It happened again. The Warriors are back, though it’s not like they actually left.
Call it a forced sabbatical; a paid leave of absence, if you will.
Much like a sabbatical, the Warriors returned from their two-year hiatus reinvigorated. It took a while for all the pieces to come together, but by the end, it looked a hell of a lot like the same old Warriors.
A 103-90 win over the Boston Celtics, in Boston — just the second time ever an away team has clinched a title there — cemented a season some thought impossible.
Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and even Andre Iguodala now have four championships with the franchise.
The core of this dynasty hasn’t changed. It’s still about those threes, the relentless, innovative defense, and most of all, a “keep doubting us, we love it” confidence that spits in the face of many hot-take artists that wrote this team off.
That Game 4 changed it. You could feel it, right?
That East Coast toxicity, the jeering and “F**k You Draymond!” chants, it all crumbled under the weight of a 43-point performance from Stephen Curry. And from that point on, the Warriors had them.
They had the Celtics, their fans, anyone with a vested interested in the franchise, firmly shook.
Therein lies the difference between sports fandom between the East and West Coasts. As someone who experienced it growing up in New Jersey, there is a chasmic gap in confidence.
You have delusion on the East, but so much of the aggressive trash talk comes from a place of insecurity. The weather’s worse, everyone’s on edge, and you can’t really trust your team to come through when it matters.
The fans in Boston tonight were uproarious, then stunned to silence. Curry has a propensity to do that to everyone, but the difference is so much more pronounced in a town like Boston.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their anxiety is fluid and has the ability to lift teams to highest highs, but the moment that armor’s dented, it’s difficult to heal.
But out here, there’s a sense of ease, a steady confidence.
There is an imagination, a hopefulness, a deep-seated belief that success will come which borders on cockiness on the West Coast.
It wasn’t always that way for the Warriors, but once you’ve seen enough of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, you start setting certain expectations.
If you’re a fan of the Warriors, Giants and 49ers, well, you’ve got reason to be confident. Every single team has competed for multiple championships in the last decade.
So while the rest of the sports world was shocked at the Warriors’ run, they had that Bay Area confidence. It never evaporated.
And they hear everything. Curry called himself “the petty king” after donning an “Ayesha Curry CAN Cook” shirt earlier this series. Thompson, after securing the title, called Jaren Jackson Jr. a “bum” regarding a petty tweet on his end from March.
They hear it. And they’ll let you hear it in return.
Green said after losing in 2019 to the Toronto Raptors that it’s not smart to doubt the Warriors. Curry said after last season that no one’s going to want to see the Warriors this year. Green predicted earlier this year they’d win the title. And Kerr told his team after Game 5 that they’d close this series out in Boston.
There was a pervasive feeling that the Warriors had broken Boston in that game. The Celtics had flinched first, becoming the first of the two teams to lose consecutive games in the playoffs. Golden State saw the chum in the water and pounced.
Even as Boston jumped out to a 12-2 lead, the Warriors just seemed to be biding their time. A few minutes later, they went on a torrid, 21-0 run and established control over the game without ever relinquishing it.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, Curry told the Boston crowd to ring him.
Then he put the crowd to sleep.
We shouldn’t be shocked.
But it is an increasingly difficult time to take a breath and have perspective. And while you knew if the Warriors could get everyone on the court at the same time, they’d compete again, you never knew if they could get everyone back, or if they could all get up to speed simultaneously.
It took until the start of the playoffs for Curry, Thompson and Green to actually play together.
But with every game, you saw that muscle memory come back and that familiarity grow with the new pieces of Poole, Wiggins, Porter Jr., Bjelica, even the young guys.
That is an important reminder.
They won these Finals without asking anything from their youngest players.
Joe Lacob and Bob Myers’ gambit paid off in astonishing fashion. Earlier this year, Andre Iguodala said their approach of retaining the young core of James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody instead of acquiring a veteran “disrespects” Curry’s legacy.
But it worked. The Warriors don’t even have to look to make any acquisitions next season, just focus on some high-priced retentions.
Their entire offseason will be based around trying to keep the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II and Kevon Looney. Joe Lacob has shown he’s willing to pay deep into the tax to retain everyone as long as the Warriors are competitive.
If Wiseman can actually get healthy, they’d have a young, athletic center. Kuminga has already shown he’s got limitless potential. And Moody, who had a 30-point game in his rookie season, did enough on both ends to warrant key minutes against the Dallas Mavericks.
Those guys are going to improve next season.
So who’s to say that the dynasty isn’t just opening another chapter?
That Curry, the most well-conditioned athlete in the league, won’t remain outrageous?
That Thompson, now with his sea legs under him, won’t rediscover his consistency?
That Green won’t continue to affect the game on both ends?
That Lacob won’t pay to keep all the other key pieces around?
With so much youthful talent surrounding that veteran core — a group that’s damn near certain it will be in the Finals every year when at full strength — it’s a foolish endeavor to ever write them off again.