Hello. What follows below the break is the climactic ending to the first Godfather film, but as an NBA basketball team.
Wake up, dust off your finest Jordans, throw on a pair of sunglasses and tell the world to deal with it, because the NBA is finally back on your television tonight. Three games featuring five playoff teams from a year ago, including the defending champion Golden State Warriors, return us to the hardwood. So much has transpired this offseason, it can be easy to get caught up in it. Such is life in the 24/7/365 NBA, if you allow it to be.
We can only say and think so much about basketball, however, without there being any games. Before the first tip-off of the season (Cavs/Bulls or, if you prefer, Hawks/Pistons, tonight at 8 pm), let’s spare a thought – not necessarily a prediction, though there will be more than a fair share of those – to each franchise, in alphabetical order. Some of them may be painfully obvious or extremely misguided, because I guess I don’t think about the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly enough. Anyway, best of luck to the following teams, especially the Knicks. Those dudes are gonna need it.
It’s almost the middle of September, which means it’s almost October, which means it’s almost time for basketball season. With the NFL stumbling over itself at every turn – which, come to think of it, is how most of its current players will spend their autumn years, in their mid-40s – and baseball casually winding toward the postseason (we see you, Mets), basketball still stakes a claim in some part of the sports conversation, even if you aren’t watching EuroBasket games in the middle of your afternoon (On Wednesday, Italy mounted a comeback to force overtime and beat Germany, 89-82). Tuesday’s announcement that NBA division winners are no longer guaranteed playoff spots kick-started much of the hibernating excitement which will roll us into the upcoming season.
With basketball season breathing down our necks, it’s time to start considering how some of the pieces of Adam Silver’s puzzle will fit, how they will interact with one another and how they can realize their potential. One of the most interesting teams for this basketball season has long been a laughingstock, even with a generational talent who may very well be the best pure center in the NBA. Now, that team has two potential game-changing centers, as well as a hodgepodge of players who either grew out of previous roles or never quite fit into them in the first place. The Sacramento Kings aren’t good, yet, but they could be, and they’re seemingly better; they aren’t stable, yet, but they were for a brief time last year; and they aren’t a favorite, which may end up making them one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Short class this week, gang. The All-Star Break interrupts an intense Western Conference playoff race, and one of its most entertaining teams just made a key hire, perhaps in a case of too little, too late. Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony seems destined for a shutdown after the break, and the NBA is celebrating the rich history of basketball in New York City. Which borough would you take?
Klay Thompson enjoyed a record-setting 37-point quarter last week against the Sacramento Kings, sending the internet into a frenzy and reminding people that Steph Curry is not the only #heatcheck member of the NBA’s best team. Not to be outdone, Kyrie Irving put up 55 points against the Blazers without the help of LeBron James. Elsewhere, Damian Lillard of that aforementioned Blazers team is thankful to his detractors for not being an All-Star, and DeMarcus Cousins, noted first-time All-Star, corrects a writer on Instagram.
I’ve avoided this for so long. I ignored it like a ne’er-do-well roommate, years behind on his rent but always at the forefront of craft IPA and porter trends that cost more than a cigarette addiction in New York City. Speaking of, the apple has truly gone rotten in Madison Square Garden, as your New York Knickerbockers have plummeted to a new low. “But the cap space!” you say. I know. I know. It’s always the cap space, until it’s not. Elsewhere, the best team in the Eastern Conference (which is sort of like being the best dissenter in a Soviet gulag, but still) is up for sale, and the Pistons bring new meaning to the phrase “addition by subtraction.”
The Los Angeles Lakers were in trouble. Through the first ten games of this season, one of the league’s two most decorated teams in history was 1-10 and had become a punchline via the play of its fearless, sociopathic leader, Kobe Bryant. People were pointing fingers. Coach Byron Scott refused to acknowledge the league’s most efficient shot, the corner three, in any capacity, allowing Kobe and others to settle for long twos late in the shot clock. Kobe became festively jovial about his team’s historic incompetence. The Clippers officially became the team of Los Angeles. Carlos Boozer became an important cog in a professional basketball team, and it wasn’t the Philadelphia 76ers. The skies over Manhattan Beach, once a clear purple and gold, filled with dark clouds.
But then, a hero emerged. The perfect antidote to the Lakers’ struggles, it turns out, was swag, and only one man had the power to rescue Kobe Bryant from himself. That man is Nick Young, and this week’s 3-Pointer is dedicated (almost) entirely to him.
Derrick Rose found himself in a boiling pot of chicken broth earlier this week when he said that he does not want to sit in “meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past,” and then promptly went out and re-injured a different part of his sore-all-around body. The 2011 NBA MVP continues to seem light years removed from relevance, but he has now stepped a few bounds outside of reality, at least in the eyes of some angry fans. Elsewhere, the Grizzlies are starting to Grizz in a monumental, significant way, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called for legalized and regulated gambling, surely to the delight of at least one TwH contributor.
Potential realized is one of the most satisfying aspects of watching sports. It’s the reason we have embraced Peyton Manning as a national treasure and also why Derrick Rose could end up being the inspiration for a Greek tragedy. What we have seen from DeMarcus Cousins this season already far surpasses the monumental steps he has taken each year since his days at Kentucky, and the Sacramento Kings are a delightful surprise as one of the best teams in the West coming out of the gate. Elsewhere, history repeats itself for LeBron James, and watching Rajon Rondo is always fun – always.
After being hit with a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, Larry Sanders spoke highly of the medicinal benefits of marijuana use. While other players, such as David Harrison and Josh Howard, have previously advocated for marijuana legalization in the face of league enforcement, Sanders may be the first to do it without fear of league-wide stigmatization. All this, as rumors of a Bucks sale have his team eyeing greener pastures. Elsewhere, the NBA might have to create an award for “Most Underappreciated Player” (MUP) specifically to recognize Shaun Livingston’s efforts in Brooklyn, and DeMarcus Cousins is not releasing a hip-hop album, much to the chagrin of people who like fun everywhere.