Grantland 2015 Finals NBA Shootaround: We Made It, Warriors
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Warriors!
How Andre Iguodala went from random free agent to Finals MVP in 2 years:
Circa the summer of 2013, the Warriors were just another team with some promising talent and vague aspirations to get better. In the Western Conference, this was about good enough to get you to the second round. There was chatter about coaxing Dwight Howard to the Bay Area, which seemed more about establishing the franchise’s credibility than anything else. Ultimately, when the Warriors ended up getting Andre Iguodala, it felt like a consolation prize. Where would he play? Was he actually going to make this team that much better?
Unless you’re heading to San Antonio or wherever LeBron happens to be playing, I always assume guys are lying when they say their free-agency decisions are about winning a championship. For Iguodala, that seemed like a far-fetched goal with the Warriors, even if Steph Curry were to ever figure out his ankle issues. I think the most prominent free agents the team had ever lured in my lifetime were Corey Maggette and Derek Fisher. At times, then, it seemed like Iguodala had come to the Warriors just to kick-start his dream of becoming a venture capitalist. He loved being in the Bay Area for the same reasons a lot of people love being there, punching up his interviews with references to Elon Musk or his killer investments. On the court, he became somewhat forgettable, going from All-Star and Olympian to second-unit guy while Steph and Klay ascended to all-world status and Draymond Green turned into a potential max player and straightedge Harrison Barnes flashed moments of aerial brilliance.
All of which makes what happened in the Finals so crazy. After last night’s game, Iggy spoke of his anxieties about replacing Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup. He had grown to cherish his role as the guy setting the tempo off the bench. He didn’t want to harsh the team’s vibe or upset his Aussie teammate. But it worked. In the parlance of Iggy’s tech bro buddies, he was #disruption personified, playing brave, chippy defense against LeBron, flopping a little when absolutely necessary. He wasn’t afraid to fail. It was remarkable to see him step up to the line with a swagger that belied his abhorrent stroke. There’s no way this was what Iggy and the team’s brain trust envisioned a couple of summers ago, not starting a game all season and then walking away with the Finals MVP trophy.
The 2015 Warriors represent a change in who can win the NBA Finals:
There’s a lot to learn from the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors. They’re champions, and they’re also the quintessential NBA team of right now. They dominate both ends of the floor with newfangled approaches that emblematize the most important trends. They have a deep and versatile roster. On defense, everyone can guard multiple positions. On offense, they have superb ball movement (the Dubs led the league in assists) and make tons of 3s. They just won the Finals using Draymond Green as their starting center. Their point guard is not only reinventing the way we look at “score first” PGs, he’s reshaping the way we think about perimeter scoring in general. Hell, he invented a new way to posterize dudes, 25 feet from the basket.
The Warriors just beat a much bigger, stronger team, and that alone is instructive. In simpler times, with guys like LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov, and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs would’ve just bulled over these tiny small-ball dudes. But in the age of pace and space, the best floor-spreading, jump-shooting team is just the best team. There were times in the fourth quarter of Game 6, as the Cavs tried to mount a final comeback, when I found myself thinking that Cleveland had brought a knife to a gunfight. You can’t put J.R. Smith and James in a shooting contest against Curry and expect to win. These are our times, and the Warriors are our champs.