Tonight, the Golden State Warriors will host the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first game of what should be a very entertaining finals. You have stars (Lebron, Curry, Kyrie, Klay), multiple compelling storylines, feisty Australians with hockey playoff beards, Draymond Green — the patron saint of "Wishanigga Woods", and a team (Cleveland) very, very happy Oakland, California isn't known for its strip clubs because they have a guy (J.R. Smith) who they very much need not to pull a Harden for at least the next two weeks.
"Is there anything else we need to know?" Glad you asked, hypothetical person I created because I didn't know how else to segue into the rest of the questions I'm going to ask myself and answer for this piece.
"On a scale of one to verklempt, how depressed are you that Kyrie will not be healthy for this series?"
Is Prozac milkshake an option? Because that's about where I am right now.
"Ok, ok. You've been on Kyrie Irving island since 2010, somehow managing to mention his name in four separate publications since then (Seriously. Here, here, here, and obviously here). But why should we care?"
Because of 1988. This is when the Magic Johnson-led Lakers played the Isiah Thomas-led Pistons. And that's how far back you'd have to go to find a Finals series featuring two All-NBA point guards. Despite the fact that point guard is the deepest position in the NBA today, basketball (well, playoff basketball) is a game dominated by either dominant wings (Lebron, Jordan, Kobe, Dwyane Wade) or dominant big men (Duncan, Shaq, Dirk, Hakeem). Every championship team since 1991 has had at least one of these guys leading it. And, without a healthy Kyrie, we're missing out on a chance to see two of the most gifted point guards in NBA history bring the best out of each other for an entire series. Something that, again, hasn't happened in almost 30 years.
"Is Steph Curry the best shooter of all-time?"
"How are you so sure?"
I've been watching NBA basketball since 1986. I saw Bird in his prime and the entire careers of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen and Dale Ellis and every other great shooter from the past three decades. I've also seen hours of footage of Jerry West, Rick Barry, Pete Maravich, Rick Mount, and every other historically great shooter from before my time. But no one is the same threat from anywhere within 30 feet of the basket as Curry is.
Let me put it this way: If playing against a team with a great shooter, it's not uncommon for high school and college coaches to tell their players to "get up on him as soon as he passes halfcourt." This is obvious hyperbole, because no one is a consistent threat to pull up from 35 feet out, but it's their way of stressing that you're not supposed to give that guy any space. With Curry, however, it's not hyperbole. He will pull up. Off the dribble. From 33 feet out. With you in his face. And fucking make it.
"So how do you stop someone like that?"
You don't, really. The best thing, though, is to make him uncomfortable. And make him work. With Iman Shumpert, Matthew The Batshit Australian, and (occasionally) Lebron — plus decent rim protectors in Tristan Thompson and Timothy Mozgov — the Cavs have the personnel to do that.
"But, if they devote that much energy to stopping him, doesn't that make things much easier for everyone else on the Warriors?"
Yes. Yes, it does.
"And don't the Warriors have all-star caliber players at other positions?"
Yes. Yes, they do.
"So, the Cavs are fucked, basically?"
We'll get to that later.
"Ok. Well, here's something I've been meaning to ask you. Is Matthew Dellavedova a dirty player? Between what happened with him and Taj Gibson, what happened with him and Kyle Korver, and what happened with him and Al Horford, this can't all be coincidental, can it?"
Yes and no. Matthew Dellavedova is not a dirty player. But Matthew Dellavedova is a dirty player.
"That makes no sense."
I know. Let me explain.
There is a certain code of decorum that exists for guys who've been playing basketball their entire lives. Certain ways you move, certain ways you interact with other players, and even certain ways you foul. It's an implicit agreement that although the possibility of injury always exists, you don't do things that have a higher than usual probability of leading to the injury of other players. Hard fouls are fine and expected, but things like "bridging" (running under someone's legs while they're in the air) or placing your foot in someone's landing space after they've taken a jumpshot or diving for the ball when you realize it's probable that the dive will also take someone's legs out could lead to a fight even if the act wasn't intentional.
A guy like Dellavedova, though, who's not skilled enough to stay in the NBA on ability alone, has to exist in that gray area between expected decorum and unexpected decorum to keep his job. I'm sure he did not intentionally attempt to injure Korver, Gibson, or Horford, but he's just not as considerate of the possibly that certain acts have a higher probability of leading to injury as most other college and NBA players are. Basically, this is why basketball players don't enjoy playing basketball with, um, non-basketball players.
"Does Klay Thompson look like one of the composite faces created whenever you make a profile for a new player on NBA Live?"
"Why is Riley Curry even a story?"
Because, if I walked into my living room right now and turned on any of the eight ESPN channels I have, there's a good chance I'll land on a group of awkwardly intense men screaming unintelligible sentences about the NBA Finals at each other. And if I waited a half hour, there will likely be another group of awkwardly intense men screaming unintelligible sentences about the NBA Finals at each other. This, despite the fact that there hasn't been a game in over a week.
There are hundreds of people who get paid very good money to write, talk, and tweet about the NBA. And, when there are no actual NBA games being played, they need something to write, talk, and tweet about. "How Riley Curry is acting today" helps fill that need.
"Great answer, but I really only asked so you could include a cute picture of Riley. Can you do that, please?"
"So, circling back, why aren't the Cavs fucked? You spent the first 500 words of this talking about how one of their best players won't be 100% and how Curry's historic shooting ability make Golden State virtually impossible to guard. Again, how are the Cavs not fucked?"
Because when the Cavs played the Warriors in February, Lebron James had one of those "I'm getting 40…but I could get 60 on y'all if I really wanted to" games that he'll have a couple times a year to remind everyone who he is. There was nothing the Warriors could do to stop him. Granted, this was a Cavs team with Kevin Love and a healthy Kyrie — which did affect how the Warriors guarded — but Lebron was able to do whatever he wanted. And it wasn't like he was hitting a bunch of Js either. It was the type of bully-ball performance he should be able to replicate. That in mind, although the Warriors are a more talented team — even more talented than the Spurs were last year — I don't know if they have the infrastructure to stop or even neutralize him over an entire series. So not only are the Cavs not completely fucked, I'm picking them to win in six games.
"Hmm. Bold but predictable choice. What if you're wrong?"
Then I was right. 2015 truly is the year of the light-skinned revolution.