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Without Kevin Durant, it’s easy to like the Golden State Warriors

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The Golden State Warriors are easy to root for again.

The Golden State Warriors are easy to root for again.
Image: fake images

There was something about Kevin Durant on the Golden State Warriors that nearly ruined basketball. It was never about burner counts and snowflake sensitivity. The lack of competitive advantage made the NBA difficult to enjoy while Durant was in the Bay Area from 2016 to 2019. Now that he’s three seasons out, the Warriors have taken that time to rebuild during the draft. As a result, the team we’ve seen in the Finals was built through organic means, except for Andrew Wiggins’ brilliant but understated trade at the time. So what’s left to hate?

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Those who can’t shake Durant’s anger lazily cast Golden State as the villain of recent years. Others point to Steph Curry’s mouth guard chewing. Judging from social media and Reddit threads, Baby Boomers seem to have a sensitivity to Draymond Green’s on-court antics and million-dollar smile. There’s a lot of overlap of Warriors hate with a specific type of Boomer-ish white kid who has suddenly gone with Boston during these Finals.

But the reality is that these Warriors have gone from perhaps the greatest team of all time to underdogs since Durant’s departure. The two seasons between then and now were littered with potentially career-ending injuries to Klay Thompson and brutal losses. The losses were so prominent that the Warriors got the No. 2 pick in the 2020 Draft. The fact that James Wiseman, taken with that pick, hasn’t played a single minute this season is a testament to how the Warriors don’t rely too heavily on any one team. transaction to regain its competitive advantage.

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Thompson might be back, but he’s not the same player he once was, and it appears he’s still suffering from conditioning issues. Green has delivered his elite defense, plays and leadership, but has had a little case of yips this series shooting from the perimeter and around the basket. He seemed to be fine for most of the playoffs, and his game-winning shot was vital against the Mavs. His struggles seem specific to these NBA Finals. Who would have thought Wiggins would earn recognition from him as an All-Star starter this season? He has been a revelation in attack Y defense while making a case for Finals MVP. Minnesota seems like a lifetime ago. And Curry has proven to be back in the Top 5 players in the game’s conversation, posting the best playoff streak of his career.

However, the haters persist. These Warriors have proven capable of taking a hit. They bounced back after falling 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead, winning back-to-back games, one at Boston. His championship pedigree kept them level in the fourth quarter, where his neophyte opponent repeatedly collapsed with compound problems.

Fans who came of age during the ’90s routinely complain on social media about how many complaints there are in the game today. But after a close reading of these Finals, almost the entire Warriors team refrains from complaining to the referees. Instead, the team’s frustrations and emotional temper are channeled through their leader Green and Coach Kerr. The team cleverly uses these two to be the expressive voice of the team, allowing the rest of the key players (Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Poole) to stay out of technical foul trouble and the wrath of the referee.

The Warriors are no longer the superteam they once were. Of the eight-man rotation Kerr has primarily used in these Finals, five (Curry, Thompson, Green, Kevon Looney, Jordan Poole) were drafted by Golden State. Gary Payton Jr. was written out of the G-League by the team’s front office, while Otto Porter Jr. signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal last offseason. When Wiggins was traded to Golden State for D’Angelo Russell in 2020, most pundits thought Minny had earned that deal, as Wiggins was known as a stat-empty guy who didn’t play defense. Instead, he has been the greatest example of Golden State development and culture, as has completely rewritten his career.

Again, what is there to hate? The Warriors went from tough to underdog in three grueling seasons. They experienced bottom line losses with no guarantee that they would ever regain contention, and worse, Thompson would return healthy enough to compete. But, through astute drafting and culture building, the Warriors are back in the Finals and one game away from their fourth championship since 2015. This is arguably the most surprising and perhaps the most challenging. Isn’t it worth celebrating?

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