Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, NBA Playoffs

Collected thoughts on LeBron, the Warriors and most likely outcomes

The Warriors won again, and really quickly. There was a little drama against the Rockets, and nobody else. The Cavs had drama with everybody except the Raptors — sorry Raptors — but the finals was the same, and the outcome was the same as it’s been for 75 percent of the last four years – whatever that works out to.

More than that, since grabbing Kevin Durant, the Warriors have played a total of nine playoff games in two years against Cleveland, losing only once, last year, in a game in which the Cavaliers scored the most first-half points in NBA history (86). Since there isn’t, therefore, all that much to talk about in the games themselves, I had some other thoughts.

How do you solve a problem like Mari-East?

Listen, like it or not, the East has been bad since Michael Jordan retired. Sure, sometimes a surprising thing will happen, like the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, and sometimes one team in the East gets on the level of several teams in the West. The LeBron-Wade-Bosh Heat were one of those, the KG-Allen-Pierce-Rondo Celtics were one, and the LeBron- Kyrie-Love Cavs were one. But one team every few years, even every year, doesn’t justify a whole conference, the same way that Madison Bumgarner’s occasional dinger doesn’t justify us having to watch every other NL pitcher strike out every time they come up. It’s beyond mysterious at this point, but it’s getting more awkward for everyone. If LeBron goes West, or slows down some how, we’ll finally find out if teams like the Celtics, Sixers, Pacers, or even Wizards are actually good, or just, like East Good. But so far it’s not looking good. Relatedly,

So you’re saying there’s a chance? No. No, I am not saying that.

Well okay, LeBron is a reason to think any team has a chance. Or, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant could have been kidnapped or something. BUT. As mythological as LeBron’s one-man-team exploits have become, we sometimes forget that the 2015-16 Cavaliers were very different from the 2018 version. Kyrie Irving scored nearly 20 points per game for them that year, Kevin Love threw up 16, J.R. Smith actually had a decent year, and guys like Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson gave some decent minutes off the bench. The third leading scorer for this year’s Cavs was Isaiah Thomas. The fourth was Jordan Clarkson. The fifth was Dwyane Wade. The sixth was Rodney Hood. You know?

Or to put this all more simply: the Cavs team that barely, barely beat the Warriors in 2015-16 had Kyrie Irving and that Dubs team didn’t have Kevin Durant. This sweep was every bit as much a mismatch as it looked on the television, and it was always very likely to be.

I think we kind of just bully Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is a tremendous player. He’s always been one of the leagues top two or three scorers, and on the Warriors he’s really fleshed out his game. I think Curry is both a better scorer and better player. So what.

But Kevin Durant doesn’t seem to be “cool,” because he doesn’t seem to be comfortable with himself. He seems to need people to like him in a pretty open way. He seems upset about how people judge him for going to the Warriors. He seems to want not just to be validated, but to be publicly validated. Kevin Durant clearly wants to be loved, and seems driven to address every negative thought anyone has about him — his two rings, two finals MVPs, and millions of dollars don’t seem to have done anything to make him feel that much better.

To be honest, all that is really relatable and I wonder if a lot of the flack he gets isn’t any more complicated than it was on the school yard. People think he’s a nerd and heckle him. I don’t know.

Trust the Process?

I’ve kind of pulled a Taylor Swift here and decided to exclude myself from narratives about whether the Warriors are morally good or morally bad. I was furious when LeBron and Chris Bosh went to the Heat in much the way people are that KD went to the Warriors. But in 2010, my team was good, and now it is bad — what is it to me who wins the championship?

Still, I can’t decide if people hate the Warriors more because it’s boring to have the same team win so much or so easily, or because of the KD thing. The first thing is perfectly plausible — Steph missed six of their first eight playoff games in 2016, and their first six in 2018 and it never really mattered, for example. Meanwhile, the Cavs somehow lost 10 points every second LeBron spent on the bench. And the second thing makes intuitive sense. The Warriors had the best regular season ever and then added on of the top 3-4 players in the game today. That’s rough, and lame.

On the other hand, there is a major difference between the Warriors’ super-star teamup and the other ones we remember — whether the Karl Malone and Gary Payton Lakers, the Heatles, the KG Celtics, even the 2016 Warriors. The Warriors did it the way everyone says they want to see teams do it, through the draft. And they didn’t even tank. Steph was a No. 7 pick, Klay was an No. 11 pick, and Draymond was a No. 35 pick.

Meanwhile, the Sixers — who don’t please everybody either, of course — have been trying for half a decade now to get great young players through the draft, then add a superstar or two through free agency — LeBron James, perhaps. That’s literally what the Warriors did. Again, whether it’s good or bad in either case, I leave to you, gentle reader, but it’s hard to believe that many people don’t treat the Warriors differently than they would the Sixers, if the latter became a world-killer, just because the former was already so good without that star, which seems like a not-very-important difference.

I think I’m supposed to feel the Rockets are morally superior to this?

One more point in this direction. James Harden should probably be on the verge of winning his third MVP in three years. I’m glad he isn’t — Westbrook’s 30-point triple-double season was fun and more interesting and I feel great about it. But none of that means that Harden hasn’t been perhaps the best regular season player for three years in a row.

This last offseason, of course, Chris Paul, one of the greatest players of all-time, and still at the tail-end of his prime — half a year younger than LeBron — decided to leave a perennial contender to play with him. It’s not that that’s totally inexplicably, it’s just not really different from KD leaving his perennially contending team for one he thought was more likely to win. And if LeBron, or whoever, goes to the Rockets this offseason with the express purpose of dethroning the Champs, it’ll be extremely not different.

In short, I think people who find the Warriors’ dominance dull have a point, and people who think KD joining an already great team was kind of lame have a point, and people who are desperate for interesting story lines for 2018-2019 have a point. But a lot of people may also be trying to find moral and logical reasons not to like something they don’t like for emotional reasons, and that can only be overcome by other teams making those exact same choices which we, if we don’t like them, shouldn’t want to see other teams make. To which I say: have your emotions, man. It’s just sports.

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