Dan Hayes

From laughing stock to dynastic, Warriors unlock new status with second title

From laughing stock to dynastic, Warriors unlock new status with second title

Welcome to the Land of the Loathed, Warriors fans.

It hasn’t happened yet, but the heel turn is coming.

Count on it.

On the verge of becoming a dynasty after they closed out their second NBA championship in three seasons Monday night with a 4-1 series victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors have unlocked a new status level previously unimaginable. For the first time since the 49ers ran the NFL in the 1980s and 90s, a Bay Area franchise truly qualifies as that team, the one your friends love to hate because they’re so damn good.

They’re not yet Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. They haven’t quite reached the same level as the late 1990s New York Yankees. But if the core four stay healthy and continue on together, the Warriors are on their way. They’re already the Boston Red Sox, the Miami Heat with LeBron James and the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

And what a strange place this is to be.

Chew on this fact -- this is the Warriors, a franchise whose history is littered with more missteps than Mikey’s ill-fated drunk dial in ‘Swingers.’

This is the team that once traded away Robert Parrish and the No. 3 pick, which turned into Kevin McHale, so it could move up and select Joe Barry Carroll. It’s the same franchise that only year after trading everything to select him with the first overall pick, swapped Chris Webber for Tom Gugliotta. And then there was that time that star guard Latrell Sprewell choked out P.J. Carlisiemo.

But those are just the highlights.

If you’ve lived and died with the Warriors, you remember so much more. Bill Simmons perfectly encapsulated the hell of being a Golden State fan five years ago with a cringe worthy 4,000-word piece on 60 horrifying moments in franchise history. Reading that May 2012 piece probably felt to many of you as if you’d purposely slammed your head into a desk over and over and over.

It hasn’t all been bad.

There was the Rick Barry title in 1975-76 that many of you weren’t alive to witness.

The Run TMC days made the Warriors a household name again for a few seasons. Sarunas Marciulionis and Manute Bol were fun.

Short-lived as it was, The Baron Davis Era was fantastic.

But the highlights have been few and far between and dominated by years of misery.

Remember when the arrival of Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson pumped life into the Oracle Arena crowd? The Larry Hughes-Vonteego Cummings’ backcourt appeared to have promise. Monta Ellis looked like a star in the making.

None of it panned out.

And yet here they are.

As long as Kevin Durant and Steph Curry stick around, the Warriors appear capable of doing this to the rest of the league for quite some time. The 2016-17 offense put together one of the most efficient postseasons of all time en route to the best postseason record (16-1) in NBA history.

How did this franchise manage to become that team?

They’re young, too.

Curry is 29. Durant is 28. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are 27.

If everyone stays healthy, the possibility of sustained dominance is high as long as the league’s current rules remain in place. And that means the potential for becoming annoying to anyone who isn’t a Warriors fan is extremely high.

Golden State’s brilliance is undeniable. They’ve proven to be that much better than everyone else on the court time and again, including beating one of the league’s all-time greats twice in three consecutive NBA Finals.

Players know they’re good. They like to celebrate as evidenced by Curry’s high steps, Green’s flexing, etc.

In Green, they have the perfect villain, a player who is intelligent on the court, plays at an intense level and wears his emotions on his sleeve. Throw in the mercenary factor they gained when Durant spurned Oklahoma City to join the Warriors and they have all the ingredients necessary.

The haters are headed this direction and they’re coming in droves.

And it’s just so damn weird.

3-1 again? Adversity comes hissing back to Warriors in worst possible way

3-1 again? Adversity comes hissing back to Warriors in worst possible way

CLEVELAND -- A long, long time ago Indiana Jones was always griping about snakes.

Snakes. Why did it always have to be snakes?

After Friday night’s loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Warriors fans know the same feeling all too well after missing out on a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As in, 3-1, why did it have to be a 3-1 series lead?

