Updated: Apr 4, 2020
By: Derrick Sholes
Just when I thought the All-Star break and the subsequent trade deadline would be somewhat quiet many, like myself, would be able to recharge our batteries and possibly catch up on abandoned things such as television, books and social lives before the beginning of the 25-game run to the playoffs, the NBA decided to celebrate All-Star Weekend (and possibly Mardi Gras while out in New Orleans) by consuming bath salts again then gnaw at all of our collective brains for a few days:
We already knew the Sacramento Kings were a semi-deep wet spot of incompetence lying in the middle of their new arena, but they decided to top themselves with this latest act of ineptitude by trading DeMarcus Cousins (and simultaneously ripping away $30 million from under him) for a new iPhone charger you’d get from a mall kiosk, Great Value potato chip crumbs and a hole-puncher. I’m not sure which Vlade Divac back-breaking assist is worst this or his to Robert Horry fifteen years ago. And owner Vivek Ranadive is continuing to find new ways to be the basketball operations equivalence of the Maloof Brothers by crippling that franchise. Divac and Ranadive are some unholy front office 1-2 combination. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re running fans out of Sacramento and to Fresno after this. I am glad Boogie was finally able to unload the burden of that team, only to ascend up a level in the competent NBA franchise rankings to New Orleans, but at least he gets to reek havoc with Anthony Davis for a year and a half. Also, I sure hope Bobby Hield is at least better than Jonny Flynn.
After Sacramento had their incompetence fully showcased, the Lakers decided to one-up their Pacific division rival by shockingly cleaning house within their front office and set the stage for the Magic Johnson-Jeanie Buss era of business — for better, for worst. While Magic rises from advisor to President of Basketball Operations in record timing, the first major move looks to be bringing in player agent Rob Pelinka on as general manager in what is considered by some a smart, forward-thinking move to replace widely revered Mitch Kupchak, who’s been with the team since Ronald Reagan was in office. The optics for change can’t be argued, however, the way it got to this juncture that included hit-piece after hit-piece after hit-piece from Jeanie’s vindictive standpoint looking to oust her brother Jim Buss from his executive VP of basketball operations role to the unthinkable timing of not doing so until two days before the trade deadline is unfathomable. While Grey Tuesdaywas a roller coaster of emotions for many that saw the execution of Jeanie and Magic’s spiteful master plan to take full power over the Lakers, even coming from a cynic like myself, I couldn’t complain about Magic’s first day of President of Basketball operations. He got done what needed to get done: trading Lou Williams for an asset. I also find myself at ease knowing Pelinka is in the fold with the praise he’s somehow garnering with no experience under his belt. Choosing to accept change for the better, while still being able to see through Jeanie and Magic’s smiles after the blood they shed. Just know, Kupchak was in talks over Cousins with the Kings and refused to include rookie Brandon Ingram in the deal even though he knew it’d likely save his job, nor did Magic and Jeanie thank any of the men they fired in some fashion. I’ll accept change, but you can’t fool me with a smile, even if it’s as bright as Magic’s like the rest of this city.
As much as LeBrom James’ minute situation has been very questionable this season (he’s second in minutes played and has eclipsed 40+ minutes 16 times in 52 games), that feels more like a non-issue in comparison to other problems they have when the coach he picked can simply to not play him so much; playoff seeding has always been irrelevant for them in that conference. While Kyrie Irving believing the earth is flat is bad, their defense this season, which has fallen from a top third rank last season to a bottom third rank this season is more alarming for some reason. Their defense has pretty much been good enough to keep them afloat for their amazing offense (top three last year and again so far this year with injuries). Only other playoff team in the bottom third of defensive rating are the Nuggets, who are not only dead last in that metric but a favorite in the embarrassment that is the western conference race for 8th that even has eastern conference teams giggling. Yes, they’ve been ravaged by injuries, and they still have a secret weapon wearing no. 23 but I doubt even the precious king sheriff can pull this off two years in a row when the east is better and his main opposition in the Bay has an extra cannon. Speaking of the Bay…
Perhaps my favorite stat going right now is JaVale McGee being 20th in PER ahead of notable all-stars John Wall, Marc Gasol, and Kyle Lowry. McGee is the only player playing less than ten minutes in the top-100 in PER. How, Sway? Golden State is that good, and as long as nothing fluky happens or anything wacky happens, they’ll continue to be that good. One last thing on Warriors-Cavs…
…We’re headed towards Andrew Bogut being bought out by Dallas in March and Cleveland picking him up as revenge for adding Anderson Varejao last year and Bogut setting illegal (and sometimes dirty) screens on Warrior players in June, aren’t we? I just have a feeling.
