Warriors

How LeBron James' Decision put him on path to become Warriors nemesis

How LeBron James' Decision put him on path to become Warriors nemesis

LeBron James put himself on a collision course with the Warriors a decade ago Wednesday.

Few would've guessed as much when James, then 25 years old and already the best basketball player on the planet, told Jim Gray and viewers nationwide that he'd take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. James, after all, was leaving one of the saddest franchises in NBA history, spurning the Cleveland Cavaliers to link up with close friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Warriors, then 35 years removed from their last NBA championship and a year away from drafting Klay Thompson, didn't have anything to do with it.

But James' departure from Cleveland planted the seeds for the prodigal son's return four years later, and the kid from Akron's titanic decision to leave set him on a path that would become inseparable from Golden State's by the end of the 2010s. You can trace the roots of the Warriors' cross-conference rivalry with the Cavs, as well as Kevin Durant's decision to sign with Golden State, to "The Decision" a decade ago.

James and the Cavaliers were the Warriors' biggest obstacle during their dynastic run, with the teams squaring off four straight times in the NBA Finals. But he might never have stood in Golden State's way if he never left Cleveland.

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While James surely could've done without the instantaneous, visceral backlash from his hometown fans, or the childish letter penned in Comic Sans by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, he told Lee Jenkins -- then with Sports Illustrated -- in 2014 that he always knew he was going to return to Cleveland at some point.

"When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission," James said at the time. "I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio."

The Cavaliers seemingly prepared for the possibility, too. Going an NBA-worst 97-215 in James' absence helped Cleveland compile high pick after high pick who would either play alongside James (Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson) or be used in trades to acquire other pieces (Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins). If James stays in 2010, it goes without saying the Cavaliers aren't picking in the lottery over the next four years. Former general manager David Griffin and the Cavs' front office instead eventually built a contender around James, whereas Griffin's Miami counterparts would've had a much more difficult time remaining one.

Even if James stayed with the Heat, president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg were without multiple first-round picks thanks to the sign-and-trades that brought James and Bosh to the Heat in the first place. Young talent was needed, in hindsight, as Wade got older and Bosh eventually retired due to his blood clotting condition. Miami couldn't have provided that, and it's thus difficult to envision James as the Warriors' nemesis while staying on South Beach.

James still would've been close to the peak of his powers, but the Heat wouldn't have been as formidable a challenge for the Warriors as James' Cavaliers were in their first two Finals matchups. A hypothetical Warriors-Heat Finals in 2015 probably is even more one-sided than the San Antonio Spurs' gentlemen's sweep of the Heat a year prior, and who's to say if Miami would've remained on its Eastern Conference perch much longer than that.

Leaving Cleveland also indirectly ensured the Cavaliers wouldn't win more than one championship during James' second stint in Ohio. James' decision led to backlash in the league's front offices, too, ensuring the institution of a harsher luxury tax. The Oklahoma City Thunder ultimately justified trading James Harden because of said luxury tax, as Tim Bontemps noted while writing for The Washington Post in 2016, which surely contributed to Kevin Durant's eventual departure for the Warriors. James' decision also showed superstars that they could control their own destinies, narratives be damned.

[RELATED: Wild stats from Steph's first game vs. LeBron's Heat team]

If the Heat's Big 3 never forms, does the NBA's next collective bargaining agreement even include a provision designed to stop free agents from forming super-teams? If the Thunder never break up, do the Warriors ever get past a team led by Durant, Harden and Russell Westbrook? If James stays in Cleveland, is a player of Durant's caliber even willing to leave OKC in the first place?

When James said those infamous seven words 10 years ago, nobody could've known he was charting a path that inevitably would intertwine with the Warriors' own. Had James' decade-old decision gone differently, the Warriors' recent past would look unquestionably unrecognizable.

DeAndre Ayton responds to Draymond Green's comments about Devin Booker

DeAndre Ayton responds to Draymond Green's comments about Devin Booker

Draymond Green created quite the stir on social media last Friday, because of his comments -- which resulted in a $50,000 fine -- about Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker.

"It's great to see Book playing well and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix," the Warriors forward said on TNT's "Inside the NBA" studio show. "It's not good for him. It's not good for his career. Sorry, Chuck (Charles Barkley). But they gotta get Book out of Phoenix.

"I need my man somewhere he can play great basketball all the time and win because he's that type of player."

Suns big man Deandre Ayton was asked about Draymond's opinion during a guest appearance on "The Woj Pod" with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

"We definitely heard that noise. It was promoted everywhere," the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft said. "It's just outside noise. Book is a dude who really maintains focus, and he just wants to win. He's a competitor at the highest peak there is in this league.

"It's contagious. Seeing how he plays out there every day -- it just spreads. Him and I being the head honchos leading, so any noise like that is nonexistent to me."

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In a nutshell, Ayton took the high road and didn't do anything to stir the pot.

The same cannot be said about the Suns' social media account 

This is funny and great content.

[RELATED: Can pigs fly? Chuck says Warriors have big '20-21 advantage]

Speaking of funny -- here is how Draymond reacted Saturday morning shortly after the league announced his fine.

The four matchups between the Warriors and Suns next season will be must-see TV. Then again, you can say that about every Golden State game.

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Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald honored to call NBA playoff games

Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald honored to call NBA playoff games

The Warriors are not an NBA playoff team, but they’ll have representation in the bubble. 

TNT selected Emmy award-winning Warriors play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald to call playoff games in Orlando, Fla. 

“It’s really an honor, it’s something I’m thrilled about,” Fitzgerald said on the latest episode of the Runnin’ Plays podcast

Fitzgerald will call national games on TNT and NBA TV. He knows his first assignment is Tuesday, Aug. 18 for the first round of the playoffs, but he could be handed any series. He’s preparing for all 16 teams.

“Fortunately, being the league as long as I have, I know all the teams,” Fitzgerald, who has spent 25 seasons as a Warriors broadcaster, said.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

“I’ve seen all the videos and read the protocols and signed my life away,” Fitzgerald joked about preparing for life in the bubble. “The NBA has been amazing in terms of how strict and how professional and how well done the whole bubble concept has been.” 

He’s preparing for some differences in an environment without fans. In the big moments, he typically “lays out” or stops speaking to let crown noise come through. Fitzgerald will have to figure out what to do in a quiet arena.

[RELATED: Report: Warriors playing in Orlando bubble a "non-starter" for NBPA]

“I’m an excitable person,” Fitzgerald exclaimed, “I cheer for the excellence in basketball. If someone blows by for a dunk, you have two choices ... you can accentuate ‘Antetokounmpo went in and dunked it!’, or you can talk about the defender who let him go right by. I’m more a positive person so I’m going to accentuate the accomplishments.

I don’t spend much time trying to kick people in the groin. That ends up being a tiresome way of looking at sports.”