Ah yes, my dear sweet summer time. You kindly swelter us for three months, and then your radiance fades away all too swiftly. In your glimmering wake, the Autumn rituals begin. The leaves begin to change their colors, the children return to their schooling, and the world champion Golden State Warriors return to layeth the smack down on the NBA.
If one were to take a look at the history of basketball champions, they would see that eras slip away just as quickly and as easily as the summer’s glow being pushed out by a cutting September gust. For the Dubs, soon to enter training camp, it’s no different. The Warriors are in the driver’s seat in a race against the swirling hand of time to gobble up as many titles as they can before the current dynasty fades away. If they are successful in winning their fourth title in five years they would join the exclusive aristocracy of franchises that have won three titles in a row.
The Warriors Quest To Join Legendary Franchises
Did you know only three teams in NBA history have three-peated? The Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and the Chicago Bulls. (Interestingly enough, all three franchises have done it twice).
The Warriors are climbing into rarefied elevation on Greatness Mountain, dragging behind them a garbage bag full of assorted mementos of their dominance: Chris Paul’s hamstring, Cleveland’s heart, and cupcakes baked in Oklahoma City. If the Golden Empire wins it all this year, not only will they become the fourth franchise to have a three-peat, they move into third on the all-time titles list.
- The Celtics 17 championships
- The Lakers have 16 championships.
- The Warriors have 6 championships.
- The Bulls have 6 championships.
- The San Antonio Spurs have 5 championships (way to let ‘em down Kawhi Leonard smh).
How coincidental that two teams the Warriors are chasing down for all time history are both bubbling with title odds this season? As GSoM’s legendary scribe Brady Klopfer astutely pointed out, Boston is currently pegged as the second most likely to win the title, with the new-look Los Angeles squad having the fourth-highest probability. The way the forecast is shaking out, there’s a strong chance the Warriors will need to defeat both of those teams to win it all this season.
What a privilege to compete with these two rejuvenated, historic franchises for the title! But how did these two classic squads reemerge during the Golden Era?
A Hollywood Story of Redemption
Pardon me while I gas up the DeLorean to transport us back into a time when the Lakers actually were relevant. The year was 2013, also known as, according to an ESPN feature, “The Last True Days of Kobe Bryant”. Yes, I know he retired in 2016, but ‘13 was the last year anyone thought he had good team. It was the season he hero-balled his ass off, beefed with a salty teammate named Dwight Howard, demon-glared head coach Mike Brown into unemployment, and dragged L.A. into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Kobe couldn’t play in the postseason that year, as his season ended with a crushing Achilles tear. The lasting memory of that game was Bryant gritting his way to the free throw line after the horrible injury, to tie the game up late in the fourth quarter.
What a bizarre coincidence that the game was against the baby Splash Bros Warriors, who were gearing up for their first playoff run under the tutelage of Pastor Mark Jackson.
Since then the Lakers have been pretty trash, their players turning into snitches, and their ownership surviving a family insurrection attempt. But suddenly, out of a whirling purple and gold mist, appeared Lakers legend “Magic” Johnson. The great Hall-of-Famer and business savant has righted the ship under sharp owner Jeanie Buss’s watchful eye; they are shrewdly focused on bringing in major star-power to make a run for title #17.
LIKE JAVALE MCGEE!!! Oh, yeah, and LeBron James.
If LaVar Ball is right (as he prophetically was about his son Lonzo Ball and LeBron James joining forces), then this roster is primed to win multiple championships.
Per Drew Schiller for NBCSports:
“We wanted tough two-way players that can defend with a level of toughness and also make shots,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka added. ”Listen, the road to the NBA championship has to go through the team that won last year, and we all know the guys up north have a special group. But one of the ways to attack what they have is with defensive toughness. I think we saw that in the Houston series with some of the players that Houston has.
”And we identified with, if you look at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a guy that is a tough defender and shooter, Josh Hart has proven to be a pit bull of a defender and can make shots, Rondo historically has been a tenacious, tough guy, steals. We wanted that mentality, and we identified it.
”Lance Stephenson, he will agitate you, he will get under you, he will cause you to get out of your game and can play in the open court and score.”
