Like Andy Dufresne raising his arms to the heaven as rains pour down on his free body, recently escaped from Shawshank, so too do the Warriors exit the regular season.
The playoffs, the Zihuatanejo of basketball, await.
All right, so maybe it’s a bit of “writer’s hyperbole”, as we said this morning, to draw the analogy of the 82-game regular season as a prison sentence. But it’s not that far off.
As this Warriors dynasty ages year by year, so, too, do the burden of expectations increase. Any team with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry — not to mention Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and now DeMarcus Cousins — should be a lock for the NBA title, right?
And that same team should cruise through those meaningless games vs. the Phoenix Suns of the world, en route to locking up the 1-seed and a path to another Larry O’Brien Trophy. Right?
It should be harmony and talent and ball movement and relishing the moment.
If anything, we’ve seen the Warriors, attempting to become the first NBA team to three-peat since the Kobe-Shaq Lakers of 2000-02, attempting to become the first team to make five consecutive NBA Finals since the Bill Russell Celtics (!!), show the stress and fatigue and wear from that most obvious of things: human nature.
— Draymond lashing into Durant back in November in that Clippers loss in L.A., starting the yelling match that ended in Draymond’s suspension and surely, according to the pundits, the end of the dynasty.
— Durant going through a winter bout of saltiness with the media, replete with the White Sox hat and admonitions to “Grow up” to the scribes.
—Durant, asked if they needed to play with more anger, seemingly mocking Steve Kerr by saying, “Oh, I thought we moved off joy?”
— Blowout home losses to the Bucks, Lakers, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, Mavericks and even the lowly Suns.
— Kerr, caught on camera, mouthing the famous words: “I am so f—- tired of Draymond’s s—-”
— And just for nuisance sake, bench player Jordan Bell earning a suspension for allegedly charging a candle to assistant coach Mike Brown’s hotel bill. Oy.
Through all that, the Warriors won 57 games. Funny, until the magical first title of the Kerr run, the 67-win season of 2014-15, “50” was the magic number that once represented the best records in Warriors history — 51 wins in 1972, 59 wins in 1976, 55 wins in 1992 and 50 wins in 1994. Now, “57” seems like a letdown. Granted, a 1-seed’s worth. But a letdown.
That is, unless you realize that the 57 wins were earned in the basketball equivalent of a prison sentence.
And now, the Warriors are free.
Jeff Van Gundy heard the prison analogy this morning on our show and seemed caught off guard, which proves he is unused to some of the ridiculous things I say on a daily basis.
But he acknowledged that the fans probably feel what the team has projected. I refer you to the laundry list of items above.
And now, the Warriors are free.
They are judged on their playoff runs. The judging has gone quite well in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Not so much in 2016, despite a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Incredibly, it’s only taken five years of this historic, unforgettable run to have Warriors players and fans antsy for the real games. The 82-game slog is beneath us now. It’s all about April, May and June.
Whether or not we deserve criticism for our insanely high standards, or understanding because it only proves we are human, and that the burden of expectation will affect everyone, does not matter. What matters is that we are here. Andy Dufresne is through the sewage and into the cleansing rain.
The journey to Zihuatanejo begins. Get busy enjoying it.