LeBron James is friends with Draymond Green, has worked out with Kevin Durant, speaks with great reverence for Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr.
They all do like each other.
And, to those watching the NBA Finals, that might be easy to forget at times.
Turns out, when the same franchises meet for the fourth consecutive year to decide the NBA championship, familiarity indeed does breed contempt. Tensions have been high at times in the first two games of this series, emotions have started to boil over on a couple of occasions, and that trend will likely be continuing until someone hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“Even with turnover from players, you have a continuity of management, continuity of culture in organizations,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “There’s the institutional memory there of the wins and the losses. And so, I think it is very meaningful and when you have the same teams that are meeting for the fourth time, it’s part of a larger storyline. It’s not just a one-off game or a one-off series.”
Translated: Everyone should have seen this coming.
There was the dustup at the end of Game 1 when Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson was angered by the Warriors’ Shaun Livingston trying a jumper with the outcome already decided. There was Klay Thompson angered by the recklessness of J.R. Smith crashing into his leg early in the series opener. There was Kendrick Perkins jawing at Stephen Curry after the third quarter of Game 2.
The Warriors and the Cavaliers are certainly not lacking for intensity in these finals.
“Much ado about nothing,” Curry said Sunday night, likely not the most completely honest statement of his career since it couldn’t have been just a coincidence that he made all five of his 3-pointers in the next 8:33 to turn the game into a blowout.
Game 3 is in Cleveland on Wednesday night, with the Warriors up 2-0. Emotions will simmer until then.
“It’s just basketball,” Tristan Thompson said. “It’s just a competitive sport. Of course we’re going to get irritated with each other, just because we’re both competitors and we both want it all. But it never goes off the court. Maybe for some guys it does, but not for me.”
Rivalries are what make the sport great.
There was the Celtics-Lakers hatred of eras gone past. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons otherwise known as the Bad Boys. Pat Riley, back in the day, used to forbid his Knicks and Heat teams from helping up opponents when they knocked them over and discouraged fraternizing with the enemy _ ever, including the offseason.
Times have changed. Guys vacation together now. It’s a new era.
“We’re not holding hands and singing songs as friends,” Curry said. “We’re enjoying the competitive environment. I think that’s the consistent thing between our two teams. Obviously we see each other twice a year during the regular season and then you wait until June. … It’s just about winning a championship. You don’t want to let anything distract us from that on the floor.”
Sometimes, the ribbing goes off the court.
James raised eyebrows when he showed up with a suit jacket and matching shorts for Game 1, then arrived at Game 2 with a similar look. Never missing a chance to get under someone’s collar, Green showed up at Game 2 also in the jacket-shorts mode.
“Fun,” Green said.
There’s basketball beefs, and then there’s real-world beefs. Someone tried to get Green to draw a parallel between the Warriors-Cavs animus and the recent musical rivalry between Pusha T and Drake.
He didn’t bite.
“This is nothing like that, nothing at all like that,” Green said.
Everything is fun for the Warriors right now, since they’ve won the first two games. Understandably, not much seems like fun to the Cavaliers. But no matter how this series ends, whenever it ends, there will be hugs and handshakes.
Until then, it’s just all part of the game.
That’s why things, while often heated, never seem to get overheated.
“They’re a championship team, we’re a championship team, and we both have experience,” the Warriors’ Kevon Looney said. “So it’s going to get a little chippy out there.”
The commissioner is fine with that, provided things stay within reason.
“The game ends, they take their proverbial cold shower and then they put it behind them,” Silver said. “Until the next game.”