Golden State: The NBA’s Grim Reaper

You’re going to die. Not like, soon, probably. But someday. That’s just how it works. I will too. Everyone will. We’re all going to fight and claw and scratch for every year, day, minute and second we can muster, but Death gets us all in the end. There have been 100 billion games of Life on this little planet of ours, and that sumbitch is undefeated. He’s playing over 8 billion games at once right now and I wouldn’t bet against him on any of them.

That’s a morbid way to begin talking about the Golden State Warriors. But looking past their electric and joyful style of play, they’re a morbid entity. They take out opponents without mercy. Desperate attempts to escape or outlast them are futile. They don’t have the winning percentage of Death, but the Warriors’ 85% in the last three seasons and playoffs is as close as you’ll get in NBA terms.

When humans get close to Death or when it seems more inevitable than usual, they get a little crazy. We’re pretty irrational creatures in general, and when faced with the prospect of no longer living it’s no surprise we get even worse. We’ll try anything to hold off Death, for example:

  • As the Black Death/Bubonic Plague was decimating Europe in the 1300s, attempted cures were ingesting arsenic, literally sitting in sewers because maybe the plague couldn’t get through the smell(?) and whipping oneself to appease God for he was angry at your sinful ways and that’s why black boils were popping out of your skin and putting your entire body through searing pain, among other similarly outrageous tactics.
  • Ancient Roman armies carried chickens around, and if they didn’t eat cake crumbled in front of them it was considered a bad omen for the coming battle; battle strategies changed and generals freaked the hell out in accordance with the chickens.
  • An extraordinary but unknowable number of humans through the years have turned to alchemy and potion-making to create the definitely-real Elixir of Life and have died searching for the also definitely-real Fountain of Youth.
  • I see 80-year-olds at the YMCA jogging at .2 mph around the basketball court, convinced that these laps will extend their lives in a meaningful way and unwilling to accept that there’s no shame or tragedy in dying at 90 years old.

So yes, Golden State. For the rest of the NBA, they’re basically Death. They’re what’s waiting at the end of line. If you’re even lucky enough to get to the end of the line. And based off the free agency moves of many teams this offseason, they’re ready to get desperate. No free agency move can compare to ingesting arsenic (though the Knicks giving Joakim Noah $72 million last year is close) but the foregone conclusion of a Warriors championship made other teams get a little crazy.

The Rockets acquired Chris Paul in a high-profile, complicated move that no one is sure will actually measurably improve their team. But the Warriors so exist, so we have to try something, right?

Boston passed on acquiring Jimmy Butler or Paul George to go along with Gordon Hayward because it would cost them draft picks that, dammit, they are going to need to have pan out so they can still be good in 2021 when Golden State might start slipping.

The Cavaliers signed some washed up guys and parted ways with a GM LeBron James loved so as to…um, crap. Okay they’re the exception to this rule, I guess. Moving on.

The Clippers gave a both-constantly-and-currently-injured Blake Griffin $125 million and grabbed Danilo Gallinari after losing Chris Paul, because where else will they get talent when everyone else is either joining the Warriors’ superteam or creating a superteam to beat them?

Minnesota traded for Butler and signed Jeff Teague because they’ll need a couple of good players older than 25 on the roster to even think about hanging with Golden State.

Washington matched a $100 million offer for Otto Porter just to keep the status quo.

The Nuggets nabbed Paul Millsap with the hope that his presence and multiple of their youngsters making a massive leap will vault them up in the West.

Toronto both gave a couple hundred million to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on the off chance it’d be enough to finally knock off Cleveland, giving them an even smaller chance to take down the Warriors.

Oklahoma City fleeced the Pacers to get Paul George on what will almost certainly be a one-year rental because if you can make an embarrassingly lopsided trade while giving yourself even the faintest prayer against the NBA’s undertaker, you have to do it.

Even the 76ers, home of The Process, cashed in some chips to get Markelle Fultz then signed J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson. I’m doubtful the Warriors accelerated Philly’s timeline, but they see Fultz as their point guard of the future, and the foreseeable future of the NBA goes through Golden State, so I’m counting it.

Many of these moves range from defensible to totally fine. Some of them, along with many other lesser moves, are quite dumb. But the point here is that they’re all futile. Inconsequential. The vitamin supplement of an octogenarian. Someone flapping their arms while falling off a cliff. Bringing brass knuckles into the lion’s den. Good efforts all around, but it won’t be enough.

Because while they were making all their cute little moves over the Fourth of July weekend, the Warriors were busy ignoring them all and resigning Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia and David West while also picking up Omri Casspi and Nick Young on the cheap. Just for fun. Why not?

Death is going to win. What does it matter how fast or easy it is for him or how painful or depressing it is for everyone else?

Free agency was fun, just like it always is. Woj bombs, conflicting reports, awful Player’s Tribune articles, tweets both petty and desperate and lots and lots of cash. This sets up a fun season with a lot of interesting teams and players to pay attention to from October through May. Then June comes.

Life is a lot of fun, too. We’ve all got our share of moments and experiences that make the whole thing worth it. But the end is unavoidable. That part is going to suck, and it might make us question a few of the things we’ve done. Death plays games within the game, and that’s not really fair, but it’s part of life, too.

But at least we got to watch the Warriors instead of playing them.

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