For a little while, LeBron James will take a break. He’ll take his mind off the game. He’ll spend some time with his kids.
It won’t be long before James gets back on a basketball court, the unceasing pull of the sport he loves calling him, just as much as the memory of losing in the NBA Finals will push him. Then his team, and 28 others, will set to work at figuring out their place in the Warriors’ era.
“They’re going to be here for a while,” said James, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star who has been to seven consecutive Finals, the last three against Golden State. “They’re going to be around for a while. … Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. So there’s going to be a lot of teams that’s trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try and match that if they’re able to actually face them in the playoff series, both Eastern Conference and Western Conference.”
Their dominance isn’t bad for basketball. Monday night’s Game 5, during which the Warriors clinched their second title in three seasons, was the most-watched Game 5 since 1998, with more than 25 million viewers.
But for the teams who all strive for the same thing, this conundrum exists in both conferences.
James is 32 years old, but he showed no signs of aging during this year’s playoffs. The Cavaliers casually dispatched every team they played, sweeping the first two rounds. The Boston Celtics offered some resistance — winning one game — but even that effort seemed ultimately doomed.
James figures to play at this level for at least four more years, darkening the fates of any other contender in the conference.
But the Warriors’ dominance poses a problem for everyone. Will James play the rest of his prime with Golden State this good?
Stephen Curry is 29, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are 27, Kevin Durant is only 28. Durant can opt out of his contract this summer, while Curry and important reserve Andre Iguodala are at the end of their deals. Green is under contract for three more years, Thompson for two more.
But after a season in which Curry and Durant both sacrificed personal accolades and attention to win a championship, it’s hard to imagine either leaving in free agency. That could set up the Warriors to maintain the level of play they had this year for the next three or four years.
The Warriors swept through the Western Conference playoffs, no easy feat.
The Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and the Houston Rockets all had better regular season records better than any Eastern Conference team. The Clippers and the Utah Jazz both finished with the same 51-31 record as the Cavaliers did in finishing second to the Boston Celtics.
All of those teams have stars who are in their mid-20s and older. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard turns 26 this month. Houston’sJames Harden will be 28 by the start of next season. Clippers forward Blake Griffin is 28, and their star point guard Chris Paul is 32, though it’s unclear what each player’s future is with the Clippers.
If any of those teams are to wait out this run, those players probably will waste the primes of their careers.
Rebuilding teams might be better equipped.
The Lakers are one of them. They have the second pick in next week’s draft, and a roster full of young players. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has said he’s looking more toward next summer’s free agency than this summer’s free agency.
All that means the Lakers aren’t likely to be back in contention for at least another couple of years. And that might be perfect.
“I joke a lot, I said, ‘If there’s a time to be rebuilding, this is the time to do it,’” Lakers coach Luke Walton said recently on a podcast with Bleacher Report. “The Warriors don’t look like they’re going anywhere for a while.”
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