With the NBA season right around the corner, the Golden State Warriors were looking to make a comeback with their nucleus of Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. From 2015 to 2019, the Warriors arguably had the best five-year run in sports, but they have been bitten by the injury bug as of late.
Although injuries are bound to happen in sports, it’s hard not to feel especially sympathetic toward Thompson, who is once again the victim of a serious injury.
Luckily, the NBA is loaded with talent, and there will be several teams vying for a championship once again, including the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Nuggets and Heat. While these teams sparring against each other will surely make for entertaining basketball, the NBA and its fans will miss out on what would have been the game of the year: Nets vs. Warriors.
Here are a few reasons this would have been the game of the year.
The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets both have very talented players, but their excellent coaching staffs should not be overlooked.
While Brooklyn’s new head coach Steve Nash does not have much coaching experience, he has one of the greatest basketball minds of all time — new assistant coach Mike D’Antoni — to help him out. D’Antoni played a huge role in how the game is played today, dating back to his “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns offense (which Nash orchestrated as point guard), and took his “small ball” philosophy a step further in Houston. D’Antoni is also one of nine coaches to win multiple Coach of the Year awards.
Beyond D’Antoni, Jacque Vaughn will be returning for a fifth season as a Nets assistant coach. Nash also added arguably his most memorable teammate of all time, Amar’e Stoudemire, to his coaching staff. The Stoudemire and Nash pick-and-roll was nearly unstoppable, so Stoudemire should have plenty of tips for Jarrett Allen and Deandre Jordan to help them excel.
The Golden State coaching staff needs no introduction. It has a coach with one of the most wins in NBA history in Steve Kerr, who has already won three titles as a coach. On top of that, assistant coach Mike Brown is highly experienced, having coached the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Unsung hero and fellow assistant Ron Adams is one of the best defensive minds in the NBA and had a huge role in Kevin Durant’s development in becoming a superstar player.
To add a cherry on top, Nash was a part-time consultant for the Warriors while Kerr was coach, and Kerr was also the general manager of the Phoenix Suns during Nash’s Phoenix prime years. Kerr and Nash’s relationship should add some friendly competition and personal stake to this matchup. Furthermore, Kerr’s Warriors ousted D’Antoni’s Rockets in the playoffs on four separate occasions and likely cost D’Antoni at least one ring, which should also add some fuel to the fire.
While there won’t be as many fans due to COVID-19 and the Warriors no longer play at the “Roaracle,” they are still in the Golden State. Thus, the Golden State fans who do show up will have plenty of visceral reactions toward any blunders or successes Durant and Kyrie Irving have during this game. The two have had some of the most memorable moments in NBA history at Golden State. Durant won his first two rings and NBA Finals MVPs there following one of the most controversial moves in NBA history. Adding on, Irving played in three finals series against Golden State and silenced the Oracle Arena crowd with arguably the biggest shot in NBA history to clinch Cleveland’s first NBA title in 2016. It’s safe to say the Nets and Warriors players have a lot of history, even if they aren’t considered “rivals” as of yet.
While location and coaching matchups are fun to consider, the main entertainment comes from the players, and, luckily for fans, this game has no shortage of big personalities and marquee players.
Supporting Cast Matchups
Outside of the obvious All-Stars, the Warriors and Nets both have great supporting casts. As currently constructed, the Nets have one of the best young cores in the NBA in Allen, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. While the Warriors don’t have as strong of a young core, it is comparable, as they have Andrew Wiggins, Eric Paschall and James Wiseman. It will certainly be interesting to see how the two teams’ role players stack up against one another in a big game, as championship teams always have reliable supporting casts.
Irving vs. Curry
Irving and Curry have faced each other multiple times in the finals and have been relentlessly compared to each other throughout the years. They have also had their fair share of memorable regular-season battles, and, surprisingly, both have a lot to prove. Irving and Curry both suffered through injury-riddled seasons last year, and in an era when recency bias causes people to forget quickly, these two guards have been left out of the media spotlight. Though their mere presence on the court will likely put them back there, great performances in a game of this caliber would catapult them back into the superstar conversations.
Durant vs. Klay and Dray
The player who has the most personal stake in this matchup is Durant. He received plenty of backlash from nearly every type of NBA fan — former players, analysts and casual fans — for his decision to join the Warriors back in 2016. Durant’s two championships are often considered to come with an asterisk due to his historically great supporting cast, so he will be looking to prove himself against his former teammates. Furthermore, Golden State, as currently constructed, will have plenty of capable defenders to throw at Durant: Green, Thompson and Wiggins. Durant is not one to shy away from a challenge, but neither is Green nor Thompson. Trash talk is a huge part of the game, and all three players have dished out their fair share of it. Green and Durant trash-talked even when they were teammates, so expect no difference when they face each other. Like Curry and Irving, all three players were mostly out of the spotlight last season and will be looking to prove who is better off now.
Although Durant is a near-unstoppable offensive force, the Warriors would have had a weapon of their own: Thompson. While he is not on Durant’s level as a scorer, when hot, Thompson can go tit for tat with anybody, as his historic offensive performances prove: 37 points in a quarter, Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016, 14 threes in a game, 60 points on 11 dribbles and more. He is also one of the best two-way players the NBA has seen and arguably the best shooter of all time. As good as Thompson is on the offensive end with his historic performances, he can be just as valuable on the defensive end. The Warriors often put Thompson on the opposing team’s best player, which is Durant in this game.
Although this game will still be fun to watch, Thompson’s Achilles injury deflates this matchup, removing the intrigue and plenty of offensive and defensive firepower for Golden State. Unfortunately, the NBA and its fans will be robbed of this thrilling matchup for at least another year.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]