Eight thoughts from the Golden State Warriors Eight year run (2015-2022)
16) Their 4th Championship was certainly their least expected one
After 6 finals appearances in the last 8 years - The Golden State/San Francisco Warriors just completed the most unlikely title run out of all 4 of their NBA championships.
The late great Jerry Krause (former General Manager of the 6x Champion Chicago Bulls) was right. Organizations, and organizational structures do matter.
But, as Steve Kerr said after his team clinched their 4th title - “You win a lot when you hang out with a lot of superstars” (paraphrased quote).
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8 thoughts from the Warriors 8 year run
1- The last team to make 6 finals appearances in 8 years, was the Chicago Bulls
I am not meaning to rain on the Warriors parade, but the Bulls simply did it better. There are many reasons for this. I will give you 3-4 examples just for emphasis.
1st best reason why the Bulls did it better than the Warriors: The Bulls 3-peated. Correction; The Bulls 3-peated, 2 times. 3 x 2 = 6 Championships. The only person I can think of (in America) that could convince millions of people that 6 is not greater than four, is Donald Trump.
1st part of the 2nd best reason why the Bulls did it better than the Warriors: When the Bulls won a then record 72 games, they actually capped it off with a title.
2nd part of the 2nd best reason why the Bulls did it better than the Warriors: When the Warriors won 73 games they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals, and had to settle for runner-up despite their record breaking regular season.
3rd best reason why the Bulls did it better than the Warriors (which actually just is an elaboration on the main reason): The Warriors story is quite incredible. But, the Bulls story is simply iconic.
I’m happy for Steph Curry, capping off his resume with a Finals MVP. He now can retire with all the accolades he needs to seal his legacy. And despite his ego-less team ball mentality, there is no way that Finals MVP didn’t mean so much to him. For a guy as competitive and driven as him, you know he wanted that Finals MVP trophy, badly! As Bill Simmons would say - “He is now firmly enshrined in the Wine Cellar” (with all the other Greatest players ever). In fact Bill Simmons did say on his podcast that Steph Curry is now in his TOP 10, a mere inches behind Kobe in his all-time rankings.
For Steph Curry, this is a season for the ages. He not only won his first Finals MVP trophy, but he also broke the record for most 3-pointers made in NBA history. I’m happy he did it in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. (It’s almost a consolation prize for the Knicks perpetual bleakness, season after season after season).
3 - Who is saltier about this title, Kevin Durant or LeBron James? Both have their reasons not to rejoice
Let’s take a closer look at this;
A year ago in the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets looked like they were destined to make the Finals. Until injuries, Giannis’s super-human performance and KD’s left big toe got in their way.
A year later the Nets, lead by Kevin Durant - got swept out of the playoffs in the first round (by the team who just lost the Finals to the Warriors). Nobody would have predicted that the 2022 Nets would look so much weaker than the 2022 Warriors.
LeBron James has been trying to self-identify himself as the GOAT since he won his 3rd title in 2016.
At that time, LeBron had 3 chips, and Steph Curry had 1. Since that time over the last 6 years, LeBron has led his team to the title 1 more time, while Steph has won 3 more titles. They are now all tied up at 4 apiece. 10 years ago (at the end of the 2012 Finals) if you were to bet who ended up with more Championships by the end of their career, between LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry: Would you all be laughing at Steph being considered on that list with those other two super-stars?
Well, now it’s 2022, who do you realistically think is going to end up with the most championships out of these three first ballot (no questions asked) hall of fame players?
4 - After sweeping the Nets 4-0, over the next 20 games played, the Celtics were a .500 basketball team - Finishing the postseason with an overall record of 14-10
To this incredibly relevant point, maybe we should have realized more of the warning signs when the Celtics seemed to not be able to put away a depleted Miami Heat team, and barely hung on to Win Game 7 against them.
5- Jalen Brown, not Jayson Tatum, was the Celtics best player in these Finals
Like, what the heck happened to Tatum? He did not show up for any 4th quarter of this Finals. Was he hurt? Was the spotlight too big for him? By the way - Jayson Tatum had 100 total turnovers for the 2022 postseason.
The fact that after the 2020 bubble playoffs, the Denver Nuggets were the only team out of the TOP 4 finishers to get out of the first round of the playoffs the next year, is also nuts. This is not the NFL where parity reigns supreme. NBA teams with their nucleus intact usually have a nice 3-5 year run. Hence, why the Warriors are already the early favorite to win the 2023 championship.
