Stick A Fork In The Cavs, by Chuck Strom

Time to go out on a limb and predict that the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t win four in a row against the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. They may win on Friday just to keep the Warriors from partying in their gym, but for all intents and purposes, they are done. For all of that, it’s worth paying tribute not only to LeBron’s valiant effort last night in Game 3 but also to the unbelievable inside scoring from Kyrie Irving. Time and again, often with multiple defenders all over him, Irving threw up shots under the basket that looked terrible out of his hand and yet somehow always managed to fall. In a league where the 3-point shot is king, it was a reminder that there is still value in scoring in the low post.

When the Warriors hoist the 2017 NBA championship trophy, there will inevitably be media commentary about the injustice of it all. The league should never have allowed Kevin Durant to go to the Warriors, they will say, and it needs to do something about all of the “super teams” that seem to be dominating the recent landscape. No question that supremely dominant teams can suck all of the drama out of the NBA season and put a damper on fan interest, but the irony of these Warriors is that their success, for the most part, was earned the old-fashioned way. Of the major stars on their roster, only two of their five, Durant and Andre Iguodala, came as free agents. The others—Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green—came through the draft. If the Warriors are going to be criticized for being too good, what was GM Bob Myers supposed to do? Select bush-leaguers? Refuse to sign free agents? Ask Joe Lacob to sell the Warriors back to Chris Cohan so they could return safely to the wilderness?

More likely, NBA fans who get tired of the Warriors and Cavs in the Finals just need to be patient, because dynastic teams, no matter how dominant, have limited shelf lives, and there are already signs that both teams will face challenges in the near future. The extraordinary depth of the current Warriors roster has depended largely on team-friendly contracts with all of their drafted stars, and even with the recent increase in the NBA salary cap, the Warriors eventually will not be able to afford them all, with Thompson drawing the most recent speculation on a trade or a free-agent departure. The Cavs, for their part, have made no bones about their team as a short-term enterprise where the end could come at any time, especially if LeBron, having made good on his promise to bring a title to Cleveland, provides substance to the rumors that he might seek new challenges and take his talents to the West Coast. All the more reason, perhaps, to enjoy these Warriors and Cavs while we have them. As the recent ESPN Lakers-Celtics documentary suggests, it is rivalries such as these that truly generate fan interest and make memorable sports history.

In that regard, it wouldn’t hurt if the Cavs at least managed to extend the series for a game or two. No one outside of Oakland should want the fun to be over yet.

Chuck Strom

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