Stay the course

I have a bone to pick with current NBA fandom. They think that only championships count. I disagree.

What is so bad about having a good team that makes the playoffs each year? Take the Mavs, for example. As long as they are pretty good, and have Dirk, they will have TV appeal. The counter example is the recent Lakers. Even with Kobe, I could barely stand to watch.

Kevin Arnovitz made the argument in a recent article:

Is there anything wrong with being very good for a very long time, even if it means only an outside shot for a title in any given season? That’s more or less how the Mavericks won the title in 2011 — a decade of very good basketball gave them enough chances to get lucky.

Or to put it another way, is there any hope a team like this can beat a team like that? Is it time to start over?

Privately, Grizzlies officials believe that the league’s obsession with contention “windows” and the title-or-tank mindset is off the mark.

With no Conley and no Gasol this spring, the Grizzlies will take a mulligan this spring, but the formula in Memphis will remain the same until further notice: 50 wins and a puncher’s chance.

A “punchers chance” is a great way to put it. If, as Doc Rivers suggests, the Warriors got lucky last year because their postseason opponents suffered a rash of injuries, couldn’t any team get lucky?

Look at what just happened in this year’s playoffs – The Warriors lost Steph Curry for 2 weeks, and the Clippers lost Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the season. The Blazers could very well find themselves in the WCF!

And now we are hearing calls to “break up” the Clippers. There is some logic in making Griffin available. But on the other hand, what if the Clippers just stay the course? They are a very good team. Not Warriors/Spurs good. But very good.¬†They have another 3 years of title contention left. Also, Steve Ballmer paid $2 billion for that team. You think he wants to rebuild? And is that even possible with Doc on a long and pricey contract?

What the Spurs have shown, I think, is that continuity is good. There is an astonishingly small amount of practice time in the NBA. Having the same coaches teach the same system to the same guys over multiple years is a powerful advantage.

Obviously, the Warriors are on a whole new level of awesome these days. But before that, honestly, we just wanted the We Believe Warriors to stay together longer. We lionized¬†the Run TMC Warriors, who never contended for championships. We fell in love with tenured players like Adonal Foyle and Monta Ellis. They weren’t great, actually, but they were ours. It was comforting to see them out there year after year.

Plus, re-builds are risky. You don’t really know how long it will take to return to form, let alone exceed.

Basketball has so much to offer fans. If you are only in it for championships, you are missing out.

70

The Warriors notched their 70th win tonight.

Only one other team in history won 70. That was the 95-96 Bulls, who went on to win 72.

If the Warriors win the last 3 games, they will beat the record. If they win 2 of 3, they tie.

Even if they lose-out, this will be historic. They will have the second-best single-season record for as long as the world goes on. Or something.

The point is… Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the historic greatness of this team. No team is great forever. The 00’s Pistons won just one championship, despite being in the East Finals 6 consecutive times.

This is what worries me.

Of course, I hope and expect that the Warriors will win the championship again this year. But after that… I dunno.

Every off-season, teams change. New guys are added via the draft or free agency. Previous brothers are discarded. It’s a brutal calculus.

The Warriors are a fragile snowflake. Yes, the transcendent talent of the first 6 players is a powerful factor. But what if you discard 2-3 of them? Are they really fungible parts? If Kevin Durant wants to join, we’ll find out.

If they stand pat, it’s not really better. Everyone will be a year older next year, and a year older the year after. There is an expiration for all players. For Andrew Bogut and Andre Igouadala, that date is near.

But look, I come here not to bury the Warriors, but to praise them! 70 is a great achievement. Let’s savor the flavor.