I’ve spent much of this summer reading about feuds and fights. First it was Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift getting into it on Twitter, then Meek Mill and Drake decided to go at it gloves off, hammers and tongs and diss tracks mandatory.
But by far the most exciting ongoing feud in my mind has to be the entire NBA against the Golden State Warriors.
For those who slept through the months of May and June, the coronation of the Cavaliers/Spurs/Hawks as presumptive NBA champions was a little premature. While the Western Conference Playoffs were expected to be a bloodbath, even the Eastern Conference got into the act, with surprisingly high levels of parity across all teams in the postseason.
Adding in the effects of injuries to so many key players (read: Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook, Wes Matthews, John Wall, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Pau Gasol, Mike Conley, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving) across the playoffs, the NBA playoffs became a war of attrition. And as it turns out, the winners of that war were the Golden State Warriors.
The fact is that very few undeserving teams, if any, ever end up claiming the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Every team knows just how hard it is to claim a title, and thus the champs are afforded respect, no matter how begrudgingly.
The Warriors, somehow, are undeserving of this respect. LeBron James, when asked about Golden State’s victory just after it clinched the title, couldn’t wait to talk about how he dragged a team to the finals minus Love and Irving, strongly hinting that with his guys fully assembled, the series would be a cakewalk.
The Los Angeles Clippers got in on the act as well, with head coach Doc Rivers saying, on the record, that Golden State got lucky in the playoffs, having avoided both the Spurs and the Clippers en route to the finals. Traditionalists like Charles Barkley, who doubted the Warriors because of their three-and-D style, also took note of the relatively easy path the Warriors had to the title.
Quite frankly, while this entire situation is a fantastic look into the psyche of most NBA players and franchises, the argument itself is baloney.
The other teams that are complaining? Yeah, they had a chance to play the Warriors in the regular season. Most of them ended up getting crushed by a juggernaut, as the Dubs were the best offense and defense in the league en route to a 67-15 record. The Warriors, according to some metrics, were one of the greatest NBA teams of all time.
The Warriors did a wonderful job staying out of the headlines last year, saying nothing but nice things about their former coach Mark Jackson even as he mouthed off about them on national TV.
A few weeks ago, the penny finally dropped, and the Warriors started firing insults back. Steph Curry had the greatest comeback I have ever seen (“I apologize for us being healthy. I apologize for us playing who’s in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we’ve received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry.”). Draymond Green compared the Clippers to a scorned lover. And Dubs players kept bringing up the fact that, if the other teams wanted a chance to play Golden State in the playoffs, they shouldn’t have gotten knocked out so early.
All in all, this situation is reflective of the vast gap that still exists between the fundamentalist old-school basketball world and the new-age, analytically-driven future. Old-school analysts still believe in hero-ball, in the contested long 2-point jumper, in pounding the paint and letting players clog up the middle. New-age offenses like the Heat, the Spurs and the Warriors play with pace and space, bombing 3-point jumpers and keeping opponents off balance with variety and dynamic play.
This disconnect fuels a lot of the disrespect of the Warriors, a franchise very new to winning and playing a style of basketball unlike anything most people have seen before. If the Warriors winning a title was insufficient to garner some respect, I begin to wonder if anything will.
One thing is for certain — with all this beefing going on, it’s going to be a fun season to be a basketball fan.
After a dominant season of writing columns, several critics have attributed Vignesh Venkataraman’s success to luck. It remains to be seen whether Viggy’s insistence on ignoring conventional deadlines is a gimmick or the future direction of column writing. Let him know either way at viggy ‘at’ stanford.edu.