Blought #29: What the 2016 Playoffs Mean to Certain Legacies
Courtesy of ESPN
The Warriors have broken the Bull’s 72-10 record by going 73-9, Kobe Bryant, one of the games all-time greats has finally called it quits and the Playoffs are finally here. Last year’s playoffs seemed to be lacking its usual excitement. The East fielded a sub par list of playoff contenders, half of which missed this year’s playoffs.
The 2014 NBA Playoffs also saw a plethora of Superstars (Kobe, Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh and Kyrie Irving among a few others) who either missed the entire season or significant time during the regular season and\or playoffs. In 2014 the playoffs lasted 89 games and saw 109 man games missed. The 2015 playoffs lasted 78 games with a total of 182 man games missed.
LeBron and the Cavs (or what was left of them after Kevin Love and Kyrie went down with season ending injuries in the playoffs) fought valiantly against the budding legend of the Splash Bros., Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors. After a somewhat epic Finals that lasted six games, Golden State captured their second title in the Bay (the franchise also won two titles as the Philadelphia Warriors in 1947 and 1956).
This year’s playoffs have a different feel to them. The East is a much stronger conference than it was a year ago and we finally have a fairly healthy field of players to start (Sorry Memphis). Certain teams and players have a lot riding on their team’s success during this year’s playoffs.
The Warriors probably have the most to lose or gain. In the court of online public opinion not winning a ring this year is unacceptable for Steve Kerr’s Warriors. If they can top off this year with another Championship banner giving reigning MVP and possible repeat MVP Steph Curry a second ring, the Legend in the Bay will only continue to grow.
Steph ended the season with an average of 30 ppg. and a historic 402 three pointers made shattering his record of 286 from last year among other amazing feats. Steph isn’t alone though. Don’t forget about Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Oklahoma City is another team with a bunch to prove. Russell Westbrook came into this season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He couldn’t get his team into last year’s playoffs on his own which probably cost him the MVP trophy. With his partner in crime Kevin Durant back in the mix, the two of them have done pretty good.
Not to mention Russ notched an impressive and historical 18 triple-doubles, the last of which he earned in just 18 minutes. We’ve been waiting for the Thunder to return to the Finals ever since they were demolished by the Heat back in 2012. Could this finally be KD and Russy's year?
The Clippers are probably the most disappointing of all of the championship contenders. After acquiring Chris Paul in 2011, L.A.’s new darling has yet to reach a Conference Finals, which is sad given their depth and roster. If they don’t get it done this year when will they? Chris Paul will be turning 31 during the Playoffs which means his time to join The Mamba in retirement could be quickly approaching.
Blake Griffin has missed significant time this year due to injuries and off the court issues. No one else on that roster has enough juice to really carry a team. If CP3 and Doc Rivers are going to seriously push for a ring it would be best if they do it sooner rather than later.
In the East the only team with great expectations are the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron showed out in a losing effort during last year’s Finals. He was also without Kyrie Irving until Christmas where the Cavs lost in their rematch against the Warriors.
While the Cavs have struggled at times and tended to play lack luster against sub-par teams, LeBron is a completely different animal in the playoffs. If he can’t win this year there will certainly be doubt cast over his legacy. I can see the headlines now; “Can LeBron win on his own?”, “Does he really need Wade and Bosh to win?” "Will Cleveland Ever win a Title?".
In all honesty the Spurs have nothing to worry about. They only lost one game at home this year and win or lose, Pop, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim “The Big Fundamental” Duncan’s legacies are already cemented. But who says a sixth Ring for Pop and Duncan would hurt? Every year the Spurs could make a run, or they could lose in the first round (Memphis shocked them in the first round of the 2011 playoffs). One thing is for sure, this is one of the best Spurs teams we’ve ever seen, title or no title.
This year was full of excitement and history. From Philly’s horrendous season and Kobe’s farewell tour to the history books having to be rewritten on several occasions. This year’s playoffs will certainly etch new footnotes for several legacies as the quest for the 2016 banner begins…