We waited all season for the Golden State Warriors to resemble the masterpiece that saw the 73-win team come oh so close to capping off the greatest season of all time. That team played with a fury unseen by a championship team in league history. Despite winning the title, they played with a chip on their shoulder reserved for the heaviest underdogs. Coupled with the joy that came with the most unreal offensive season ever from Stephen Curry, the Warriors were a hard show to follow. Then they signed Kevin Durant.
To the chagrin of the rest of the league, media, fans, and even players themselves, the Warriors easily outclassed the NBA by leaps and bounds. The offense was historically efficient and unstoppable. The defense, led by Draymond Green could turn itself on at any time and shut down an entire game.
But playing the baseline of the new-look Warriors was that they were boring. Maybe not as relative to the rest of the league. They are still the class of the entire world, and providing glimpses of exceptionalism in every game that are only possible a few times a season for other franchises. Relative to the last couple years, however, this iteration proved more of an efficient, ruthless, and consistently droning machine along the lines of the connotation of the San Antonio Spurs.
So when Kevin Durant went down the one silver lining was what became mandatory if the Warriors wanted to win in his absence. For a while the Warriors refused to go according to plan. That’s not how sports, or real life, works. You can’t just revert back to who you were when you spend 50+ games trying to work your schemes, habits, and personalities around one player. So they struggled mightily.
Klay Thompson couldn’t shoot. The bench couldn’t score. The team couldn’t defend. Draymond Green couldn’t play-make without scorers. And finally, Stephen Curry couldn’t nail an open shot to save his life. They got blown out, played even worse in close games, and no amount of excuses could save them from the avalanche of criticism and panic that swept the organization that roared in approval of their impending collapse.
Then a couple rest days coupled with a few bad visiting teams at home started the healing process. The puzzle pieces started to fall back into place. Regression always wins. The shots that had always gone in that mysteriously stopped, resumed its natural trajectory. And in KD’s absence, the defense that relied on his length and versatility dug into Ron Adams’ scheme and reverted back to the championship squad from 2015.
When Zaza Pachulia’s head speared KD’s knee, the only silver lining one could even remotely think of was the shorter timeline of rehab that seemed to match what Curry saw in last year’s playoffs. Instead, it appears that his absence has forced the Warriors into an ugly set of games that has triggered the necessity for this team to revert back to the scrappy, defense-first, Curry-led offense that brought them past teams like the Thunder and Cavs in the first place.
Now with Durant on the horizon for a late season return the Warriors are a fun team to watch again. Curry has reached a rhythm that rivals last year, the defense akin to 2015, and the rest of the bench chipping in just enough to keep the flow going. Now add Durant and we have the hypothetical scenario where Durant not only pushes the Warriors to their second title but to another plane of basketball never before seen on the hardwood.
It didn’t seem like it was going to happen this year regardless of a championship. Ironically enough, an unfortunate injury might have forced the Warriors into an even greater version of themselves, more unstoppable than ever before.