Where were we?
I’m pretty sure we left off with me hyping up the Raptors after their Game 1 victory against the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Several weeks later, they’re champions. It looks like all that free Canadian health care did Kawhi Leonard and Toronto some good as the load management they practiced with him during the regular season allowed The Klaw to up his usage rating (29% - 31%) and carry the North to their first ever NBA title.
But is there an asterisk in the history books? Will Durant be the same post-injury? Will my liver implode?
These are questions (plus a few others) only God can answer, but as the next closest thing, I’ll do my best.
P.S. - “load management” is now a sexual term in my vocabulary.
No Asterisk in the 6
The Toronto Raptors won their first title against the Golden State Warriors in the 2018-2019 NBA season.
That is what the record books will say about this past season.
Nobody will care (nor barely remember) that KD played just 12 minutes in the series, Klay left Game 6 early, or that Steph Curry was a total nonfactor in yet another elimination game (they’d care if it was LeBron). The popular argument here is that the Warriors beat a depleted Cavs team in their first matchup with LeBron in the Finals, and the logic holds up. You don’t pick who you play.
Was anyone involved in losing my virginity satisfied with the experience? Absolutely not.
But does it count? Sure.
There have been two major Achilles injuries within the last decade; Kobe Bryant (2013), and Demarcus Cousins (2018).
So far, neither have returned to anywhere near the level of where they were prior to injury.
In all fairness, Kobe was 34 when he suffered his, but he was near the end of a 27ppg season and still looking very much Mamba. He played a combined 42 games in the next two seasons and never got back to form - at least until his 60 point game in his career finale (I got high and cried on my couch).
Demarcus Cousins’ rehab still - for the most part - remains to be seen. He looked great in flashes this season playing restricted minutes for Golden State, but was sidelined again for a few weeks after pulling his quad.
Durant is in better shape than both of these superstars; he’s 4 years younger than Kobe was, and about 30-40 pounds lighter than Boogie is. However, he will be 32 years old by the time he can play again - the tail end of his prime. He’s come back from a season ending injury before during his time in OKC, but Father Time isn’t as much on his side this go around.
The biggest loser here (other than Durantula) are the New York Knicks. They’re now at risk of getting NOBODY this offseason after unloading the best player they’ve had on their roster since Amare Stoudemire (Carmelo ruined this man’s career) to create cap flexibility for signing two max contracts. Now that Durant is injured, it’s likely he’ll opt in to stay a Warrior one more year to rehab, and that dramatically decreases the Knicks chances of wooing another superstar to sign up for 41 games at MSG next season.
Who Will Take the West?
The west is wild once again, as Golden State will likely play without both KD and Klay Thompson for the 2019-2020 NBA season. The Trail Blazers looked great and should have Nurkic coming back to start the season. Denver is another year older and with more playoff experience, bringing back everyone from their 54-win team last year (plus Michael Porter Jr.).
And now the Lakers have the best 1-2 combo in the league in LeBron and AD, but can they add another superstar?
Let me say this right now, if the Lakers get another big fish in free agency (i.e. Jimmy Butler, Kyrie, Kemba), AND they stay healthy… they will be throwing a parade this time next year.
That’s a big “if”, but who the hell could contend with 2 of the top 3 players in the Association plus another all-star?
Hypotheticals aside, I think Denver is best poised to take the West and represent the conference in the Finals. This is a big year for Jamal Murray, especially. He was a fringe all-star last season, and you can bet he’ll be looking to up his shot attempts and scoring. With a healthy Michael Porter Jr. (even 75%), they add a dynamic iso wing presence they’ve been lacking since ‘Melo left. That’s scary.
Will My Liver Implode?
I’m not sure. I’ve had a few nights in the last couple weeks that would make Delonte West proud, which means that anyone else that cares about me would be very concerned.
Jk, I’ve never smoked crack.
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