Are there any two teams in the NBA that despise each other more than the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers do?
This rivalry began about three years ago and has only gotten more hateful as time has gone on. Sure, there’s respect between the top teams in the league, but to put it simply, they just plain do not like each other.
With today’s friendlier environment on the court, it’s refreshing to see a pair of ball clubs that can’t stand their counterparts. It brings out a fire and the absolute best players have to offer. For example, see what Tyronn Lue had to say on a practice day following the Cavaliers’ lone win in the Finals.
“Me personally, I liked it,” Lue said of the physicality. “I thought the first two games we were being too nice. The first three games, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, talking to guys and — yeah, I didn’t like that. So I think Game 4, talking trash, being physical, whatever you got to do to try to get that edge to win, you got to do it.”
It was a game that involved pushing and shoving, verbal confrontations and technical fouls. This isn’t to say that this is the right way to conduct yourself on the floor, but when things become a little bit more chippy, that’s often when the focus increases and the production improves.
The fact that Cleveland didn’t bring that fight through the early parts of this series was perplexing, especially for how often they were taking shots at the Warriors after their title win. There were multiple gestures to get under their skin off the court—LeBron James and the Ultimate Warrior t-shirt and the infamous Halloween party, to name a couple.
These not-so-subtle acts likely came in response to Klay Thompson’s comments towards James in the 2016 Finals. Draymond Green didn’t appreciate the Cavaliers’ fun at his team’s expense, and on opening night he made his feelings perfectly clear.
“If Cleveland comes out of the East, I want to destroy Cleveland,” Green said to TNT. “No if, and’s and buts about it. But I also know there are steps to get to that point. And if and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them.”
Fast-forward to the present and Green’s vision has become a reality. He’s not hiding his emotions about it this year, either. The retaliation was a custom-made t-shirt poking fun at the Cavaliers’ home court Quicken Loans Arena. It said “Quickie” in the same font as the company’s logo. LeBron was quick to counter with a quip on his Instagram page. Green even probed further about James’ words about never playing on a “superteam” when handed the microphone at the parade.
It’s no secret that Green has always been the most outspoken member of the Warriors.
As previously mentioned, the friction between “The Bay” and “The Land” started back when the two teams first met in the Finals back in 2015. After Golden State took the trophy home, Green went on camera and blatantly disrespected the Cavaliers with an interview that went viral. Recently, he went after the fans of the city itself when asked about a chant that went around “The Q” during Game 4.
“They don’t seem to be the sharpest people around,” Green told reporters.
Between those comments and his attire at Golden State’s championship parade, it could be the next step in the saga. Kyrie Irving openly admitted that he and the team heard the Warriors talking about celebrating a title on their home floor, so Cleveland will already have its motivation to get back to the promised land, but those things poke the bear and offer a little extra incentive.
Like the Warriors did an offseason ago, the Cavaliers will likely make a splash this summer. The process for the Cavalier front office to do so will be much tougher than Bob Myers’ work, though.
The first and foremost priority is to retain general manager David Griffin. During his tenure, Griffin has done a tremendous job of acquiring assets through trades and making extremely tough decisions for the betterment of the franchise.
If the Cavaliers are successful in bringing back Griffin, it’s a step in the right direction. If anybody can find a way to tweak the Cavaliers’ current roster to best match the firepower of their rivals, it’s Griffin. The question is, what avenues could be taken?
The rumors spreading around a player the caliber of Paul George or a castoff Carmelo Anthony is a nice thought for Cleveland, but who on their roster would truthfully be able to land those sort of players? It’s a lot more complicated than many pundits are portraying it.
Regarding free agency, the Cavaliers don’t have much of a chance to hit the lottery with a big name. Basketball Insiders contributor Cody Taylor went through that in great detail earlier this week on potential options, but none are particularly game-changing.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the Warriors will celebrate this summer and get ready to defend their title in about five months. They also have some decisions to make to figure out how to keep this team together with some key pieces potentially going elsewhere.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will be priorities 1A and 1B, and both will get paid a pretty penny to stay in Golden State for the long term. Their decisions will impact what happens with their teammates’ future as well.
Regardless of what happens over the offseason, there’s good reason to believe the Cavaliers and Warriors will butt heads once again in 2018 as the train keeps on rolling on this all-so-entertaining and ultra competitive track.
All that’s left to do for both sides is to get past downplaying what we know is true and acknowledge that there’s a real feud.
Some players may change, but the hatred will remain the same, and that’s a great thing for the NBA.
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