Warriors still not comfortable with new role as NBA's villains

Can the Warriors embrace the villain role going into this year's NBA Finals?

Jay Asser
by Jay Asser
1st June 2017

article:1st June 2017

Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant.

Don’t let this distract you from the fact the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

That’s what the Warriors have been relentlessly hearing for the past year after being turned into a punchline by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

From being a win away from completing a historic campaign in which they set the record for most wins in a regular season, to being crying Jordan face’d into oblivion, the Warriors suffered the ultimate fall from grace. They were the belle of the ball, the rare dominant team that was liked and not loathed.

And then LeBron snatched all that admiration and respectability, though much of it was self-induced as the Warriors saw their confidence suddenly viewed as arrogance and their loose, fun-loving play deemed reckless.

Now, they’re the NBA’s biggest villains, not only battering opposing teams on a nightly basis, but the concept of parity in a league that has ultimately become repetitive the past three years.

Kevin Durant’s decision to jump ship from Oklahoma City and join the bandwagon only stoked the flames and took their newfound ‘unlikeability’ to new levels. That’ll happen when you’re a 73-win team and add a former MVP, which is the equivalent of Bill Gates winning the lottery.

Golden State and their fans should have known hatred would follow, but they’ve struggled to reconcile embracing the villain role with the desire to still be liked. You can somewhat understand their unrealistic expectation that even as they embarrass teams, they should still be cheered, considering that’s exactly what was happening before their collapse against Cleveland.

But in the words of Machiavelli, it’s better to be feared than loved. And this iteration of the Warriors is by far the most fearsome.

Golden State missed their chance a year ago to finish off basketball’s version of a perfect season, but they now have the rare opportunity to go down as the greatest team ever.

Though they won six fewer games this season, the Warriors were clearly better than their record-breaking 2015-16 as they somehow increased their average point differential from plus-10.8 to 11.6, which ranks fourth all-time behind the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (12.3), the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (12.3) and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (12.2).

Unlike last season, Golden State have been even better in the playoffs, where they’ve won games by an average margin of 16.3 points – the highest for any team ever entering the Finals.

And what could end up being the most impressive stat of all is something no team – not the three-peat Los Angeles Lakers or Jordan’s Chicago Bulls – has ever accomplished.

Sweeping LeBron is a highly improbable task in and of itself, but in doing so the Warriors would pull off the ‘4-4-4-4’ and go through the postseason a perfect 16-0 on their way to a championship.

If Golden State want to erase the bad taste from the title-less 73-win season and put an end to the 3-1 jokes, all while going down in history as the most dominant team, there would be no better way.