*photo via (insidehoops)
We’re getting deep into the final stretch of the NBA 2016-2017 season, and Kevin Durant’s knee injury almost a month ago is still haunting Warriors fans, and getting the hopes of Cavs fans up to a limit they haven’t seen since they pushed the Finals to Game 7 last year. For a while, directly after KD’s injury, Golden State looked broken, they looked like a completely different team, compared to this terrifying group of scoring machines who could put up 120 points on any given night, against any given team. Steph and Klay had awful games, night after night, with Curry even going 0-11 from deep in one game, the worst of his career. But recently, it appears as though the Warriors are getting back on track, which is probably the best news they could hear other than KD’s early return, as San Antonio have caught up to them considerably in terms of winning record, and even passed the former Champions for a brief period. Steph is back to being Steph, and Klay is hitting shots consistently again, and it seems that what was potentially the worst case for the Warriors in Durant’s injury, is secretly, on some deeper level, a light at the end of the tunnel, as Steve Kerr can now see how he can fit Matt Barnes into the team, and change the roster around so that they can actually win games without their recently added scoring monster in KD, a back-up tactic which probably hadn’t been on his mind when he first made the trade for Durant. But what does the Warriors’ ability to win without Durant, mean for the man himself?
Every man and his dog have heard various insults regarding Kevin Durant being a ‘cupcake’ for leaving NBA one-man army Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder, so his performances for the Warriors on a nightly basis had to be freakishly good as a way to back to his decision to leave Russ. Let’s say the Warriors were to win the title this year
with the help of Kevin Durant led by Kevin Durant, his decision to leave the Thunder would be justified to the same level as LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland to join the Miami Heat in search of a title. KD was third in line to win the MVP award, according to the #KiaMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, but his recent injury obviously takes him out of the equation to win the league’s most acknowledging individual award, especially when you look at the season being played by his former teammates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But now that the Warriors have shown that they can win regular season games with Kevin Durant, at least in a recent showing, KD’s justification in leaving Oklahoma is almost non-existent. Imagine a scenario where KD’s injury is longer than expected (hopefully not), and the Warriors have to advance through the playoff rounds without his help; they take on the Thunder in the first round, as is the current playoff picture, a team they’ve already destroyed without Kevin Durant, so we can imagine they’d take them down in a seven game series, especially if Curry continues to show up. Then they play the Rockets and, while it would be an extremely tough match-up, they could win by taking the series to 7 and just out-scoring Houston from deep. Finally, they somehow beat the Spurs in the conference finals and face the Cavs in a 3peat NBA Finals match-up. Even if they don’t win the Finals, the Warriors show they can win without Durant, and his justification to basically abandon Russ is now non-existent and the hate he’s already receiving multiplies by 10. And let’s say they somehow take down the Cavs and win the chip for the second time in three years; the Warriors win the first ring for Durant, he plays no part in earning the jewellery he’ll wear on his finger, and the hate he’s receiving still multiplies by 10. Basically what I’m saying is, the Warriors new-found ability to win without KD is the best case for Warriors’ fans, but it’s the worst case scenario for Kevin, as it shows that he’s not a vital member in their squad, while he’s still an important part of the roster, he is replaceable.
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