Programming note: Coverage of Warriors-Heat begins at 7:00 with Warriors Pregame Live, followed by NBA basketball at 7:30.
So either the Golden State Warriors are now officially “a good team,” and tonight’s game with the Mimi Heat is no big deal, or they still are trying to work off the debt of their grisly history, and this is a huge game.
It’s all in how you consider who and what the Warriors are, and whether these 36 games have eradicated the stench of 36 years. It’s all eye-of-the-beholder stuff, and you should decide for yourselves what this all means.
Of, course, if you live outside the Bay Area and work for any prominent media outlet, you’re deciding what this means for the Heat. The Warriors are just a sideshow, a straight man. And the Heat are the struggling megastar, a team on the precipice of . . . well, nothing, really. They’ve lost three of four, but are still going to the Eastern Conference Finals unless LeBron James gets his femur caught in a soda machine or something.
The Warriors, though, are in a different workspace. They could with a win tonight become one of those rare lifetime mediocres who have beaten the defending champion from the other conference home and away, and with it become an official “defiant upstart,” the first stage in no longer being an irrelevance.
So that’s the difference between this being just another game in January, and a rare big game in January. It’s a matter of tone, and who’s setting it. Is this Miami’s game to regain its mojo in the heart of a long season after a long season, or is this Golden State’s game to smack the big dog with a rolled-up phonebook and say to everyone else in the neighborhood, “Be afraid of the dog if you want, but I’m going to be a big dog too?”
Or, as a third option, is this Golden State’s game to merely confirm what seems increasingly clear – that the long overdue repairs have been undertaken and are well on their way to completion? Is this is a statement that tells a Heat-centric league that the Warriors are in play again, and not just as a quirky upset pick like the We Believe crew?
And if that is the case, they can probably stop stumping for David Lee or Stephen Curry to make the Western Conference All-Star Team, because true good teams don’t sweat the small stuff.
Either way, someone’s making a statement in January tonight, and the only variable is not in who’s talking, but who’s listening.