LA Lakers - 2020 Champs, eliminated in round 1 in 6 games - 2021
Miami Heat - 2020 Runner-ups, eliminated in round 1 (in a sweep) - 2021
Boston Celtics - 2020 Eastern Conference Runner ups, eliminated in round 1 (in 5 games) - 2021
Denver Nuggets 2020 Western Conference runner-ups, advanced to round 2 of 2021 playoffs (lost in 4 games) → 10 total games played that postseason.
Between those four teams that went deep in the playoffs in 2020, they collectively played a total of 25 games in the 2021 postseason. The Celtics played 24 total games this 2022 postseason. If they forced a game 7 against the Warriors, they would have matched that number.
Maybe Tatum wasn’t hurt, but he was just totally gassed. The Warriors took care of business early in each series and played a total of 22 postseason games. Every game for the Celtics seemed like a dog-fight. As for the Warriors, some of the games they played in were quite lopsided (for better and worse).
7A - I wish Kris Middleton was healthy enough to play for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2nd round series against the Celtics
This was a great 2nd round series. Even though Middleton didn’t play, if I’m the Bucks, I’m haunted by the fact that I punted on the last regular season game when I could have had home-court for Game 7 versus the Celtics. Instead, they get lit up in Game 7 by nominal role player - Grant Williams who had the game of his life. Not so coincidentally, the Celtics no longer had home court advantage against their next two playoff opponents, and the amazing home playoff game played by Grant Williams, never even came close to being replicated on the road.
Honestly, the Bucks seemed a bit wobbly all regular season. Why they didn’t just turn on the jets and win 55-60 games this year is still a bit baffling. They not only should have been the 2 seed over the Celtics, they should have been competing for the #1 seed throughout all of the playoffs.
Some argue that home-court is overrated, but role players have a tendency to play better at home then on the road. Again, Grant Williams, is the best and most recent example of this phenomenon. Seeding does matter, and the fact that the Bucks didn't seem to take the regular season as seriously as they could have - it’s as if the Basketball Gods punished them with bad injury luck. This Bucks team had an amazing opportunity to repeat as Champions and they instead got bounced in round two.
7B - How many injuries happened in these 20 months because of so much basketball being played?
I’m not even going to include Anthony “Street Clothes” Davis, or other prominent names like Kawhi Leonard, (who seems injured quite frequently, too). Just know that there has been tons of basketball played over the last 20 months, and an ample number of injuries to go with it. But, lets take a look at a handful of players from this season, and how many regular season/playoff games they played.
i- Jamal Murray has been injured since April of the 202-2021 season, and has not returned to action
ii - *Devin Booker - has played in 68 out of a possible 82 regular season games, and 13 out of a possible 13 postseason games.
Notable Bucks names are:
iii- *Kris Middleton - has played in 66 out of a possible 82 regular season games, and 2 out of a possible 12 postseason games.
iv - *Jrue Holiday - has played in 67 out of a possible 82 regular season games, and all 12 postseason games.
v - Giannis Antetokounmpo - has played in 67 out of 82 regular season games, and all 12 postseason games
*Booker, Middleton, and Holiday all played on the USA Olympic basketball team in the summer of 2021. Murray seemed to have really rotten injury luck. As for Giannis, the wrap on him is that he’s jus too intense of a player for his own good.
8 - The Warriors are The New England Patriots of the NBA:
Two assistant Coaches just got head coaching jobs from the Warriors roster. Granted, Kenny Atkinson just spurned the Hornets. Was that Steve Kerr’s machiavellian play to get back at MJ for giving him that black eye back in the 1996 training camp, when they were teammates?
Organizations ultimately do matter. Out of all the organizations LeBron played for, he did have the most success in Miami. Two titles, compared to 1 title in dysfunctional Cleveland, and 1 title in dysfunctional yet sunny Los Angeles. When people talk about Heat Culture, there definitely is something to the infrastructure Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra built.
I’m looking forward to the definitive book being written on this Warriors team. Ethan Strauss wrote an excellent book on this team during their original unlikely rise, and then their ultimate fall once Kevin Durant left. But, even Strauss would say his book wasn’t the definitive one. And he would also say he never saw this 2021-2022 Championship squad coming.
And even though I kept on picking against these Warriors the last two rounds, my cap’s off to them. They got the job done. We all can learn something from what they have been able to accomplish, both this year and over the last 8 years.
Peace & Love
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