Image courtesy NBAE via Getty Images
Man, I love basketball.
I always told myself that I should have been in the NBA by now, but the league probably isn’t ready for someone of my generational talent. (I was an MVP in sixth grade.)
The game has always been the gift that keeps on giving, so traditionally I don’t have to ask much of it.
But lately it’s been tough to watch, and the reason why is attributed to one Kevin Durant.
Durant going to the Golden State Warriors have paid off massive dividends for his career, but it’s not fair for the rest of the league.
Basketball history tells us that the best team usually wins the matchup against the best player, with the rare exception of the 2016 NBA Finals in which Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers essentially crushed the souls of the Warriors in satisfying fashion. At one point, it looked like parity was restored throughout the league, as we all collectively took a sigh of relief, and solace in the fact the unbeatable Warriors were indeed beatable.
Then Durant, the strongest threat in the Western conference to Golden State, shockingly went to that team, thus nullifying all competition in nuclear fashion.
Now one Golden State title later, here we are again, predictably prognosticating what will happen between the Warriors and their next victim.
My heart pleads for the newly revamped Houston Rockets. But my head screams Warriors.
The fate of basketball as we know it lies in the hands of Chris Paul and James Harden.
Barring any injuries, Golden State should be dominant for a long time. Durant and Steph Curry will both be 30 going into next season, and prime years typically last from the ages of 28 to 32. When I say prime, I am referring to the phenomenon of which the intellectual understanding of basketball catches up with the physical talent.
If the Cavaliers come out the east, King James doesn’t have enough help in the world to overcome Durant, Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
If the Boston Celtics come out of the east, it would be intriguing as this team has given Golden State problems all year but I wouldn’t bet on them because of the lack of star talent.
The Rockets have become David to the Warriors Goliath.
It’s really hard to stop dynasties once they start, and we haven’t really seen one since Michael Jordan retired in 1998, after winning his sixth and final championship. But the Warriors are on the cusp of a dynasty here because the league was caught off guard by the decision made by Durant.
Houston we have a problem.
It’s on you. It is you that rivals the Warriors offensively. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Warriors ranked first in offense this season scoring 112.3 points per 100 possessions, and the Rockets were a marginal second, scoring 112.2.
It is you that has been hyped all season as a newly emerged challenger to the Warriors. The gutsy Rocky to the champion, seasoned, Apollo Creed. This team was supposedly built to get past Golden State and then advance to the NBA Finals.
This is the chance for Harden to not only cement his legacy but propel it to new heights.
Statistically, he’s as good as, if not better than Curry.
This is the chance for probable MVP Harden to either rise to the occasion in a best of seven match-ups, or fall and is possibly forgotten like other NBA legends who tried to beat Jordan and the Chicago Bulls-Clyde Drexler and Karl Malone. This isn’t a knock on those guys, but they will never garner the respect and adulation that Jordan receives. They should, but they were never able to actually get over the hump with the Bulls.
Same goes for Paul.
This is a chance for him to vault his already legendary NBA career, and to shut the haters up.
It will require a herculean effort by the Rockets to beat this team. I wrote earlier this week that I don’t think it will happen to be quite honest. I’ve been wrong so many times and no longer have expectations for wins against this team with Durant.
The Warriors stole that joy from me.
But I’ll be watching this series because I love basketball.
Houston we have a problem. Will you be the solution?
*Follow me on twitter guys @mark_a_gilbert