Well, that was quick.
Was it just back on June 13, less than a month ago, that Steph Curry launched a shot from the left wing that, had it fallen, would have extended the NBA Finals to a Game 7?
The shot didn’t fall. Toronto won the NBA Finals. The Warriors’ five straight runs of trips to the NBA Finals netted them three championships. Pretty good haul, as I was just saying to my good friends Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Adonal Foyle.
But wow — who would have guessed that 25 days later, I’d be writing a Jock Blog wondering if the 2019-20 Golden State Warriors can even MAKE THE WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS NEXT YEAR?
Like I said, that was quick.
Time’s winged chariot moves fast, but not that fast, right? That’s Formula One speed.
But Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn, wearing a new jersey.
Andre Iguodala is in Memphis, for now.
Klay Thompson is rehabbing a torn ACL.
The Hamptons Five is down to the Hamptons Two, and for good measure, say goodbye to Shaun Livingston while you’re at it. (Throw in DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook, if you’re feeling particularly sentimental. They’re Lakers now. Blecch.)
Now, it’s not all disastrous. Curry remains a Warrior. So does Draymond Green. And say hello to All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell and new center Willie Cauley-Stein.
Plus, Kevon Looney is back. And that is sorta awesome.
But the general feel is still wildly different from the past half-decade, when phrases like “73 wins” and “See you at the parade” were part of the vernacular.
Where does it leave a modern-day Warriors fan?
One, it should leave you in a state of massive appreciation for the glorious half-decade they bestowed upon you. I know gratitude is a super uncool sports take; most sports fans tend to seek out places somewhere between aggrieved and tremendously pissed off. It’s how we do sports talk radio, right?
But unless your name is Tom Brady and you have made some sort of deal with magical aliens, runs come to an end. So time to give your Academy Awards GIF of the standing ovation for the past five years.
Two, it should leave you also in a state of understandable anxiety. It’s not just that the Warriors lost 60 percent of the Hamptons Five in about five minutes. It’s also that the rest of the Western Conference, which was already breathing down the Warriors’ neck, is in some sort of nuclear arms race to see who can have the most buffed out roster. Anthony Davis joining LeBron James on the Lakers was one thing. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining an already tough Clippers team is a whole ‘nother thing. Not to mention Mike Conley joining Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in Utah. Or Jerami Grant joining Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in Denver. Or Derrick Favors and JJ Reddick joining Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday in New Orleans.
The Warriors changed the standard of roster strength in the past five years. Now they must deal with Frankenstein’s monster.
Three, you should also probably feel some degree of relief that general manager Bob Myers and the crew is trying to stay a step ahead of Father Time. A step ahead is not “light years”, but Joe Lacob has always been known for his verbal pizzazz. But by avoiding the Durant luxury tax penalty and bidding a painful farewell to Iguodala, the team is not getting into the kind of salary hell that, say, their new China Basin baseball neighbors seemed to embrace too readily.
I know Lacob was ready to pay $1.6 billion over the next four years had Durant stayed, but the team is probably more ready to be nimble and quick without that yoke.
Look, Russell could be a trade piece. A $17 million trade exception comes their way next July. Draft picks like Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, and Alan Smailagic will have their chances to grow.
But the Warriors will not be the title favorites when Chase Center opens. Hell, they may be fighting for a 7 seed. This is the new reality, sports fans. You either learn it now, or you get flattened by the surprise next spring.