CLEVELAND – Before the Hamptons, before light years, and before Jurbadic basketball thinkers admitted that a small team could win an NBA championship with show jumping, finesse and defense, no one talked about the Golden State Warriors as a squad with multiple members of the Hall of Fame, let alone one.
The Warriors celebrate their third title on Friday night after beating the Cavaliers 108-85, with a special execution in the third quarter that buried their beleaguered opponent. For the Warrior dynasty, and now it is a dynasty, the sweep is another achievement. But it's easy to forget that, four years ago, they were a team that could not survive a first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stephen Curry was a mischievous All-Star, a news shooter who could take delight in a 54-point blast in the Garden, but nobody would take you to the playoffs, certainly not in those ankles. Klay Thompson was a potential bait for Kevin Love, which was just as well because who wants to pay an escort for the indifference to the defense and a game limited by the dribble of a maximum contract?
In the summer of 2014, the Warriors & # 39; Basketball Operations Brain Trust sat in the office of general manager Bob Myers to outline what the team rotation would look like next season. Next to each player on the board written in dry erase ink, there was a certain amount of minutes. Next to the name of Draymond Green was scribbled: "12".
Time moves quickly in the NBA, and even before the arrival of Kevin Durant, the Warriors transformed from a collection of imperfect pieces in the Bolshoi Basketball Ballet, a nighttime exhibition of oohs and ahhs who won a championship in 2015, and then followed with a season of 73-9. For most of the past two weeks, LeBron James has repeatedly highlighted these achievements to everyone within earshot, then reminded them that the Warriors – a team that says they have "four Hall of Famers" and is the equivalent of New England Patriots basketball – Added a great success of all time in Durant.
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LeBron's suggestions are clear: the Warriors are simply better than others, perhaps the best in history, and the most transcendent player in the game saw this disparity manifest again in game 4 of the clincher. The Warriors dictated the terms of each possession, a privilege that James normally claims for himself. When Curry was not draining shots from a distance, Andre Iguodala was making the Cavaliers pay for his negligence. When Green was not doing the extra pbad, the Warriors pressed the press defensively in the third quarter.
James's cruel irony is that his bold self-determination coup in 2010 is largely responsible for the second wave of the Warriors, who have decimated their Cavaliers with an 8-1 mark in the final since the unlikely comeback of Cleveland in the 2016 finals. The acquisition of Durant two summers ago received the same outrage that howled in the formation of the Big Three in Miami during the summer of 2010, but to a large extent, James provided historical coverage. Unfair of the warriors and Durant? Possibly. Without precedents? Certainly not.
Historically elite teams can take one of the two routes to greatness. The first is through an elegant and well designed system that maximizes the strengths and mitigates the weaknesses of each player. The San Antonio Spurs incarnated this project in 2013 and 2014, and the design of the Warriors in 2015 and 2016 was a beauty. They took from the Spurs, from Mike D & # 39; Antoni, from the Chicago Bulls teams where Steve Kerr played in the 1990s, and even from Jerry Sloan's divisions. Movement of the ball, movement of the player, swing of the ball from strong to weak and then back. For Golden State, it was not just a recipe to win, it was a measure of great pride, an offense in which everyone participated and prospered.
The second strategy is to mount the brute force of unique talents, the guys who can get an injection whenever they want, damn it. Call it iso ball if you wish, but it is the science of creating high-level shots, sometimes turning difficult shots and sometimes creating easy shots. This is the "system" in which Durant grew up and how he won his MVP award in 2014. It is a system that, to a large extent, offends the sensibilities of the Warriors, as he did when they watched the James Harden movie of Game 1. against Houston, grateful that they aspire to a more team-oriented ball mark.
Although the Warriors played their part of the ballet this season and the playoffs – Game 2 of the Finals was a recital for the ages – this is often the case Warriors, particularly in the absence of Curry, operate today. Durant has made the Warriors indomitable at times, as shown in a dazzling grade in Game 3, but the marriage has not come without cost.
Aesthetically, the Warriors have lost something. His purity was compromised, and there were occasional moments when the common confidence that made the Warrior Warriors fail, particularly this season. The Warriors, cheered by the joy, seemed a little less happy in 2017-18. A team they told us was invincible won only 58 games, finishing well behind the Houston Rockets who were less than 24 minutes away from taking Golden State's place in the Finals. "Activating the switch" is something that teams without a system use with the badumption that, by the end of spring, good shots can be made at will.
However, the Warriors have come to appreciate that systems can fail at inopportune moments, a reality that was revealed in the historic closing minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. They had a problem, and Durant now he has solved it.
Bobby Marks breaks down the key decisions for the Golden State Warriors, including the re-signing of Kevin Durant.
Although he will sometimes need reminders to trust his teammates, and Curry will have to retreat to the corner to allow Durant to hit the ball against the hardwood, and Kerr will have to argue from the side line and Green from the post High by the ball to move, Durant has provided the Warriors with a safe that the NBA had never seen before. And as a perimeter player with a great figure, he has fitted perfectly into the defensive scheme of the Warriors, who regained his mantle as the best in the league when what was at stake demanded it.
With Durant as a complement to the most devastating offensive machine in the NBA, the Warriors have now perfectly merged these two schools, creating a rich confluence of system and talent. They can win big or small, fast or slow, with movement or in isolation, with the blow or with the pbad, with the change of perimeter or with the interior defense.
That was the plan in 2016, the result in 2017, and now the confirmation in 2018:
The Warriors simply have all the answers.