On the verge of being spared from reliving the torment that was the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors failed to close out the annual showdown with LeBron James in tidy fashion. Instead, they had their doors blown off as the Cavaliers rolled to a 137-116 victory in front of a raucous crowd.

The Warriors still have three more chances to complete their championship quest against the Cavaliers, including two at Oracle Arena.

But make no mistake -- Warriors fans wanted this one over and they wanted it now.

They wanted to avoid what comes with this loss, the nonstop razzing associated with the possibility of blowing yet another 3-1 series lead.

Instead, they’ll be subjected to three days’ worth of internet memes, jokes and GIFs about how the 2016 team collapsed and blew a 3-1 lead despite the presence of unanimous MVP Steph Curry.

Oh, the horror. 

Look, this isn’t the same scenario as last June.

It’s not even close.

Curry clearly wasn’t himself last postseason after he suffered an MCL sprain in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. After a four-game absence, Curry returned to the court. But he never appeared to have the same explosiveness the rest of the way and it was never more evident than in the final minutes of their back-breaking Game 7 loss to the Cavs. Curry is the antithesis of that guy this postseason as he’s slicing and dicing his way across the court once again, leaving opponents in his wake.

Then there’s the little matter of Kevin Durant playing in the same role previously held by Harrison Barnes. This is the very reason Durant spurned Oklahoma City last offseason and joined the Warriors, to offer an-already outstanding offense yet another unstoppable force and putting the final piece for a dynasty in place.

Durant has already proven to be the kind of difference-maker in the series that Barnes wasn’t ready to be in 2016. The 2013-14 MVP did irreparable damage to the Cavaliers’ chances in the final two minutes of the Warriors’ stunning Game 3 comeback victory on Wednesday night. Unlike Barnes, who was allowed to shoot from the outside at will during the 2016 NBA Finals, Durant requires a minimum of one defender in his face at all times. He gives the Warriors an overwhelming additional boost they need and they’ve responded so far with one of the most dominant postseason performances of all time. The Warriors have looked unstoppable throughout the playoffs aside from being dominated by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

But that’s where this all bogs down.

Until Friday, the Warriors were on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in the postseason. Fans had yet to experience any emotion except for the joyful bliss of victory.

Adversity has been scarce.

And now it has come hissing back in the worst possible way.

The Cavs brought an intensity unlike any they’d put forth in the series so far but eerily reminiscent of last year’s comeback. They made an NBA Finals-record 24 3-pointers and got 71 combined points from Kyrie Irving (40 points) and James.

If that weren’t enough, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green looked out of sorts in a disjointed game marred by foul calls.

The trio combined for 43 points on 14-of-40 shooting.

Sure, no NBA team that has ever faced a 3-0 deficit in the Finals has come back to win the series. But this is almost exactly the same Cavs team that slithered its way back from a 3-1 deficit last year to stun everyone and send the Warriors home empty-handed.

Then came the clever memes. And the GIFs. And every terrible joke in the book.

Your friends reminded you every step of the way, kind of like falling into a snake pit.

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

Two quick runs off the best pitcher on the planet on Saturday night afforded the Cubs exactly what they needed to snap a 71-year-old drought.

Already confident after consecutive offensive outbursts in the previous two games, a two-run first inning against Clayton Kershaw had Cubs hitters in a positive frame of mind.

They rode the surprising rally and a dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The win earned the Cubs their first NL pennant since 1945 and on Tuesday night they’ll seek their first World Series title since 1908 when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

“It’s huge for the confidence, the positive momentum from LA, to carry over back home,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “Those were the biggest moments in the game early on to help everybody keep pushing and that we got this thing -- that we’re in charge of the game early. That’s a huge momentum builder.”

The Cubs did a little bit of everything in the first inning against Kershaw, who dominated them for seven scoreless frames in a 1-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. Some hitters took a more aggressive approach against the three-time NL Cy Young winner while others remained patient. The one constant throughout the 30-pitch frame was that Cubs hitters took advantage whenever Kershaw made a mistake.