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Simmons Says - Kawhi vs. Warriors is riveting

It has taken lots of self-restraint. Many days I come to the office, open up a Word document and – in movie fashion – crack my knuckles and get ready to write.

Just as I’m about to dive into one of my favorite topics, I remind myself of a casual encounter I had about a year ago. A person came up to me and dropped this wisdom.

“Hey man, I like your writing, but nobody cares about the Spurs around here.”

Fair enough.

He may have been right about a specific team, but I’ve had many conversations lately about the NBA. And Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals will only lead to more.

For the first time in half a decade, it finally seems like somebody is ready to challenge the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty. The Toronto Raptors took Game 1 118-109, handing the Warriors their first finals loss since Game 4 of the 2017 Finals.

In each of the last four finals, it’s been the same story line. It was the Warriors vs. the greatest player in the world, LeBron James. Golden State was better 3-of-4 times, including the last two when it added arguably the second-best player in the world, Kevin Durant.

When King James left for Los Angeles, he forfeited his chance of winning the Eastern Conference for the ninth straight time. What James probably didn’t realize was he may have been giving away his throne as best player alive too.

Kawhi Leonard is making his case, and it’s getting stronger by the game.

“He (Kawhi) is the most like Jordan we’ve ever seen,” said Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers before the finals. It earned plenty of scoffs – and a $50,000 fine for tampering – from around the NBA.

Then people took a closer look at what Kawhi has been doing for the last two months.

Leonard flipped the Eastern Conference Finals defensively, putting the clamps on likely league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kawhi shut down the Greek Freak, leading to the Raptors earning their first trip to the Finals in team history. 

That came just a couple weeks after Leonard hit one of the most memorable shots in NBA history, a four-bounce, buzzer-beating sealer in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Leonard’s meteoric rise in the unofficial best player alive rankings will be tested against the Warriors. Steph Curry – who easily could propel himself into a different stratosphere individually with another ring – can go inferno at any time. So can fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson.

Durant, who was unstoppable for two rounds before suffering a calf injury, could be back soon too.

This finals will likely be decided by if Leonard candominate the Warriors. History says he can topple dynasties. Kawhi was the 2014 Finals MVP when the Spurs stopped LeBron and the Miami Heat from a 3-peat. 

I almost succeeded in not mentioning the Spurs.