Sorry, but I’m not crying for Golden State. I have some compassion for Kevin Durant. But the Warriors? Not a lick.
In case you missed it, Durant injured his left knee early in Golden State’s 112-108 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. Durant did not return to action amid reports that his knee was hyperextended, and the all-knowing Adrian Wojnarowki of Yahoo Sports (and The Vertical) has reported that those close to Durant are bracing for the worst possible news, pending the results of further testing late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
Translation: Durant could be done for the postseason as well as the regular season, and the injury could have even greater ramifications for a player who might have opted out of his contract (presumably to re-sign with Golden State) this summer.
Again, let’s make this clear: no one is wishing ill on Durant, who by all accounts is a decent guy. But it’s hard to not look at the events of last summer and chuckle, at least a little, after the Warriors stacked the deck by adding him as a free agent.
Of course, the Warriors didn’t win the championship last season. But we all know they blew it as much as the Cleveland Cavaliers won it. After going 73-9 during the regular season, the Warriors led the Finals in games, 3-1, with Games 5 and 7 scheduled for their home floor, where they had gone 50-3 to that point in the year. They lost both. And their record 73-9 season became a footnote.
After that, the subsequent addition of Durant changed everything for many of us. We all know that the NBA in recent years has become the worst kind of playground, a place where the best players conspire to rule the court. The Warriors didn’t need Durant, but they grabbed him anyway. You know how it goes. Winners stay.
This may sound inconsistent, but it isn’t. Many of us felt the same way when the Miami Heat lured LeBron James and Chris Bosh into a partnership with Dwyane Wade. The Heat embarrassed themselves with a pep rally that celebrated their greatness — before they played a single game — then went to the Finals for four straight seasons. They won two and lost two. If you ask me, it was an underachievement.
The Warriors? They actually built their team, which made them a novelty. They were young and fun; they played the game with a different style and flair. There was nothing really big-business about them. That all changed when they acquired Durant, when the rich got richer, when they went from lovable up-and-comers to, well, bullies.
Admittedly, this problem is not exclusive to the Warriors. As noted, the Heat stacked the deck, too. In some manner of speaking, so did the Celtics. If the NBA is really interested in making the league interesting, league officials should seriously consider a real salary cap that would effectively prohibit the number of star players on any one roster. But we all know the league will never do that. Former commissioner David Stern decided years ago that the league works best as an oligarchy.
What happens from here during the 2016-17 season? Nobody knows for sure, though the reality is that the storylines in the NBA haven’t changed all that much. Golden State is still the best team in the West, with or without Durant, and Cleveland is the best team in the East. The two should meet in the Finals. Who wins is anybody’s guess, and the fact that Kevin Durant might not be there is certainly unfortunate.
For him, anyway. But not for Golden State.
Not for a second.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.