On Ruling Everything

Jacob Jordaens, De Koning Drinkt (~1650-1678)

I found myself in a rather unfamiliar position on Monday night, one with which eggs the world over are, or at least affect being, familiar. I was laughing at the absurdity of something I’d read on the internet and should’ve been upset about, not my preferred state by any means but a go-to coping mechanism for the daily nuisances-cum-societal atrocities which inhabit most of our lives. All this during a mostly delightful World Cup, no less.

After a whirlwind first two days of NBA free agency[1], the dust seemed to have settled for the night when, like a child inadvertently popping your balloon, Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania, the next-gen Adrian Wojnarowski, broke the news that broke the camel’s back: free agent center DeMarcus Cousins, a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player late of the New Orleans Pelicans and currently undergoing rehab for a torn Achilles tendon, had signed with the Golden State Warriors for one year at the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.3 million. All hell hasn’t broken loose; it’s ripped the door off and is eating it out of amusement.

Of course, the details get lost in the bolded, ALL CAPS, SEVERAL EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! nature of the signing itself; All-NBA players don’t just walk to teams for something like 3% of their projected value, even when injured. But Cousins is injured, and speculation suggests his timetable for return is somewhere from late December through possibly the end of next season. It hampers his case that he’s a big man, and the big nature of big men amplifies big man injuries. Cousins may very well never be the same player he was when we last saw him healthy, posting triple-doubles and winning Western Conference Player of the Week.

Still, the effect is jarring, and it sends the message to the rest of the league: do not, under any circumstances, fuck with the Golden State Warriors. It begs several questions, beginning with the players’ decision to vote against salary cap smoothing for the summer of 2016 and ending with what kind of jive Draymond Green talks to any All-Stars that will listen about the Warriors’ corporate culture.

Blame it on being a Millennial, I guess, but the escapism of sports, or of the NBA at the very least, is starting to run parallel to the crushing nature of the rest of reality. It is obligatory to note that the players’ rights to pursue the situations they want, regardless of money or staying power in a market, is one objectively good aspect of the past decade or so of NBA transactions, and that sticking it to owners, who have long prospered at the expense of players and who are largely wealthy people that gave up caring about much of anything beyond their portfolios long ago, is a good thing. There is a reason Oscar Robertson won lifetime achievement recognition at this year’s NBA awards ceremony, and it wasn’t because Russell Westbrook just posted a second consecutive triple-double average in his honor.

Still, it can be, to borrow a word from the mainstream conservative zeitgeist, troubling to see movement like this, further cementing the Warriors’ place as an all-time, era-defining team without a care in the world beyond, now, “DeMarcus’ feet move a touch too slowly on defense.” Any issues Golden State may encounter upon his re-entry to the lineup will be resolved in due time, or anyway, just in time for a sweep of the Celtics a year from now. Barring any major setbacks, the Warriors will plausibly be able to trot out a Curry-Thompson-Durant-Green-Cousins lineup by the playoffs. To every other team in the league, feel free to send thoughts and prayers.

*     *     *

[1] Perhaps you heard about LeBron James going to the Lakers and, apparently, not caring how quickly they build an agreeable championship contender, which begat the signings of longtime rivals Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo as well as JaVale McGee, for some reason.

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