OAKLAND — This is the quote that will launch a thousand conspiracy theories. It is a bit cryptic.
LeBron James had said previously that Kevin Durant going to the Warriors was good for basketball, but that opinion is certainly not shared by everyone. With the Warriors on the doorstep of a title and then heading into next season heavy favorites to repeat, the question of competitive balance keeps coming up. LeBron was asked if he could see the other side of the argument on the Warriors.
“Well, I can see it from both sides,” LeBron said Sunday. “Not going to exactly give you my opinion on how I can see it from both sides. I will at some point in my career. I’m not at that point right now because I know what I say kind of gets — people take it the wrong way. So I have my opinion on how people see it from both sides, and I have pretty good knowledge about it. So a few years from now I’ll tell you how I really feel about the whole situation. But they’re a great team. They’re assembled as good as you can be as a professional team, and they’re on a quest to win a championship. You can respect that.
“But they’re a great team. They’re assembled as good as you can be as a professional team, and they’re on a quest to win a championship. You can respect that.”
I’m curious what LeBron’s view is, does he see things as a future team owner? However, in trying not to start a controversy he accidentally fed the overactive imaginations of conspiracy theorists — “LeBron knows something we don’t about these Warriors.”
Here’s the reality: Golden State’s management was smarter than everyone else. What the NBA wants is a league where any team that drafts well, sets up a good culture, and uses its money in free agency wisely can win. That’s what the Warriors did. They drafted Stephen Curry, Dryamond Green, and Klay Thompson, then developed them. They built a culture and system that the players bought into. And while the spike in the NBA salary cap with the new television deal made it easier, they managed their cap to be in position to get Durant without breaking up the core. They handled it well.
The NBA has always had super teams that dominated an era — ’60s Celtics, ’80s Lakers (and Celtics), ’90s Bulls — or good teams that dominated a window (Bad Boy Pistons, Shaq/Kobe Lakers, for example). It’s not a coincidence that is when the league is most popular (ratings this series have been the highest since the 1990s). Did you dislike Jordan’s Bulls, they were more dominant and certainly more arrogant than these Warriors?
Some fans don’t like the players having the power now, with them working to help form their own superteams (LeBron to Miami, Durant to Warriors), but that’s actually about perspective. It’s okay if white guys in suits put together superteams, but if the players do that it’s somehow collusion or dirty?
I’m curious what LeBron’s “other side” is. And I think the topic of if a dominant Warriors team ultimately hurts the league’s ratings is legit. However, if LeBron didn’t like the spike in the salary cap, or wanted to do other things to help flatten out the talent pool in the league, well, he is VP of the players’ union. The union fought smoothing in the money from the TV deal. I guess we’ll find out in a few years.