Here is a link to my Thursday column about the Warriors’ going to the finals. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — It was historic in its way. The Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets 104-90 and won the Western Conference final of the NBA. Banished in five brutal games the great James Harden, athletic Dwight Howard and crusty, ironic, fascinating coach Kevin McHale.
Banished them because the Warriors are more clever, more talented and tougher. Especially tougher — they won even though Houston turned the game into an Ultimate-Fighting match.
It was the first time in 40 years the Warriors won their conference championship, and the Warriors marked the occasion with confetti falling from the rafters and the Warriors Girls dancing. Harden walked into the Warriors’ courtside celebration and embraced Steve Kerr, and hugged Stephen Curry a long time. After that, they showed Riley Curry on the big video board. If you don’t know who she is, you should.
Then the league threw a ceremony at center court for the Warriors. It was official and regal and perfectly fitting. Al Attles — the last Warriors coach to win the Western Conference Championship and the NBA Championship, all 40 years ago — the great Al Attles presented Curry with the trophy. The Warriors players touched it like the Holy Grail, and the crowd cheered.
Give the Warriors credit for what they have accomplished, for being a fast, smart, excellent basketball team, worthy of the ceremony. But winning the conference and making history in this praiseworthy but limited way is not definitive or authoritative or even memorable in the long term. The Warriors are more important than this accomplishment. The Warriors’ season is more important than winning this semifinal title. It should be more important.
Beating the Rockets was expected — something everyone anticipated all along. It is just a stop along the way. Think of it as the comfy rest stop on a car trip to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It is an In-N-Out Burger where everybody pigs out on burgers animal style with a load of fries and a tub of Cokes. In-N-Out is great, but it’s not a restaurant with three Michelin stars.
The Warriors want more. They want the full-course dinner and they want all three Michelin stars by the time they’re finished. Heck, they want four stars. They want to win the NBA championship.
The Warriors in 1975 — the 40-years-ago Warriors — were an upset winner when they beat Washington for the league title. Here’s McHale on that Warriors team: “These guys (modern players) don’t know Rick Barry. They don’t know that great Golden State team. I don’t think any of that stuff means anything to be truthful.”
But everyone knows about the current Warriors. Who they are. What they did. They are no upset winner like the Attles-Barry Warriors. They didn’t surprise anyone or sneak into anything. Their postseason record is 12-3 — you’d call that one hell of a record, total dominance of the feared and fearsome West. They had the best record in the regular season — 67 wins. You already know that. And they may be the best team in the league. Probably are.
They aren’t satisfied celebrating at some rest stop along the way. They want to finish the trip in style. To barge into the record books and prove to the country that Oakland — not some made-up-city called Golden State — is the epicenter of pro hoops. They want to show they have the best player — you know who that is. And the best coach — another person you know. And most of all, they want to prove they’re the best.
Afterward, Kerr talked about the 40 years. It is an important number, a Biblical number referring to the Hebrews’ years in the wilderness. “There’s a great story about a woman who’s 105 years old,” Kerr said. “She goes by the name of Sweetie and she’s been following the Warriors forever. Loves the Warriors. How much joy she gets watching our games and following our team. You think a lot about people like that who have been following the team for a long time and how they’re feeling. I’m happy for all of our fans and especially Sweetie.”
Well, Kerr owes Sweetie more than just this conference title. He knows that. The Warriors should just cruise past this Conference Championship with a giddy wave, this mere conference championship. Next week, they take on the improbable Cleveland Cavaliers who have been waiting for them. The Cavs have LeBron James, as real as they get. As good as they get. For years, he was the face of the NBA until the Warriors’ baby-faced star inserted his own mug shot into the picture.
James’ will is as strong as Curry’s and Draymond Green’s and Kerr’s. The Cavs are hurt and maybe even limited, but they win. They beat teams no one says they can beat. The Warriors’ 40 years without a title is nothing to the Cavs. They never have won a title. Never. You think they’re motivated?
They will test the Warriors. The finals will be an epic fight and, if the Warriors win, it will prove their greatness, show how they went from being a good team to a remarkable team in just one astonishing season. These are the finals the league deserves.
“I can tell you I have not given one ounce of thought to Cleveland,” Kerr, exhausted, said. “We’ve had our hands full with Houston. We’ve got a week. That’s plenty of time to get to Cleveland. We do have advance scouts who have been out watching that series, but not right now.”
The Warriors should beat the Cavs. Should win the title. Anything less would be disappointing. The Warriors are the most talented team in the league with the Most Valuable Player and they have home-court advantage. And they have Sweetie.
So, sure, enjoy the Conference Championship, Warriors. And now, in the words of a hallowed local hero, tell it goodbye.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.