By: Opinionated MJ
Let us start by congratulating the Golden State Warriors for having a clean bill of health during their 2014-15 NBA Championship run! Now let’s have a discussion about why it didn’t seem to matter when they won. Seems like the media wanted LeBron to win this ‘chip only to have attempted to vault him beyond the great Michael Jordan, although, with him losing (but further solidifying his legacy) he simply “needed more help” and was seriously considered for Finals MVP honors. Had he won this title, he would be the most heralded man on this planet right now with total disregard to those who “helped” him get to this point. Yes, with Kyrie & Kevin available it would’ve been a different series. Yes, with Andy available it would’ve been different in the post and in P&R situations. Yes, with health everything is different. One problem: “it’s apart of the game.”
We’ve gone away from the days where fighting through small injuries are the norm and we’ve arrived at a place where we have NBA stars angling to eliminate the 82 game schedule. The grind of the season is a problem but if these same injuries are happening during the offseason, the preseason, and early on in the regular season, how can we truly make a big deal about it in the playoffs? What if the players themselves have been injury-prone over the last few years? Has anyone actually ignored Kyrie’s health since college? Everyone believes that Derrick Rose being healthy over the last 2-3 years would’ve resulted in a Championship for the Chicago Bulls. Sure. There is no guarantee of that actually happening. The Warriors beat up a beat up Cavaliers team. Cavalier fans are quick to note this, but lets hone in on Cleveland’s very own LeBron James.
Let me first add the statement I keep hearing: “Steph Curry played injured guards throughout the playoffs. Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Patrick Beverly, and Kyrie Irving.” Grueling truth, although every one except Patrick Beverly at least played one game. Still, it’s apart of the game and may just also be Steph’s luck on the year. At least he fell directly on his head en route to a title and Klay Thompson was on the receiving end of a knee that looked like something from Triple H of the WWE and later suffered a concussion. Didn’t know you needed to raise your knee to block a shot! Now back to the breakdown. During LeBron’s title run of the 2011-12 season, there were injuries to Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Paul Pierce (although he played through it), Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (and they were defeated in the first round against the 76ers). That’s only from the Eastern Conference and I only included the Bulls injuries cause they were considered a threat. So LeBron, Wade & Bosh made it past the Celtics and won the title after defeating the OKC Thunder. During the title run of 2012-13, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Rajon Rondo, are the notables and lets also throw Wade in there. Those are the two championship runs.
Now lets fast forward to this years playoff picture. The Cavaliers suffered an injury to Kevin Love in the first round, the Celtics own Jared Sullinger returned but was visibly out of shape and not playing near the best we’ve seen from him. Further along they played the Bulls who had injuries to Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. Derrick Rose had returned just before season’s end and Jimmy Butler was back some time before then. They had no time to truly gel. Forget the excuses. Still pros getting paid big money, right? Atlanta was decimated in every sense of the word. They lost Sefolosha to the NYPD (damn shame), their lock on shooter Kyle Korver, and were fighting for their lives with Carroll, Milsap, and Horford all hobbled. With Kevin Love out and Kyrie hobbled the Cavaliers still went 12-2 throughout the eastern conference with one of the losses coming from a Derrick Rose 3 point prayer that his haters expects him to miss every time. Let me say it how the analysts would, “the Cavs COULD’VE been 13-1 through all this right now!”
They destroyed all the other teams ahead of them and then met the surprisingly healthy Golden State Warriors. They’ve been hit with injuries over the years to Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Brandon Rush, and so on. Reaching a higher potential, being healthy, and dominating the NBA this year, having what everyone calls a “Dream Season” just may have been destiny. A lot of teams go through the ringer before they come full circle. That’s why having 82 games in a season matters. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Cavs still gave the Warriors what they had and one can only imagine if they actually were fully healthy. I’m one that believes that the Warriors were destined to win this year. They’ve adjusted to every team they faced in the playoffs, so why wouldn’t they have been able to adjust to the Cavs? My thinking was, if the Bulls pumped out 2 wins, why couldn’t the Warriors? Stephen Curry was playing better than Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson was playing better than Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green was in his own world, Andre Iguodala was the apparent LeBron stopper, and the Warriors bench was the cleanup crew.
Respect to LeBron for trying to will his team through a 7-8 man rotation. He’s definitely a champion and the scary part is he can still improve upon a few things that would only make him a terror. I’d like to see him bring a title to Cleveland and be the hometown hero and add the cement to his legacy. We’ve also got to give credit where it is due and congratulate the Warriors for winning this championship regardless of how it was won. Everybody plays teams that aren’t at full strength once the playoffs arrive. Give credit to the adjustments, the sacrifices, and the hard work that these men put in. They put their egos aside and everyone resigned to the fact that Steph would carry them where they needed to go and they would be there to pick up the leftovers. Chef Curry could’ve always simply dropped the pot on his ankle and been out for huge portions of the season once again and left them hungry for success with another lottery ticket.