I'm Rooting for the Warriors Now? Huh?
I've slipped into a Bizarro World. Let me describe it to you.
You ever hear the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"? If someone or something opposes another someone or something that you happen to dislike, then that entity is now an ally of yours, even if he/she/it may not be that appealing in other circumstances. This is the position I find myself in as I watch the NBA playoffs unfold.
I really do not care for Kevin Durant. I think he is a thin-skinned, rude, petulant child, who happens to be a supremely-gifted, 7-foot basketball player. I am not alone in this sentiment. As such, I do not root for him to succeed, and success for him comes in the form of yet another Golden State Warriors title banner being hoisted up into the rafters.
Or does it?
You see, the Warriors can now comfortably claim that they are one of the most hated teams in sports, if not the most hated. This is due to a bevy of factors, as pointed out by The Peanut Gallery's Matthew Novak, not the least of which is just flat-out dominance that people inevitably get tired of. This team wasn't always viewed this way, however.
When the Dubs truly had their coming-out party as they captured the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2015, they were fueled by a crop of homegrown talent in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, as well as an innovative style that has since changed the NBA. They took down big, bad LeBron. They did not sign a bunch of free agent stars in order to become a contender overnight, instead building through the draft. We liked them.
Then they got cocky. Then they signed KD (and eventually, Boogie). And here we are, with the Warriors sporting the title of the undisputed most disliked team in the NBA.
Things have changed a bit over the past few weeks, though. Durant injured his calf against the Rockets. DeMarcus Cousins injured his quad against the Clippers. Boom, that's two seasoned antagonists out of the lineup. To compensate for the loss of star power, the Warriors have decided to...become the Warriors we once knew and loved.
The Dubs have not dropped a game since KD went down. Green, Curry, and Thompson are playing unselfish, creative basketball, constantly cutting through defenses and finding the open man. This is the beautiful style of basketball that initiated this current Warriors dynasty, and that has often been lost with Durant in the mix. When they are clicking, they are far greater than the sum of their parts, instead relying upon the simultaneous versatility and teamwork of everyone on the court.
This is music to the ears of KD-critics.
The main gripe that people had with Durant's decision to join the Warriors was that it was a cop-out. He could not get over the proverbial championship hump in Oklahoma City, so he decided to join a 73-9 team already widely considered one of the greatest in the history of the sport. The same team that had eliminated his Thunder the year before after OKC held a 3-1 lead. Weak.
Nevertheless, you can't knock KD's contributions. Though he joined a superteam, he has been the best player on it. He has won back-to-back Finals MVPs, both of which were well-deserved. He may have joined the Dubs in order to win championships, but he has been the main driving force behind the two that he has won.
Did it matter, though?
That is the question that is being answered every time the KD-less Warriors run their opponent out of the gym. Since joining Golden State in 2016, the Warriors are 33-4 when Durant sits and Curry plays. 33-4. Conversely, when Durant is in the lineup and Curry is not, they are a relatively pedestrian 28-18. Kevin Durant has been the brightest star in the constellation that is the Golden State Warriors. But it turns out, he likely didn't need to be. The Splash Brothers might still have three rings.
So here I am, having slipped into some strange Bizarro World in which I root for the Warriors to win it all, so long as they do it without Durant (he might return in the middle of the Finals). He has a long and well-documented history of being a mega-jerk to fans, reporters, referees, teammates, and opponents alike, so I fully support his rings being hollowed out through the revelation that he has been inconsequential over the last three years. The enemy (the Warriors winning without KD) of my enemy (KD) is my friend.