It’s that time of year again: the National Basketball Association Finals, starring “your” Golden State Warriors, and we’re here to help all bandwagon fans.
So if you’re up on your Dubs reading, go no further (Just kidding: Read the piece and click on all the links). If you need a fill-in on what’s been happening, Mission Local’s got your back with our award-winning Guide for the Perplexed.
Impress friends, grandparents, co-workers and maybe the good-looking person sitting next to you at the bar.
Here are five easy pieces to help you sound like you actually follow the Warriors. Led by the winsome Steph Curry, they are entering their fifth consecutive NBA Finals. This time around, they are going up against the Toronto Raptors, a Canadian team playing in its first NBA Finals ever. (If friends keep mentioning Cleveland, it’s because for four straight years, the Warriors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers and beat them all but one time.)
- What a long strange trip it’s been.
The road to the NBA finals went through a regular season in which the Dubs struggled to put on their uniforms night after night. The regular season, 82 games spread over six months, was “a slog” (Coach Steve Kerr) and “a soap opera” (center DeMarcus Cousins). With another championship their only goal, the Dubs seemed to be playing an absurd version of Waiting for Godot.
Okay, we get that no other team has been to five straight NBA Finals since the Boston Celtics in the ’60s. We can also appreciate how much workout time, study, game planning, etc. a professional basketball game requires.
But seriously: Mass spectator sports are mass entertainment. When fans empty out their bank accounts for a once-in-a-lifetime ticket to the upper reaches of Oracle, they deserve to see more than a bunch of bored guys in shorts going through the motions and whining at the refs. Does the cast of Hamilton, performing the same play night after night, complain as much? No. But the Dubs do.
Instead of playing their beautiful game, the Dubs spent most of the regular season as the greatest collection of whiners since the Clinton campaign. They whined about the refs, about the media, and at times – bad times – about each other. It got so bad that Draymond Green’s mother (his mother!!) stopped watching Dubs games, because, she said, she preferred to watch basketball.
Throughout the regular season, the big question was whether the Dubs would, or could, “flip the switch” when the playoffs began.
- K Diva
Kevin Durant is professional basketball’s answer to Maria Callas: talented, vain, domineering and demanding the spotlight — onstage or off.
While the Dubs sleepwalked through the regular season, disgusted and anxious fans turned their attention to KD. Specifically, whether he would stick with the Dubs after this season, when he becomes a free agent.
KD raised the issue last July when he agreed to play another year for the Dubs, but instead of proclaiming enduring love, he decided to leave his options open on next year. This meant that his every word and gesture, his style of play, his comments, his no comments — would all be deconstructed into an infinity of interpretations to predict whether he would return or leave.
This kept the spotlight he pretends to shun directly focused on him: KD’s trials, his insults, his nightmares, his griefs, his style of play, his fit with the team, his insatiable search for self-validation, his “secret desires,” his business plans, etc. The drama calmed down after the playoffs began. Durant was playing super basketball again — until he got injured.
That happened in Game 5 of the Houston series. Suddenly, instead of subsiding, the KD drama careened into overdrive.
Now the questions were not about KD staying or leaving, but about his worth to the team. Was he really that good? Do the Dubs really need him? After all, they finished off Houston and swept Portland without him. Are they better without KD?
Whether he plays in the Finals, whether the Dubs win or lose, expect KD to be at the center of whatever storyline emerges.
- “Green! Green! How I love you, Green!”
Dubs’ players, coaches and fans can be forgiven if they thought the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was referring to Draymond Green after the Dubs-Blazers series when he exclaimed “Verde, verde, que te quiero verde!”
(For the record, he wasn’t.)
When Durant went down, the rest of the team showed up like “fucking giants,” said Kerr. None bigger than Draymond Green. While anchoring and directing the team’s defense, Green has been the offensive catalyst, a “one-man wrecking crew” (Kerr). With Green at the wheel, the Dubs are playing with a speed and passion rarely seen in any profession.
Bored and out of shape during the regular season, Green added spice to the proceedings with his biting review of the KD Show. But by March, he lost 20 pounds, embraced KD, and stopped whining about the refs after watching his two-year-old son imitating his on-court antics.
Green’s timing and his wrecking crew play will be tested, and needed, more than ever against Toronto.
- Who are the Raptors?
Canadians play basketball? Not really. [Editor’s note: Some do]
The Raptors had the second-best regular season record and they beat the sleepwalking Dubs twice. They sport the best defense the Dubs have faced in the playoffs, paired with a more-than-capable offense. Though they lack experience in the Finals, and the Dubs’ firepower, the Raptors have Kawhi Leonard.
A former Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard is called “The Claw,” thanks to his freakishly disruptive hands. Toronto is playing in the Finals this year because Leonard has played so well, on offense and defense, during the playoffs, including this last-second shot to win Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Leonard is a diva in his own right. And with his playoff success so far, many now consider him “the best player on the planet.”
Can you hear KD hitting his head against the wall?
- How to Survive the Finals
As even bandwagon fans know, the NBA Finals can be an emotionally draining experience for spectators as well as players. The action whips back and forth and usually the games go down to the buzzer.
Get plenty of sleep, eat well and exercise. If abusing substances is part of your in-game ritual, stick with red wine, a local gin and/or a light IPA. Also, given the high anxiety produced by the games, an indica-dominant hybrid will help keep your synapses in check.
Your favorite bar will probably be showing the games. If you are new to the Mission, crowds tend to be larger and rowdier in the north (around 16th Street). Two of ML’s favorites have been Bar San Pancho on 16th and The 500 Club on Guerrero. However, Bar Sancho has since closed and 500 Club is under new management. Otherwise, check out our map and let us know where you like the view.
Prediction: In their last game at Oracle, in the parking lot called Golden State, the Dubs win Game 6 and close out the Oakland era with their fourth championship in five seasons.