This time last year it was convenient to frame the Warriors historic season within the contextual analysis of a revolution. A revolution by definition changes structures and institutions through mass organization of military power. On a much smaller scale, the Warriors were demoralizing their opponents and doing unthinkable things, led by Steph Curry’s wizadry. The theory was the Warriors were changing the NBA and small ball was here to stay. The Warriors systemic structure was both unguardable and mimic proof. They were powerful, if not militaristic. There wasn’t much evidence to disprove any Warriors negative. They won 73 games in brilliant, happy, fun loving, exceptional, dynamic fashion. They trailed 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals and came back and won. Their philosophy was legitimized until game 5 and game 6 and game 7 of the NBA Finals. No one was ready for the crash.
But did GM Bob Myers know something? Did he go after Kevin Durant so hard because he knew this magic in a bottle was exactly that, magic, not sustainable and very fragile?
The Warriors are anything but a revolution. They look nothing like the team they have been the last two years and I am not talking about their inability to guard the rim and make shots, or, how they sleepwalk through games in key moments, not to mention the turnovers. When you need to dig deep to beat the 76ers who don’t have Joel Embiid but a young Dario Saric and a rejuvenated Jahlil Okafor and who knows what off the discard heap, then there is something broken.
The Warriors body language looks nothing remotely similar to Strength in Numbers. It would be one thing if they were playing very well and coming up short. But there are gaps in games when you look up and think who are these guys? What happened to the Warriors?
Excuses. Explanations. Reasons.
Kevin Durant. Take any playoff team, remove their leading scorer, leading rebounder and leading shot blocker and it is going to be grim. They are going to have to learn how to play without him and the Warriors are barely treading water, missing Durant more than they expected they would. Steph Curry isn’t saving them which is what the general opinion was once Durant went out, Curry would be last year Curry. But what if last year Curry was just the greatest year of his career, something unattainable again?
Durant went down on the last day of February. Since then Curry has been a 40% field goal maker and a 30% long ball shooter. Curry, the best shooter in NBA history this ordinary? Yep. Suddenly he is an inefficient volume shooter missing open threes.
Team Chemistry. A moodiness fugue has hung over the Warriors all year long and it wasn’t unexpected. They had a historic regular season, they collapsed in the Finals. It’s hard to go through those emotional swings on back to back seasons of playing over 100 games. But they have never been able to shake it off, even with the inclusion of Durant. In fact, Durant was a blessing in disguise. He was a human eclipse, blocking out the Warriors sky. Remove Durant and the sky looks a little dark. I don’t think Andre Iguodala would have made his “inappropriate” post game comments this time last year. More than one analyst has implied the Warriors lost the wrong guys when they had to cut ties with Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights. They lost their locker room glue.
The NBA has figured them out. Eventually the bright minds around the league are going to create schemes to stop what the Warriors do best. Give the Warriors the assist. By getting rid of Barnes and Bogut they allowed defenses to shrink the floor. Without Durant, they are easier to defend.
Draymond Green. All roads for Warriors negativity lead to Dray. He is too abusive/combative inside the locker room. He is too abusive/combative on the court. If someone’s offensive game has suffered with the addition of Durant it is Dray. He is scoring less, he is rebounding less, he is assisting less. The scoring and rebounding make sense because of Durant’s athleticism and length. Draymond has always been a player who does the little things. His defensive rating is better than last year but Durant has put a dip into his PER.
Without Durant, Draymond is shooting 36% and 25% from three. But he is the sole reason the Warriors beat the 76ers, his hustle and defensive energy and refusal to lose. But with Draymond in tow, there is always his volatility lurking, the penchant he has for technicals and a suspension looming somewhere down the line. You can’t predict when Draymond will explode.
Cool Hand Luke has left the building. The Warriors were 24-0 under player friendly Luke Walton who pushed Draymond Green in particular to just go out and have fun. Luke’s style was missed even though when Steve Kerr returned the Warriors were dynamic. But Luke is like the substitute teacher who is never going to call home if you walk into class 15 minutes late. Every team needs that assistant coach guy who is part father, part friend, part co-conspirator, part therapist. He keeps the mood and the energy calm and loose when the coach is getting on the players nerves.
photo via llananba