Additionally, after buying out the expensive contract of aging vet Luol Deng, the Lake Show now has the capital to capture another max contract player next season. Say like, Kawhi Leonard? Or dare I say, our very own Kevin Durant?
While it remains to be seen if the current iteration Lakers have enough firepower to dent the Golden State armor, L.A. once again has potential so bright, they’re gonna need some sunglasses. They’re coming for the Warriors.
The Lucky Leprechauns Are Back Too!
In 2007, Former Boston Celtic hero turned GM Danny Ainge presto-changoed a hapless and frustrated Boston franchise into an instant super team. That Celtics squad featured a baby Rajon Rondo playing point guard for the Hall-of-Fame trio of the “BENGAY THREE”, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
They won the title in their first shot, and would make another (failed) Finals trip before running out of gas after six competitive seasons. (Curiously enough, both Finals appearances came in vicious wars against Kobe’s Lakers.) Ainge began to grow increasingly uneasy, eyeing his gutsy gamble finally showing an inevitable decline.
In 2013, also known as the year “LeBron James Missed Becoming Unanimous MVP By A Vote That Was Given To Melo”, Ainge took that “Old Yeller” roster out back for a mercy shot. Ainge unflinchingly plunged the aging Boston squad into a massive rebuilding project. It started with the hiring of an innovative college coach to the big leagues, anointing a 36-year-old wunderkind named Bradley Stevens to coach the pride of Boston.
The resolute Ainge then gritted his teeth and ski-masked robbed the tragic Brooklyn Nets franchise. He swapped a box carrying the ancient, dilapidated bodies of Pierce and Garnett for a magical, glowing, treasure chest of several years worth of promising future draft picks.
For those interested in the full breakdown of Ainge’s wheelin’-and-dealin’, ESPN did a great job hashing it out.
At the end of it all, he has conjured up a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. DAMN. Those are all versatile, high IQ hoopers who can score, make plays, and play defense. They were one victory away from meeting the Warriors in the Finals last season without having All-Stars Irving and Hayward for the entirety of the playoffs.
What are they capable of when fully healthy under the wizardry of Coach Stevens? He has turned the Celtics into a (regular season) thorn in the Warriors side since Steve Kerr took over in 2014. The Warriors have a 5-3 record against them in that timespan, with all the games becoming physical, tense, chess-matches that weren’t decided until late. The BBall-Reference statistical breakdown of those matchups show how nip/tuck the games have been.
On offense, they can space the floor and lure the Warriors’ defense into pick-your-poison dilemmas, stretching from the rim to the arc. And defensively, they are as disciplined as it gets.
The Celtics routinely limited the Warriors scoring. The Dubs averaged 113.5 points per game against the league, but only 104.6 against Boston over the last four years. The Warriors deep-ball proficiency drops as well against Coach Stevens’ schemes, falling from just under 40 percent to 33 percent.
A lot of the Celtics’ greatness on defense -- they led the league in points allowed per possession -- lies in the absence of schematic mistakes. It seems mundane, but for all five guys to do it right on 90 out of 100 possessions every game takes extraordinary discipline and hoops IQ.
Even “Unanimous” is pondering a Finals match-up in a nearby June.
Reporter told Steph Curry he would be back here for Finals and then asked if he agreed: "I hear the weather is great here in June" pic.twitter.com/iRLUHOlNZ8— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 17, 2017
Dreams further deferred
Anytime the Lakers and Celtics are both thinking about the Finals, the NBA is thriving. Wouldn’t it be just great for the league if these two storied franchises battled to the very top of the sport, and rekindled that grand old rivalry?
Funny, looking back over history, nobody seems to care if either of these two franchises have championship-gobbling super rosters filled with future Hall-of-Famers. An updated rendition of the classic basketball matchup would be even spicier considering the 30+ year old rivalry between on-court-turned-front-office combatants Magic Johnson and Danny Ainge.
Oooh, and you could even throw in two guys who couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Cleveland, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, former-teammates-turned-enemies, battling for bragging rights for their legacy. Wouldn’t that be something?
Except, I don’t think the champs much care for any of that old nostalgia. It’s time for the Warriors to bury these old franchises and get this three-peat.
Which classic franchise do you most want crushed by the reigning champs this season?
This poll is closed
The Lake Show