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I wish Kawhi Leonard had played in the Conference Finals

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It would have been better.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Injuries suck. As Warriors fans, we’ve lived through them time and time again, especially as Stephen Curry began his ascent into the league. Ankle injuries, especially, are scary. They happen so quickly, and people feel like they can just “walk it off,” but unfortunately more often than not they linger and linger and linger on like the taste of a bad dream days after waking.

I wish Kawhi Leonard had played more than 24 minutes in this series, all of which came in Game 1. I wish Leonard had scored more than 26 points in this series. I wish that Leonard — who put together perhaps his finest season, becoming a clear cut MVP finalist — had been able to roam the court, and to chase after Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. I wish he’d been able to try and oppose his will on the series, going to toe-to-toe defensively with Draymond Green.

Because with him out with injury, the series felt anticlimactic.

We’ve been waiting for this matchup for years, ever since the Spurs knocked off a young, hungry Warriors team in the second round in 2013 (was it really that long ago?? Sheesh...). We’ve been waiting for this matchup since the Warriors rose to prominence, since the teams put together two of the finest regular season runs we’ve ever seen. But every time it seemed destined — every time it seemed like we’d get our wish of an epic, seven game Western Conference Battle Royale — something got in the way. Last year, it was a Durant-led Oklahoma City squad who knocked the Spurs out in the second round. This year, unfortunately, it was a Zaza Pachulia slide under (I still stand by the fact it was unintentional, no matter what a bunch of rabid San Antonio-ites might think) that removed the Spurs’ only true weapon.

Will we ever see that series, the one we’d all prophesied? It feels unlikely now. Manu Ginobili seems to be on the verge of retirement. Tony Parker might be out forever with his injury. Tim Duncan is long gone. If we do see an epic Western Conference Spurs vs. Warriors series, it’ll be under the guise of a new-generation-Spurs-squad. Yes, they will be led by Kawhi, but I promise they’ll be leaning on Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson (who both played really well this series in tough minutes) as well as some unheralded European players none of us have ever considered, but who the Spurs have scouted extensively.

Leonard’s injury is disheartening for a number of reasons.

1.) Injuries suck. I want every team playing at full strength all the time. When Curry kept getting injured, it sucked. When Kawhi got injured, it also sucked. Human beings should not be forced to injure massive amounts of pain, especially when it keeps them from doing the thing they (hopefully) love best: playing basketball.

2.) Injuries suck, obviously, but people getting angry at the Warriors for playing a depleted Spurs team also sucks. If you think Zaza did that on purpose, well, ehhhhhh, I don’t agree. But if you are literally going to send Zaza death threats, and make him hire security to protect his children at their school, then you need to chill the F out.

I wish Leonard had never gotten injured just so you asshats wouldn’t have fuel for your misplaced fire. Seriously, with everything else going on in the world, you guys are angry to the point of hysterics because a basketball team is playing well, and because you think Zaza Pachulia is guilty of “manslaughter?” Yikes.

Now, no matter what, the Warriors will head into the Finals with a strange cloud of national discontent and anger swirling around them. Maybe it’s just an unfortunate byproduct of these dumb as s—t times we are currently living through, but seriously, stop being so mad about a team filled with stand-up, family-oriented dudes who took less money to be able to hang out with one another and play transcendent, next-level basketball, the likes of which has never before been seen on this salty earth.

I really wish Kawhi Leonard had played in the Conference Finals. I wish it because I hate seeing people in pain, and I wish it because I hated 99% of people’s reactions in the aftermath of the injury.