When the Golden State Warriors return to these lands, they will not be as you know them. They will be complete, and presumably will be better together.
But they will also be different. That's all they've done this year: be different.
After the defeat of the Orlando Magic by 116-110 on Monday in which Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson led the Warriors, they will go to heaven for a five-game trip in which they will transform again, waiting as they expect. Stephen Curry and then Draymond Green to return from leave.
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Durant was Uber-Durant on Monday, with 49 points with six rebounds, nine assists, 13 free throws and two blocks in the last games, and regretting the one or two missed shots that caused him to "fall off 50 pieces". Thompson burned 19 points at the close of the fourth quarter to eliminate the effects of the second and third minimum quarters and finished with 29 in 23 shots.
In short, they took advantage of a game in which they were almost ashamed and eliminated most of the effects of their four-game freefall that was hinting at trouble at Oaktown Flats. They returned to the upper class of the Western Conference (half a game better than the Los Angeles Clippers but with two percentage points behind because L.A. has three games in hand), and they like to be them again.
So now they're heading to Toronto and the best team in the East, potentially with Curry and Green soon after, and in a month and a change, there's a pretty firm belief that DeMarcus Cousins will finally be activated.
In short, they will have thrown four different layers of skin before the new year, and if they are stronger or weaker by the effort, however, they will have achieved it.
They have been the team focused on Curry, they have been the team of infighting, and now they have been the team focused on Durant. They have played without Elite Thompson and with him. They have made the central position look like the rotation of A.
And soon they will be the piece of set with three rings, and then, presumably, they will have the great consistent man that they have lacked to date.
And all these turns will happen and they will restart as part of most of the Warrior basketball, even though it has been anything but. They have shown more ways to be a coherent version of themselves, and have not yet taken advantage of the best version.
They have not been the team that has found a steady rhythm, or the team with the best adjusted offensive numbers, or more than a defensive team of half the pack, or the team that defeats the opponent at the end of the third. Fourth so that your minutes are easier to regulate.
What they have done is adjust on the fly, and adjust again, and adjust again. And they have made the most difficult adjustment of all by threatening their basic chemical composition and reassembling it.
The Green-Durant mashup was the biggest threat to the long-term health of the unit, and may still arise in the off-season, but as head coach Steve Kerr said Monday night: "We've overcome all that."
At least that is the plan. The Warriors will soon be a team again, which is also the plan, and then the Cousins will get an authorization to contribute and that will be the plan. The Warriors, in short, will be several teams on several occasions during the regular season, always interminable, and then they will realize who else they will have to be in April.
Whether all these twists of the plot and the chemical peels and the swords faced and the elegant exchanges make this the best championship (assuming this is the case), the most difficult championship or the strangest championship remains to be played. But give them this: they are competing hard for the entertainment dollar that we all thought was already theirs. Now they are trying to become the first team in NBA history to have five or six teams and still finish the last team.