In the brand new world in which the concept of history isn’t really what happened but what we’re pretty sure is about to happen, the Golden State Warriors are all about that history on the hoof.
Friday night they are confronted with the grandest closeout of them all because if they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers one last time, they will become (a) NBA champions, (b) the best playoff team ever, (c) the dynasty best positioned to threaten the 1960s Celtics, (d) the team that broke the NBA, and (e) the new galactic standard in all sport.
And all that history makes general manager Bob Myers just the teensiest bit nervous.
“I try not to take notice of a lot of external stuff,” he said Thursday, “but I know it’s all around right now. To me, (talking about) history makes more sense after it’s done. Maybe that’s because right now we’re just in the middle of it, but we know we’ve been on both ends of history in the last couple of years, so I guess we won’t really comprehend it until we’re all looking back at it.”
That’s all well and good, him acknowledging that being in the middle of the maelstrom inures him from the buffeting without, but it is unavoidable. Even the historical bits that could have been – like if the Warriors hadn’t taken Game 81 Utah so lightly (no Klay Thompson at all, almost no starters in the fourth quarter, nobody else playing 30 minutes except Kevin Durant, who needed the reps), they could be aiming for their 32nd consecutive victory going back to the middle of March
The NBA record for consecutive wins is 33, by the 1971-2 Los Angeles Lakers.
In other words, numbers whores everywhere would be looking at a team with the best postseason record ever, and the longest winning streak ever. If that’s your idea of history, they’d have run the table.
One more missed opportunity for true definable metric greatness, ignored by the old fusspot Steven Douglas Kerr, who was with the 1996 72-win-and-take-no-prisoners Chicago Bulls, who went 15-3 in the postseason.
“Yeah, I remember that well. We were up 3-0 in the Finals, too, and then we lost the next two games in Seattle. It's hard. In the playoffs, every team is good. Particularly as you go deeper, it gets tougher and tougher. So what this team has accomplished is remarkable.
But . . . ?
“You don't really stop and think about it until after. I think we swept Orlando in the conference finals, which was probably the biggest accomplishment, because that was a loaded team. Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) and Penny (Hardaway), and we took care of business. And then went up 3-0 in The Finals, and had a little bit of a letdown. That was a great team, too, with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, Hersey Hawkins, that group. But in the end you just want to win. The other stuff doesn't really matter. People can talk about it in historical context, but you just get it done, win the series and let everybody else talk.”
All true, as far as it goes. This Warrior team is about the oppressive now even more than the potentially dictatorial future. You aren’t a dynasty until you are a dynasty, and the Warriors even with a win Friday would only be a dynast-ette.
But they also look like they have the stuff to win several more if they can avoid the greed/ego/credit deprivation/injury/plain old crazy-for-the-sake-of-being-crazy landmines along the way. They look so much like The New World Order to the point where even LeBron James looked wistfully at the team that is about to elbow him, his mates and his adopted city in the throat and evaluated the Warriors not emotionally but clinically and expansively, and even with admiration.
“Oh, I mean, it’s part of the rules,” he said when asked if the Warriors acquiring Durant was good for the league or even, well, fair. “The best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted. They drafted a lot of their guys. Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing Barbosa and Bogut and guys from last year's team. So that allowed them to go do that.
“But is it fair? I don't care. I mean, I think it's great. It's great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am I to say if it's fair or not? No matter who I'm going against, if I'm going against four Hall of Famers, like I said before the series started with Draymond, Klay, Steph and K.D., or if I'm going against two or whatever the case may be, I'm always excited to play the game, and I'm not one to judge and say if it's fair or not if guys are adding players to their team.”
This is the equivalent of being run over by a truck and admiring the high-pinion Dana 70 axles as it passes overhead.
That’s where the Warriors are leaving us, though, and even if they don’t finish the deal Friday, Monday looks no less foreboding.
So if you’re reveling in the history, and the triumph of perfection in construction, you win, as long as you don’t mind endless arguments with birdbrained recidivists who think Durant should have signed with the Philadelphia 76ers and built a team from scratch.
But for them, there’s this, from James.
“That's what you want to do,” he said completing his soliloquy on how the Warriors were built. “Is it fair that the New York Yankees in the '90s was adding piece after piece after piece after piece? I mean, if you have the opportunity to do that – is it fair that the Cowboys added Deion Sanders? I mean, listen. It happens. It's sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not?”
And in closing:
“If I become an owner, I'm going to try to sign everybody. Appreciate it.”
He is, clearly. Even if he is doing it between clenched teeth.