The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will face off this Wednesday in their first game since last season's finals.
The teams, who met in all of the last four NBA Finals, are set for yet a regular-season bout. But, this time, it's going to be as low-key as it gets. There's no LeBron James around these days, with the star forward now playing his trade in L.A., and Kyrie Irving has been away a little longer.
LeBron's departure made it so that the once entertaining and bitter rivalry is over and done with. And if you're looking to watch Wednesday's game, you're going to need to be at the Quicken Loans Arena or have a League Pass subscription - that's how bad it's gotten.
PREVIOUSLY: KEVIN DURANT OWNS COURTSIDE FAN
Members of the Warriors spoke to The Athletic's Anthony Slater to reflect on the rivalry which took both teams through the highs and lows, with Steve Kerr's side experiencing most of the joy after coming out on top three of those four years.
You could read some of their thoughts below:
“Yeah, it’ll feel weird. How many times did we play in those four years?
“Two, four, six, eight... Fourteen, 21, 26, 30. Man. Played them 30 times in four years. Always on Christmas or Martin Luther King Day or the Finals. Had some terrible feelings. Had some amazing feelings. Yeah, it’s going to be weird with a new look team."
- Steph Curry
The Dubs will be playing a LeBron-less Cavs side for the first time in four seasons and, all things considered, they're mostly to blame. The 3-1 comeback will reside long in the minds of the Cleveland faithful, but they'll also remember that LeBron and Kyrie could have built a dynasty had the Warriors' success not forced them out.
Draymond Green is of the view that the Cavs would have probably won another title if Kyrie did not accelerate their descent by demanding a trade last year.
“They probably would’ve won one more. Kyrie probably would’ve never left. Things would be a lot different. But, hey, sucks. Sorry about it. Gotta roll with the punches.”
- Draymond Green
Kerr also opened up on the storied rivalry and, quite surprisingly, he claims that the Cavs strongest team was the one they beat 5-1 in 2017 - not the side who came back from 3-1 down to claim victory the year prior.
“The team that I think may have been their best team was the team we beat in five, in 2017. I thought that team was better than the one in 2016 that beat us. Difference was, we had Kevin.
“But Kyrie had fully blossomed into Kyrie by ’16, LeBron was at the height of his powers, Love was healthy and rolling, JR (Smith) did his job defensively. They shot so many 3s. Didn’t they make 25 3s in Game 4? That series was some of the highest level of basketball ever played in the sport. It was higher level than ’16.
“(Because) ’16 was a little bit of a slog at times, for both teams. We didn’t have Kevin. We didn’t have Draymond for Game 5. It was super physical. All of our off-ball stuff got clogged up. They did a good job of mauling us physically and freeing up LeBron and Kyrie. Last couple games, we didn’t have that usual flow.”
- Steve Kerr
Green, who was at odds with teammate Kevin Durant less than a month ago, recalled his favorite moment from all four finals series. And it happens to be a shot from Durant.
“Ohhh, KD’s shot. Game 3,” he exclaimed. “When they thought they had the game won and shit just went south. That was my favorite moment.”
What This Means
While the Warriors put an end to Cleveland's return to prominence, the Cavaliers helped shaped their destiny too.
Success in the NBA is usually all about timing. Sadly for the Cavs, they had just the right players to help push the champions to unimaginable heights. Fortunately, though, they have a championship to show for their troubles.