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Bradley Beal, magician – Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports

Along with the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings (who have apparently revealed themselves to be frauds) and, until very recently, the Phoenix Suns (who very well may still be frauds but are enjoying a good run right now), the Washington Wizards are, historically speaking, an NBA team only ostensibly and have a history of producing the sort of spectacular assclownery typically reserved for Stefon’s nightclubs, the bum-rush for Popeyes chicken sandwiches and Congress, all of which can be set to the Benny Hill theme music without much disruption[1].

On Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, however, the Wizards reached a new low, one to which only one other team in NBA history can stake a claim: they managed to score 158 damn points in regulation in a one-point loss. Their forebears? The 1991 Denver Nuggets, who lost 162-158 to the Golden State Warriors on November 2, 1990. That team won 20 games. When you’re hanging with the post-ABA, pre-Melo Nuggets, you know you’re in great company!

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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Continuing their rapid execution of justice against the reign of terror that the Golden State Warriors have afflicted upon the NBA for the past half-decade, the basketball gods unfortunately chose two-time MVP and paradigm-shifting genius Steph Curry as their latest victim in the Warriors’ 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

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Courtesy of NBA.com

Board Man came; Board Man saw; Board Man conquered, and then Board Man got paid. In winning the championship last season, Kawhi Leonard helped the Toronto Raptors take advantage of the exact circumstances required to beat the last three editions of the Golden State Warriors. He celebrated in kind, reflected on the state of basketball and promptly left town, fishing Paul George out of Oklahoma City and throwing the NBA into unfamiliar territory in the process.

It is refreshing to look upon the league without the particular tint of grey that the KD-era Warriors inspired. There are at least a half-dozen teams with legitimate claims to being title contenders going into this year. So many players moved that it will take some time for the average fan to get acquainted with each roster, something the players themselves are likely still doing. #TheProcess continues, even if the Sixers are among those title-worthy teams.

Soon, you’ll be able to deep-fake your way into believing that your team won the championship last year, and nobody will be able to tell you otherwise because, look, it’s right there on the screen, that really is Frank Ntilikina hoisting a Finals MVP trophy[1]. Until that time arrives, however, we have to look ahead, rather than look back at an unreal past. Maybe we are doing both either way. Maybe the great takeaway is that there is light, somewhere.

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Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

To get this out of the way up front: the NBA shrinking in the face of one nation in which it has interests – one whose interests happen to conflict with those of what the American ideal is supposed to be, mind you, as it suppresses the protests of people in Hong Kong, facing potential extradition to the mainland, where prisoners’ cases can be ignored entirely – makes the league’s put-on image of empowerment look transparently weak.

That Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sparked the current, ostensibly bipartisan discourse with a fairly innocuous tweet seems to say more about that nation, its insecurity as a world power and its desire for overwhelming power on a world stage, than it does about anyone who has anything to say about it, but the NBA is at some fault here, and commissioner Adam Silver is in an even more unique position than he was when the Donald Sterling circus unfolded five years ago[1].

With a deep breath – and I know it’s complicated to dig out of that tunnel, even if human rights shouldn’t be – I would like to move on to the Rockets themselves, and the fascinating approach(es) they may take this season in integrating the likes of, ehem, Russell Westbrook into their offense.

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Photo courtesy of moi

On a breezy August evening, one perfectly fit for briefly forgetting both the sweltering summer and its miserly, frozen, hibernating kin, I sojourned to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens to take in the selected offerings from the first round of this year’s US Open. Specifically, three players – Rafael Nadal, Aryna Sabalenka and Nick Kyrgios – offered their assorted splendors to varying degrees, making for predictably excellent tennis. There are worse ways to turn the night into the morning.

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