The NBA announced its All-Star starters this week, with a certain pair of Spanish hermanos at the forefront. Interestingly but not surprisingly, Steph Curry beat out LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the highest vote-getter, and the Eastern Conference has an entirely new backcourt for the first time since 2000. Elsewhere, Kobe Bryant, destroyer of efficiency ratings, has become Kobe Bryant, destroyer of his own rotator cuff, and LaMarcus Aldridge’s injury has the Blazers reeling.
After months of agonizing anticipation, during which we filled time with other allegedly important sporting events and Mad Men binges on Netflix, the 2014-’15 NBA regular season begins tonight. A three-game slate eases us back into basketball this evening, and there are many important questions surrounding each team, the answers to which will dictate the course of the season. How will the new-look Cavaliers fit together? For how much longer will Rajon Rondo remain a Boston Celtic? When will Kevin Durant return from injury, and what will he look like? [Insert literally anything] Derrick Rose? What about Kawhi Leonard’s contract situation and “the Spurs way”? Is the triangle a total crock of grade-A bull fertilizer, spread below the floor of Madison Square Garden ahead of the stadium’s demolition and the subsequent establishment of an actual garden in its place?
All that, we will know in due time. What we won’t know is what we don’t think about. Let’s take a moment to consider the impossible, that which could never conceivably happen in today’s National Basketball Association. Then let’s never think about any of these things again.
The San Antonio Spurs may be the best-run organization in the NBA by many standards, but one area in which it may have a clear-cut, unparalleled advantage made itself apparent prior to the Spurs’ 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. Elsewhere, Kevin Durant deservingly wins the MVP award over LeBron, and Mark Jackson sees his way out of Golden State, for better or (more likely) for worse.
Let’s talk about the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge is staking his claim as the best power forward in the game. Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is shakily maintaining his throne after a disappointing first game against the Golden State Warriors. Chris Paul’s family lineage indicates a history of assistance, but the fourth quarter is when he takes it all upon himself. The Mavs are stressing out the usually unflappable Spurs, whose now 38-year-old anchor must take more responsibility. Wizards gonna Wiz, and Grizzlies gonna Grizz. The Hawks are up on the toast of the East, the Indiana Pacers, and their defensive master has more in common with Russell Stover than Bill Russell. The Thunder are not dominating as usual. Even the Bobcats are pushing the mighty Heat, with Al Jefferson trying to do his best Willis Reed impersonation. This is the first round of the NBA playoffs. Does it get any better than this?
The halcyon days of Blake Griffin as “the world’s best dunk artist who just happens to play professional basketball” are over in Los Angeles. Without Chris Paul, Lob City has managed to go 12-6 without their leader and guide, Chris Paul, and Griffin’s magisterial performance in a losing effort against the Heat on February 5 was one of the most exciting and thought-provoking games of the season. Elsewhere, Dan Gilbert is doing his best not to foster a Steinbrenner-Martin relationship with Mike Brown, and the Lakers played out an near-video game scenario against those very same Cavaliers. Also, the Brow is an All-Star for the very first time, and Damian Lillard can destroy anything with a basketball in his hand.
Polar Vortex II has struck the Eastern Seaboard, but that is not stopping Kevin Durant from igniting the NBA with an insane scoring run. As of this moment in time, @KDTrey5 is the most unstoppable basketball player on this planet, and his herculean shooting in carrying the Thunder is making a certain injured teammate of his very excited. Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony is almost certainly checking out how many frequent flyer miles he has accumulated so that he can book the fastest ticket out of New York, and Pierre the Pelican (AKA “Death, Destroyer of Worlds”) is reportedly getting a face lift in time for the All-Star Break.
A game winning shot hangs in the air for what always seems like eternity. When it’s your opponent lobbing up a prayer, only when the ball clanks off the rim can you let our a shy of relief that you’ve been holding in longer than you thought. But if the ball falls through that metal cylinder, you experience a sinking feeling in which all hope is lost. The final horn has sounded, and your team is behind on the scoreboard. There’s no last possession. Game over.
But if it’s your guy, your team, which wins on that shot, it’s easily the quickest swing of emotions in the sports watching world. The feeling of hopelessness and disappear immediately evaporates and is replaced with unbridled joy.