Prior to Saturday’s tilt between the Cavaliers and the Warriors, Steve Kerr was feeling nostalgic. The Warriors coach had spent three and a half seasons as a guard for the Cavs before being traded to the Orlando Magic during the 1992-93 season. Kerr spoke with the media about how his players were shocked that when he played, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse didn’t even exist yet. He also reminisced on how he was once teammates with Larry Nance and how surreal it is now to coach against Nance’s son, Larry Nance Jr., now.
The Cavs must’ve been feeling nostalgia towards Kerr as well. At the start of the second quarter, Cavs public address announcer Sean Peebles welcomed back both Kerr and former Cavs head coach — and now Warriors assistant — Mike Brown. This was just normal pleasantries being exchanged, as has been the case with every game during the Cavs’ 50th season. But, Peebles also made sure to note that Kerr and Brown were also part of another significant portion of Cavs history -— when Cleveland and Golden State squared off in four consecutive NBA Finals.
Back then, the matchups between the Cavs and Warriors were must-see tv. There was both a mutual hatred and respect between both teams, and their respective fan bases. Nowadays, it doesn’t feel like there is much hatred left. Sure, Draymond Green got plenty of jeers when he scored and cheers when he fouled, but it was fairly lukewarm otherwise. In fact, there were plenty of fans in the stands with Steph Curry jerseys on. You probably wouldn’t see that a few years ago, no way no how.
It is a little weird to think though that both Cleveland and Golden State were playing in the NBA Finals just two seasons ago, though. There are still remnants from that era with Green, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson playing and Curry cheering from Golden State’s bench. But, as of the conclusion of today’s matchup, the Cavs and the Warriors are both the worst teams in the league record-wise. Neither will be playing for the playoffs positioning this year, just the best odds for the first overall pick instead. No matter what, the universe will always have these two franchises intertwined as rivals, huh? Well, not exactly.
There’s a good chance that Golden State will have a top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. But, it doesn’t mean their situation is as dire as Cleveland’s. The Warriors have just had a string of bad luck when it came to injuries. Klay Thompson tore his left ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals and will not play this season. Curry broke his hand early into the season and likely won’t be back until March. When they return, they’ll join Green - who finished the night with 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 16 assists. D’Angelo Russell is also in Golden State now as well, and the All-Star caliber guard will only look better when the Warriors aren’t a bottom feeder.
So when the Warriors are fully healthy, they’re a title threat again, as much as Cavs fans probably don’t want to hear it. So, they can keep the lottery pick they obtain to have a talented, albeit cost-controlled player. Or they can flip said lottery pick to a team to find a player that pushes them over the edge, again, towards an NBA championship. More than anything, this is a retooling more than a rebuild for the Warriors, which is why their situation isn’t as bad as Cleveland’s.
The Cavs are in a full-blown rebuild, no matter how much the team wants to refer to it as a renaissance. After LeBron James left town, again, the Cavs were left with a bunch of veterans that were tailored to compliment him and few prospects. It’s going to be a slow burn, with no immediate path to title contention or hell, normalcy in sight right now.
But, as remnants of the second LeBron era continue to burn to the ground, there is hope sprouting from the ashes. So far, the Cavs have Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr., and the aforementioned lottery pick Cleveland is playing for. There’s still a long way to go, and there isn’t an end in sight like there is for Golden State.
That’s why it’s safe to say that this bitter rivalry is officially dead. Once the Warriors return to title contention, the Cavs will be just a memory in their minds. Fans on both sides need to have the same mindset as well going forward. It isn’t healthy to harbor hatred on either side, especially considering how both teams are headed in opposite directions.
Is it sad to say that the finality of one of the most fun rivalries in recent NBA history is palpable tonight in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse? Absolutely. But, it’s not a bad thing to feel nostalgia towards that era in both franchise’s respective histories. It helps make when the time Cleveland returns to contention even more sweeter.