Sports

Congress Must Act Now to Do What’s Right: Banning Kevin Durant From the NBA Finals

Durant takes a step gingerly as other players look on.
Kevin Durant after suffering a calf injury during the Western Conference Semifinals in Oakland on May 8. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether Congress is ready to take the big step. It would be an unprecedented move, and one that a substantial number of Americans believe would be unnecessarily severe. It would generate intense backlash in a key voting bloc and among wealthy and powerful individuals—not to mention angering its subject, who is known for reacting aggressively when challenged by rival sources of authority. It is, put simply, not a choice to be taken lightly.

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But sometimes our representatives are called to do what is right even when it is risky. And right now it is clear that what is right for the country is for Congress to remove Kevin Durant from the NBA Finals, which start Thursday night in Toronto.

When Durant is on the floor with the Warriors in playoff games, they are simply so good that it’s boring. The full-strength Warriors came within one loss of sweeping both the 2017 and 2018 Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team led by LeBron James, who is not only one of the best players ever but was in peak form, coming six rebounds over four games in 2018 short of averaging a triple double in both series. This season, the Warriors were obviously as bored as everyone else, spending much of the year arguing with referees and with each other and losing games against inferior teams. They clunked their way through a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers mostly by relying on Durant to score a lot.

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But on May 8, with the Warriors’ second-round series against the Houston Rockets tied at 2-2, Durant strained his calf. Golden State went on to win that game, and then the next one, and then the next four in a row against the Portland Trail Blazers, a string of wins that has inspired some hot-take artists to argue that the team is better without him. Research by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight and Kevin Pelton at ESPN, though, has shown that this is probably not really true: Silver found that, since Durant joined the team, the Warriors have been four points better per 100 possessions when he and Stephen Curry are on the floor together than when Curry is playing without Durant; Pelton notes that the team’s top performances as measured by “game score” almost always take place when both are starting.

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What the Warriors have been over the last five games is more fun to watch. Their offense, without Durant around to dominate 1-on-1 matchups, hasn’t been as efficient—but it has involved fewer post-ups, faster movement, and almost twice as many Stephen Curry pick and rolls. As Pelton notes, the team’s defense is typically sharper when Durant is out, as is its consistency of effort from game to game. In the Western Conference Finals, the Blazers led the Warriors by double digits three times—but Golden State, feeling the urgency, came back in each game. It was a Warriors series that, for the first time since 2016’s classic “3-1 lead” loss to LeBron’s Cavaliers, involved uncertainty and narrative reversals rather than grim inevitability.

Durant is still recovering from his calf injury and has been ruled out for Game 1 against Toronto. According to FiveThirtyEight’s experts, this actually makes the Warriors underdogs against the Raptors, which is a great twist for the viewing public and a new challenge for a team that has clearly been needing one. But if Durant comes back, which he could do as early as Game 2, they will not be underdogs anymore, which would be boring, which is why Congress needs to put Kevin Durant in jail until the series is over.

Do the right thing, Nancy!

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