By this time next week, the NBA playoffs will have begun in earnest. So let’s get this out there now:
If you’re pulling for the Golden State Warriors, shame on you.
Following a presumed victory over the Los Angeles Lakers tonight, the Warriors will finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 67-15, six games off the pace from their record-setting 73-win season of a year ago. But we all know these Warriors are actually better, at least in theory, the most obvious difference being Kevin Durant. The Warriors could fire at you from all directions — and from distance — before Durant signed there last summer. What they can do now is downright silly.
And so really: is it even remotely a good story if the Warriors win the title this summer, particularly after blowing a 3-1 series led to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last year? Or is it just the accreditation of a team that absolutely, positively should win the championship now, especially with the Cavs in a flat spin and Durant having returned to a Golden State lineup that, frankly, doesn’t really need him.
The Warriors are the embodiment of gluttony now, of stacking the deck, of tilting the court so severely in their favor that anything short of a title — and a methodical march to the championship in the process — should be considered a failure.
When you get right down to it, Golden State should win this championship easily. Maybe San Antonio can give them a run. Maybe Cleveland can get its act together. But the bottom line is that Golden State has both the talent and the motivation to win this spring. And that’s hard a thing for anyone else to overcome in a league where talent almost always wins.
But let’s back up here for a second.
If you are still swaddled in your love for the Warriors, fine. You’re probably from the Bay Area. But for the rest of us out here, the Warriors last year went from more-lovable upstarts (even with the 2014-15 title under their belt) to detestable bullies. Before Durant got there, Golden State was regarded by many as a hope for all franchises, a team built through the draft without the benefit of a top-two or three lottery pick. They found Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at places that many other franchises could have, and they augmented those players, while developing them, with shrewd moves.
When the Warriors won the title, they seemingly were proof that you could do it without LeBron. Or Tim Duncan. Or anyone drafted with the first or second pick. They were different.
Then came Durant. And then came what seemed like an attitude that the title was the Warriors’ birthright, not something to wrest from the typical silver-spoon elite of the NBA.
Know what else is unfortunate? Even Golden State’s championship two years ago doesn’t seem so special anymore. In that series, LeBron played without Kevin Love and, ultimately, Kyrie Irving, too. The Cavs actually held a 2-1 lead at one point. James ultimately didn’t have the firepower to prevail, an unfortunate reality for those of us who feel LeBron underachieved in Miami.
In retrospect, the Warriors should have won that series. And they did. But once James got Love and Irving back, well, the Warriors folded like a camping chair, unable to deal with the best player in the world.
So what did they do? They went out and got someone who was the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft — specifically Durant, who was No. 2 — a perfect marriage of people who couldn’t beat LeBron by themselves.
And so now, here we go. It’s the end of the regular season. The fight for the title begins. The Warriors now have the best record in the NBA, again, and the best roster to go with it. The Cavs appear in disarray. And the road to the next NBA title indisputably goes through San Francisco Bay.
If the Warriors don’t win it, now that would be a story.
And that’s why you should be rooting for it.
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.
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