We’ve made it. The NBA Finals kicks off tonight. While absolutely no one is shocked by the Western Conference representative, the guys playing on the other side makes this series a little more intriguing than years past.
What’s more amazing than anything is that a dude with the personality of a paper plate is arguably the biggest story of the Finals. But the attention he’s garnered has come with good reason. First things first, Kawhi is the second best player in the league and he’s the best player in the Finals until KD comes back. It’s always fun to watch when the best player is on the underdog team. We get to see one guy go all John Wick against seemingly insurmountable odds. Nothing quite like seeing the bodies pile up while simultaneously wondering if our guy is going to get taken out at a moment’s notice. But even with that drama, Kawhi’s story in these Finals is a little more layered than that. Think about his life over the last year and some change. He was all but exiled from San Antonio over disputes about whether he was able to play last season or not. He was accused of quitting on the team and trying to force his way to LA. His teammates spoke unfavorably of him in the media (Huge No No) and then he was traded. Then he had to play in the shadow of Giannis Antetokounmpo all season. Which I’m sure he didn’t mind. I have a sneaking suspicion that Kawhi doesn’t like a lot of attention. In the end, he beat the guy who got the hype all year to get his chance to play for a title.
The second layer of this is Kawhi is out here looking for revenge (you get it, I know you get it, yeah you get it). The last time The Klaw faced off against the Warriors he was on a tear. Scored 26 points in 24 minutes before being taken out of the series by a dirty play. He’s out to prove a point. And he’s shown he can crank it up when necessary. This is going to be fun. The most boring dude in the league is going to give us the most fireworks we’ve seen in a while. I’m here for all of it. It’s funny, the impending free agency of one of the best players in the league has somehow become a simple footnote of this postseason.
Let’s move on to the defending champs. While Kawhi and the Raptors have a lot of external things happening, Golden State’s contribution to the excitement seems to be generated mostly in-house. The biggest topic of discussion has surrounded Kevin Durant. In contrast to his superstar counterpart on the Raptors, his free agency has been front and center pretty much since he signed there and understandably so. A lot of other things are going to fall into place once KD decides where his next stop is. But more than his next career move, the great debate involving him has been are the Warriors better when he’s not even on the floor. Anyone with half a brain knows the answer is no but nevertheless, this ridiculous conversation has gained a ton of traction. And despite their success, it looks like they’ve grown tired of each other. More specifically it looks like Durant and Draymond Green have grown tired of each other. They had a verbal spat earlier in the season and the feeling around the league is that their strained relationship is one of the main reasons KD will definitely bolt this summer. It really doesn’t help things that the Warriors have been successful with Durant out of the lineup. People have resorted to speculating that Kevin is unhappy about his team’s triumph in his absence. That’s wildly hilarious to me but I guess these sports “journalists” need something to talk about. It will be interesting to see the team dynamic play out over the course of the series. Durant is out for Game 1 with the team being hopeful he can suit up for Game 2. Conventional wisdom tells us that Toronto is going to win at least one of those games. Whether they beat them with or without KD is going to drive the narrative even further or cause the naysayers to pump the brakes a little bit.
If folks were looking for an anti-climactic snoozer then this isn’t the series for them. And I guess after all of this mindless chatter you guys want a prediction. I’m going Golden State in 6. I’m not completely counting Toronto out but I’m not saying Golden State will lose until they actually lose and not a moment sooner. Either way, I think we’re in for a good Finals. After the bloodbaths we’ve seen the past two years we deserve to see a good scrap for the right to hoist Larry O’ Brien’s trophy.