. They are more watchable and likeable then they have been these last two years with Durant being the best player in the league. Durant’s moodiness and his not going to set a screen to help his teammates changed the Warriors culture and we didn’t know it until he was gone. We didn’t know what Durant stole from us with his seriousness and face all in a frown.
It doesn’t matter what the business is, you take on the personality of the most talented employee. B.D. or Before Durant, the Warriors took on the loose and preternaturally energy of Steph Curry and the tough grit of Draymond Green. With Durant, Steph took a step back and facilitated for Durant and Durant led the Warriors with his lethal scoring acumen. Durant doesn’t scowl on the court but he has this kind of menacing game where you have to wonder can he ever be happy.
Durant thought joining the Warriors and winning a title would make him happy. It didn’t. Now he probably thinks saving New York will fill up this hole he has but that probably won’t either. As they say, happiness is an inside job. Stardom, nor a relationship, nor a mega million lottery win, nor a supermax contract, nor a MVP of the Finals can make you happy long term. Happiness is an identity.
We need it because the world is rough and cold and racist and mean and some of the people in it need to be on a fast track to Mars so we can live in peace.
In the old days, the Warriors were the ultimate escapist entertainment and buffer for the worst of the world. They were more than good. They were joyous and young and didn’t give much credence to the haters on the outside. The Warriors were going to have their fun.
They didn’t treat the game like it was brain surgery. They did their job better than anyone else and in the process they brought a new kind of game into the NBA history books. Like them or not, they were an exciting watch until Durant showed up. He sucked all the air out the balloon even though they were dominant and excellent and more lethal.
This Warriors team isn’t as good as the 2015 title team, or the 2016 choking 73 win team. They are older. They have been through a lot. A few players have some mileage on them. But they remember how to play with each other in their frenetic ball screening, ball moving, passing, never letting up on the offense that no one can play but them. The Warriors are back. If only temporarily. Durant will probably lace them up for the NBA Finals and it will be the sullen Warriors all over again.
But appreciate the right now. This moment, it won’t last.