Warriors-LeBron James Finals rematch possible per proposed NBA changes

Warriors-LeBron James Finals rematch possible per proposed NBA changes

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, that all but assured there would be no future NBA Finals encounters between him and the Warriors.

Not so fast.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported Saturday that the NBA is considering making dramatic changes to the league calendar, citing sources. The potential changes include slightly shortening the regular season, instituting a 30-team in-season tournament, a postseason play-in setup and a reseeding of the four conference finalists. All changes would take effect for the 2021-22 season, the NBA's 75th anniversary.

The conference finalists would be reseeded according to their regular-season records. This would, in theory, increase the likelihood that the league's two best teams advance to the NBA Finals.

After facing LeBron in the Finals four consecutive years, you can be sure the prospect of facing The King again for the ultimate prize isn't an ideal scenario for the Warriors, despite the fact they prevailed in three of those four series. It's worth noting, though, that due to the timing, a fifth potential Finals matchup with LeBron might not be as daunting for Golden State as the last four.

Given that the proposed changes would go in effect for the 2021-22 season, the Warriors have reason to believe James wouldn't be as effective in their next Finals encounter as he is now. That's at least two more seasons of immense mileage for the active leader in career minutes played, and given the way the Lakers have looked to begin the current season, a lengthy playoff run wouldn't come as a surprise. Meanwhile, the Warriors essentially are taking an off-year, understanding that the current season is a lost one, but the next one offers the possibility of an expedited turnaround.

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If and when the Warriors and Lakers meet in the Finals at least two-plus seasons from now, there's a good chance James won't be able to put his team on his back quite like Golden State has seen him do so many times.

Then again, we've never seen anyone like James, and he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Until he calls it quits, the Warriors likely are going to have to go through him, whether it's on their way to the Finals, or for the championship.

NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

NBA rumors: Warriors wouldn't have let Steph Curry play in Orlando

The NBA reportedly is considering creating a second "bubble" in Chicago for the eight teams that were not included in the Orlando bubble as part of the league's expanded playoff format. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday that Golden State potentially would participate, despite coach Steve Kerr previously insisting that the Dubs would not be interested in such a setup.

It remains to be seen if the second bubble will actually take place, but even if it does, it sure seems like you won't be seeing Steph Curry play in it. ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reported he wouldn't have played in Orlando had the Warriors qualified, and it begs the question as to why Chicago would be any different.

"I was told unequivocally by people at Golden State," MacMullan said Thursday on the "Hoop Collective" podcast, "if Golden State came back (to play in Orlando) they weren't gonna let Steph Curry step foot on the floor."

"The reason they were worried about Steph Curry," MacMullan added, "was because they didn't feel that he had played enough to come back."

So, there you have it. The Warriors arguably would have very little to gain from participating in the Chicago bubble, and given that there is no championship at stake -- like there is in Orlando -- Golden State doesn't have much motivation to send its star veteran players, especially those that are returning from injury.

Curry played in precisely one of the Warriors' final 61 games before the season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic after returning from a broken wrist. And if he isn't going to play, you can bet Klay Thompson -- who would be returning from a torn ACL -- won't either.

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Draymond Green previously said that he would have played in Orlando, but if the Splash Brothers are out, why would Golden State risk the health of the other remaining piece of its championship core?

The Warriors need to find a way to stay in basketball shape and continue developing chemistry over what is going to be an extremely long layoff before the start of next season. But if Curry, Thompson and Green aren't involved, then that kind of ruins the whole point.

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

Warriors would gain little partaking in NBA's proposed 'second bubble'

Warriors would gain little partaking in NBA's proposed 'second bubble'

Insofar as the Warriors run a fairly democratic operation, with each player having a voice and the core veterans operating as advisers to head coach Steve Kerr, an invitation to become part of a proposed but not approved second NBA “bubble” presents a dilemma.

If mandated by the NBA, they’ll go, whether it’s Chicago or Las Vegas or another site. That the vets – Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson -- would not be expected to play makes the team’s participation cursory, if not downright pointless.

Yet general manager Bob Myers recently said the Warriors would be “team players” and, in the end, do whatever is best for the league.

“You have to take a step back and say, ‘We’re going to be good partners,’” he said in a phone conversation. “We’re going to do what’s best for the league in a difficult environment.”

Understand, the Warriors don’t want to be there -- and why should they? Their 2019-20 season is over, and there is no definitive start date for 2020-2021. They’d be scrimmaging, at potentially increased risk of the coronavirus (COVID-19), with the crew that absorbed most of the minutes last season.

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

Which brings us to their real desire. They want to gather as a group before the next training camp, currently penciled in for November. Kerr told me a few weeks ago that he “wouldn’t mind” getting his team together for what amounts to a minicamp in the middle of an offseason extended by the pandemic.

Coaches want it, and so do the players. They all would like the experience of playing with each other, which didn’t exist last season. Thompson missed the entire season, and Curry played four games, only one with Andrew Wiggins, who came over in a February trade.

Ideally, that would occur at Chase Center, which has opened for individual activities with attendance limitations but remains suspended for full team activities.

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Should the day come when the current restrictions are relaxed, expect the Warriors to identify a week to get everyone inside. Get Thompson on the floor with Wiggins and others, scrimmaging together for the first time. Evaluate how Curry and Green have responded to the long layoff.

That would be productive, as well as their first blowout activity since early March.

Going into a second bubble, with a stripped-down squad, confined to a hotel for a week or two, is something the Warriors are willing to do. Willing, but hardly eager and barely engaged.