Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry

USA Today

2019 NBA Finals Preview

It is finally here.

May 30, 2019 - 10:00 am

It is finally here. Game 1 of The NBA Finals. Golden State at Toronto. And you could not ask for more storylines. The team that’s in the final for a fifth straight time versus the team that’s never been there before. Oakland’s last Finals. Jurassic Park’s first Finals.

Steph, Klay, and Draymond versus Kawhi, Kyle, and Pascal. Steve Kerr going back to the Finals again. Nick Nurse getting there in his first year. And as always: REST VERSUS RUST.

Oh, hell yes! The greatest pre-series debate ever is back. Who has the advantage? How much rest is too much rest? When does rest turn into rust? Does the fact that Golden State has been waiting for more than a week mean that they’re well rested or that they’re too rusted?

In the case of Kevin Durant, it means that he was spotted yesterday walking without a noticeable limp. But he’s not playing Game 1. And Game 2 already seems like a stretch. So if not this weekend, when does he come back? And by the way, if you’re Golden State, should you even consider playing him before you lose your first game? Even if he can go? They’ve won five in a row without him. And if you’re still winning, do you want to risk disrupting that? 

And what does all that mean for the matchups? And for the pace of the game? And what if they do a lose a game. What if they lose two. I mean, can Golden State win four more games without Durant?

And when Durant isn’t there, does Nurse put Kawhi on someone like Andre Iguodala so he can sag off, the way Draymond did against the Blazers forwards? And speaking of Draymond, where do you put him? And speaking of injuries, how much can the Warriors expect from DeMarcus Cousins? And when do they use him?

What about the second units? Can Fred VanVleet keep on killing it the way that he did in the final three games against the Bucks? Does Danny Green find his shot again?

After killing his interview on the show yesterday, does Kevon Looney have a triple double tonight? Or is it a quad double?

And obviously, the other big question is: Drake. Because even if this series isn’t about him, you know he’ll make it about him. Or at least he’ll think about it. Because if it was a big deal in the conference finals, there’s no way he’s sitting down in the Finals. Not when the games are on broadcast TV and the audience is bigger than ever. Not when he has the chance to get even more people to look at him. Because isn’t that what this is about? No one acts like he does unless they want people looking at them and reacting to them. But then again, the league did talk to him about his act.

According to reports, the league spoke to the Raptors about Drake’s antics during the Conference Finals. And Adam Silver went a step further with Chris Haynes on his podcast saying, "I think Drake understands as excited as he is and as appreciative we are of his support that there's got to be lines drawn. Obviously, you don't want to end up touching a coach because a coach may not realize what's going on in the middle of the action."

He added: "I think he has a better understanding now of where that line is.”

And the line is, you can’t be hitting your coach with baby oil and rubbing him up on the bench during the game. What you and the coach do in your off time together is your time; just don’t be doing that during the game. 

So, from Durant to Drake, there are a ton of questions about this series. There are so many unknowns. But here’s one thing I do know – you better not take any of this for granted.

Do not take Golden State being here for the fifth straight time for granted. And do not assume that just because they’re there for a fifth straight time, it’s old hat and they no longer have that chip on their shoulder. Because they do. And don’t assume they’re going to just run over Toronto because with or with KD, they’re still the Warriors; and they won it all without him. Don’t assume that fourth ring just because they’re Golden State.  Because Toronto’s no joke. In fact, they’re a threat. A legitimate threat. They’ve got the homecourt; they’re fierce defensively, and they have arguably the best player in the game right now in Kawhi Leonard who is a near impossible matchup and at the peak of his powers. And they have more than just Kawhi. And just because you don’t know the names of some of their players, or just because you thought Kyle Lowry wasn’t clutch or that Marc Gasol was washed, doesn’t mean that’s true. They aren’t just good, they’re damn good. And they just beat the team with the best record in the NBA four straight times. So, this isn’t just Kawhi and scrubs. Or Kawhi and company. That’s a full team, one that is extremely well coached and one that can cause a ton of problems, even for arguably the best team of all time.

And another thought about Golden State: winning an NBA title is hard. Winning three in four years is incredibly hard. Winning four in five is crazy. Every single trip to the Finals is grueling. And tiring. It takes so much out of you, and eventually that catches up to you. It catches up to everyone. Every run ends and often when you least expect it. 

Just don’t tell that to Draymond Green. Because he plays the game for just these moments. And – Draymond is fired up. Here he was yesterday, just walking down a hallway, talking about the Raptors fans.

And here his is at the podium, dropping knowledge. He’s talking about basketball and the finals, but really, he’s talking about life. Hell, he might as well be talking to every one of the Smackoff contenders. So stop what you’re doing and listen to this 81 seconds of gold.

If that doesn’t get you fired up for tonight, for the rest of the week, and for the rest of your life, that’s on you. Game 1. Tonight. Let’s do this.