The Golden State Warriors went from potentially the greatest of all time to just another team that couldn’t accomplish the hardest task in sports: repeating as champions.
Now comes the blame game.
The reasonable among us will note the all-time great performance by LeBron James in achieving what he has said has always been his top objective. (Validated by the genuine emotion he displayed after winning.)
Some will point to injuries and the physical and mental toll an extended regular season and playoff run has on the body.
The worst will stubbornly die on the “NBA is rigged” hill, pointing to Draymond Green’s Game 5 suspension as the Dubs’ death blow. But Green — often praised/maligned for being expressive — took responsibility on Sunday and acknowledged the circumstances that allowed his absence to change the series.
“I put myself in a position, like I said before, for [my character] to be attacked, and that’s what I learned. Don’t put yourself in a position,” Green said. “… I put myself in that position, and once you put yourself in that position, everything goes then. But like I said, I learned from it, and that’s the most important thing to me.”
Green was humble in his postgame comments when he owned his share of blame for the series loss. That indicates a level of maturity and self-awareness that will serve Green well as he continues in his career.
Who knows how the offseason will play out — i.e. Kevin Durant’s free agency — but with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green, the Warriors have a foundation for long-term success. The dreams of being an NBA dynasty are far from dead.
The fact is, the Warriors momentarily struggled processing their success. It showed when their play languished when they would get too far ahead, indicating a sense of invincibility that proved to be their downfall.
They were forced to mature quickly on Sunday night at Oracle Arena and they handled the loss properly: They shook the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and congratulated them. They spoke of learning from their shortcomings and pointed to the hunger they’ll have next season.
Give them a summer to heal and put offseason work in, and they’ll once again be the envy of the league.
“This ain’t the last that you’ll see from us,” Green said.
Only a fool would disagree.