Of the many juicy subplots between the Cavs and Warriors, one that frequently goes overlooked is Lue, the former assistant who has blossomed in no time into one of the league's brightest young head coaches and a playoff savant.
Yes, this is a team featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, a roster full of so much firepower that the Warriors are heavy favorites heading into the NBA Finals against as stiff an opponent as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The loud music at practices.
Irving has been right in the middle of it all. For next season, this will mean a core of Smart, Brown and likely Markelle Fultz (or whomever the Celtics select) with Smart being by far the oldest player at 23 years of age.Act III in this trilogy is overloaded with story lines, with the biggest being whether James and Co. have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors, who added superstar Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games a year ago before its Finals flameout. I'm still feeling a lot of effects of what I've got going on. But with Mike being out, I'll take his spot, after he took my spot media-wise. It's just weird because on the one hand Mike has to coach the team as he sees fit.
Now right back where we were past year with both teams in good health, both with stellar shooters and defenders, and both feeling confident and validated by their respective Conference wins, it's fair for us as spectators to ask ourselves what the difference is and will be in these finals and what it is that one team needs to have over the other to secure the coveted National Basketball Association championship title and the backing to utter the phrase "Kiss the ring" with vindication.
But for as ably as Brown has filled in for Kerr, he understandably can not fill the void left by Kerr's absence. He is entering his seventh consecutive final, an unprecedented accomplishment in the modern National Basketball Association.
It's a balancing act that has weighed on everyone within the team, as they have struggled to see the man who means so much to everything that has happened since he arrived in 2014 - the championship in 2015, the record 73 wins past year, the recruitment of Kevin Durant last summer - struggle just to get through each day, let alone bask in what should be a time to celebrate the remarkable run this group has had and prepare for what should be a fantastic NBA Finals. The addition of KD will be too much for the Cavs, as Durant will earn his first ring and do exactly what he set out to do when he joined Golden State this past offseason. "I don't look at anybody kind of pushing me".
"Throughout the postseason there's so many different emotions", James said. "So, he has to make those decisions [during games]", Kerr said. "So it makes it even more risky when you equip that talent, that skill, with those guys".
Kerr is still around. Golden State came out of the West with a ideal 12-0 record and a slightly superior net rating than the Cavs over the course of the playoffs.
Few outside their locker room do.
While great performances from KD and Steph powered the Warriors past Portland, Utah, and San Antonio, they'll need a bit more from the other Splash Bro if they want to defeat Cleveland and avoid a repeat of last year's finals.
But he isn't ready to coach, and he isn't sure when he'll be ready to.
"They're the champions. We're not", Kerr said Monday at practice.
"The whole underdog thing is amusing to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title", Love said Saturday after the Cavs' first practice in preparation for the Warriors since clinching a spot in the Finals. I wore a leg sleeve on my leg and folded it down so you saw the red part. Other than that, they have been blowing just about every team out of the water and they certainly aren't going to make it easy on Golden State. However, he plans to travel with the team to Cleveland for the games that they play there.
"It is awkward", Kerr said. As in, we're doing 2016 over again - in 2017.
Kerr, however, still isn't okay.
That move proved prudent, as Kerr wound up missing Game 3 of the first round April 22 and announced the next day he would be out indefinitely after his symptoms "took a turn for the worse" in the prior days.