OAKLAND — It’s the 2016 Finals that begin Thursday, sources confirmed to NBA.com, not a continuation of the 2015 championship series. There is no attempt at a replay, no try for redemption.
That goes for both sides, for the Cavaliers who lost in six games a year ago while playing shorthanded and for the Warriors who had to hear about it for months, as if they were supposed to apologize for beating Cleveland without Kevin Love and mostly without Kyrie Irving. The matchup that resumes with Game 1 at Oracle Arena is not the same one that ended last June in Ohio, with Golden State winning and the Cavs wondering what may have been.
The Warriors don’t even seem to be wanting the potential closure, the logic that beating the Cavaliers at full strength this time would somehow equal that Golden State would have handled Cleveland in the same way in 2015.
“It’s what everyone wanted, to have the rematch,” center Andrew Bogut said after Warriors practice on Wednesday. “They’re playing very good basketball, we had to fight our way here. It’s going to be an exciting series.”
Just not everyone.
“Besides us,” Bogut clarified. “No, just in the sense of the media and everyone. There’s a lot of storylines around them being banged up last season. It’s a good story to have the rematch, for you guys. For us, it wouldn’t really matter who it was.”
Because this is not the chance to close a chapter.
“We don’t really care,” Bogut said. “The ring doesn’t have an asterisk on it. We had guys banged up through different series this season. Portland and Houston, Steph (Curry) was banged up. These things happen. You’ve got to adjust. We’re not really feeling like we’re coming in saying, ‘Hey, we’re really going to prove ourselves against them now.’ We did what we did last season, that’s over and this is a new team, on both sides of the ball. We’re going to try to win the series.”
Said Shaun Livingston, then and now an important reserve: “It’s great. It’s another storyline. But at the end of the day we know we have to play who’s out there. That’s all that really matters.”
Also Wednesday, coach Steve Kerr declined to say whether he will stay with the opening lineup that helped deliver the Game 7 win over the Thunder on Monday, with Andre Iguodala at small forward, or go back to the usual Golden State look of Harrison Barnes starting and Iguodala in a reserve role.
“I won’t tell you what I’m going to do,” Kerr said. “But the thinking is, do we really want to change anything? We’ve gone two years with Harrison starting and it’s been a pretty good two years. So do you go away from something that you’ve been successful with? On the flip side, it’s the playoffs. You can make adjustments like we did last year against Cleveland, putting Andre in the lineup, and sometimes those adjustments are good. So that’s kind of what you’re weighing is the positives and the negatives going in when you’re talking about adjustments into the lineup. You weigh it and you make your decision and you hope for the best.”