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.
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.