WASHINGTON, USA – Kevin Durant barely had a chance to grip his first NBA championship trophy in Golden State’s victory celebration last June before rival clubs were moving to challenge the Warriors “superteam” for supremacy.
Now the NBA’s 72nd season opens Tuesday, October 17 with a fistful of clubs having assembled 3 or more stars, uniting to stop Durant, 3-point sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green from bringing Golden State a third title in four campaigns.
NBA 2017 Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook welcomed Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to Oklahoma City while Houston added Chris Paul and tough defenders to NBA assists leader and number two scorer James Harden with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward joining Al Horford in Boston.
And the Cavaliers, with four-time MVP LeBron James bidding for an eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, added his pal Dwyane Wade, oft-injured Derrick Rose plus Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas in the deal that sent Irving to Boston.
In all, eight players with a total of 45 All-Star Game appearances switched teams.
“Just because you compile a team of superstars don’t mean it’s going to work, because it’s a lot of ego,” Green told GQ magazine. “And we just happen to have a perfect group to where it works.”
Las Vegas oddsmakers agree. The Warriors are a runaway favorite to repeat as champion at about 2-1 with Cleveland next at 4-1 ahead of Boston at 10-1 with Houston and San Antonio at 15-1 just ahead of Oklahoma City at 16-1.
‘They don’t stand a chance’
It’s the NBA version of a nuclear arms race, complete with a fistful of teams stockpiling top talent and legend Michael Jordan, a six-time NBA champion with Chicago who owns the Charlotte Hornets, warning of mutually assured destruction.
“I think it’s going to hurt the overall aspect of the league from a competitive standpoint,” Jordan told Cigar Aficionado magazine. “You’re going to have one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage. Or they’re going to have a tough time surviving in the business environment.”
In the wake of a heartbreaking seventh-game loss to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals after a record 73-9 season, the Warriors recruited Durant, the former MVP who opted out of Oklahoma City. They rolled through the playoffs with a 16-1 record.
It’s a follow-on to the escalation James helped spark in 2010 when he left Cleveland for Miami to join Wade and Chris Bosh in a “Big Three” that reached four NBA Finals in a row, winning in 2012 and 2013.
When he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, he matched up with Irving and added Kevin Love for a new “Big Three” and now such trios abound.
“It’s pretty… sick to see how everybody is just in a … panic about what to do,” Green told GQ. “That’s the fun part about it – they know they don’t stand a chance.”
Green said the Warriors were inspired by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s comments after last June’s NBA Finals, when he said the Warriors “are not unbeatable. There have been bigger upsets in sports history. We are going to keep improving our roster. We’re used to long odds. If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeves.”
That proved to be pairing Paul and Harden, two of the NBA’s best, in the Houston backcourt.
“They are really trying to rethink their whole strategy,” Green told GQ.
‘Only ego is bring your game’
The superteams will be tested on opening night with Boston visiting Cleveland and Houston at Golden State. Oklahoma City will open Thursday at home against New York, Anthony’s former club.
James says that despite potential issues with 2011 MVP Rose, 2006 MVP Wade, himself, Love, Crowder and teammates relegated to reserve duties, the Cavaliers will come together and again be a championship threat.
“At the end of the day when guys sign here and wanted to come here, we all know what we’re here for,” James said. “So there’s no ego. The only ego is bring your game, which these guys know how to do. We all have a common goal, so none of that other stuff matters.” – Rappler.com