Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where nobody can do it alone. Let’s get to it:
*First off, let’s resist any temptation to put an asterisk next to the Raptors NBA championship. Yeah, of course Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson’s injuries played a significant role in Toronto’s series victory — including Game 6, which Durant missed completely and Thompson was knocked out of in the second half.
But those are the breaks. And the Raptors were every bit as good as the Warriors when Thompson was healthy. We’ll never know how a fully healthy Golden State squad would have fared — but we also don’t know if a healthy Chris Paul would have knocked the Warriors out of the 2018 had he not injured his hamstring. Again, those are the breaks.
Toronto earned its championship and wild Canada-wide celebration. Kawhi Leonard deserves an elevated platform and for more of us to wonder if he is actually the best player in the NBA right now. Kyle Lowry deserves praise — and to soak it all in, including this hilarious postgame interview with teammate Fred VanVleet.
In the aftermath of all of it, though, we are left to digest what Golden State’s injuries mean in the big picture of the NBA.
Durant’s torn Achilles and Thompson’s torn ACL — both occurring, by the way, on the same legs that kept both players out of action in the early part of the series — are not short-term injuries. An uncertain offseason for the Warriors became truly chaotic.
Durant might sign elsewhere … or he could opt in for one more year with Golden State that would be used almost exclusively (or completely) for rehabbing his injury. Thompson, also a free agent, could return to the Warriors. But he, too, will spend most or all of next season trying to return to health.
That leaves the NBA’s Western Conference, Golden State’s domain for the last five seasons, very much up for grabs — at least in 2019-20. Whether that should or will impact the roster-building strategies of contenders (or even the Timberwolves) remains to be seen. But I imagine it will, at least for teams that feel they are on the cusp.
*Vegas doesn’t put the Wolves among contenders. Quite the opposite, actually. In VERY early odds for next year’s NBA title, the Wolves check in at 100 to 1 — tied with seven other teams for the longest odds.
*By the way, most pro sports seasons last way too long. But if you think Major League Soccer is interminable, it’s really quite comparable to the NHL and NBA.
*Interesting factoid pointed out by reader Mark: Entering Friday, the Twins have identical 14-6 records against every division in the American League.