Can Nike get a jump on next season when they take over for Adidas in the league’s new apparel deal by taking over when action resumes Thursday? Sleeves, home jerseys on the road and road jerseys at home, it all needs to stop. Please, Adam Silver. Please, Kiki Vandeweghe. Let’s make this happen for the sake of weak eyes across the world.
Tony Parker and Patty Mills – Tony and Patty sounds like a 50s sitcom couple that CBS’ target audience would watch faithfully, not two key parts of the Spurs’ chances to dethrone the reigning two-time Western conference champions. Seem like ages ago Parker was seemingly going head-to-head against LeBron in the Finals. We’re obviously not watching that same Tony, many times watching San Antonio I forget Parker is even playing. What’s also well-known is the impact of Mills in wake of Parker’s decline these last few years, and coach Greg Popovich seems to realize this by easing the two into their prospective roles. Parker is averaging a career-low in minutes in 43 games played, while Mills is enjoying a career-high and has played in every game except one. There’s only a 49-minute difference in minutes played between the two, but Mills holds a team-high 13.7 net rating. They’re going to need this from Mills, and a lot more from Parker if they hope to knock off the Warriors. Much reason many fail to give San Antonio a chance to beat Golden State is the guard play. Guard play is as important as ever in this new NBA and not knowing what Tony Parker you’re getting this spring along with Mills mostly known for his reserve role makes it difficult to believe they can stop the modern backcourt standard up in Oakland.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been pretty good this season for Atlanta. The Hawks hold a plus-5.4 net rating when he’s on the floor, the highest on the team with at least 900 minutes played, and a minus-6.3 when he’s off. He’s emerged as a quality rotation guy for Mike Budenholzer which leads me to ask: why did the Knicks not want him again? They gave up on him for Jerian Grant, who they traded for Derrick Rose, who they’re reportedly looking to trade by the deadline? Good grief, Phil. Hardaway Jr. would be a nice little piece to go with Kristaps Porzingis’ timetable and yet Porzingis has been banged up this year, not to mention having his soul slowly taken from by the daily Knickerbocker grind. Already too much Knicks-related stuff in here, let’s quickly move on.
Not sure if I can properly convey in words the amount of disgust that overcomes my body when a camera shot of announcers or sideline reporters are obviously talking into the camera with fans in the background soon realizing they’re on TV leading to that one irksome kid dapping with Russell Westbrook ferocity for the camera. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a quick one or continuously, you can always expect it. Of course, this extends beyond NBA games and sporting events in general, but still, it’s one of the many nightmares going in sports right now and I’m sickly tired of it.
Overtime is a bit different now. It didn’t hit me until the Hawks-Trail Blazers game from 2/13 to realize it where Portland scored the first 7 points only for Atlanta to score the remaining 12 points to win. I remember when the extra five minutes caused enough uneasiness that if your team went down four points it felt like it was over. Not anymore. The following day, Celtics radio play-by-play was on The B.S. Podcast essentially confirming some of my thoughts lamenting overtime rules should probably be modified to four minutes. The new NBA, even overtime play feels different.
Back to this flat-earth epidemic: I seriously need for more players, coaches, announcers, trainers, general managers, team social media correspondents, mascots, owners etc. to come out and share which side of the street they’re on in this. This might be the most interesting story the rest of the season until Cavs-Warriors III. I already see myself watching a random Bucks-Wolves game on a Tuesday and wondering who on the floor actually believes the earth is flat. Does Giannis think they word is flat? No, right? What about KAT? No, what does Russell Westbrook think? Are there more young stars along with Kyrie and apparently Draymond Green who believes this? Were they flat-earth-ganging Carmelo Anthony over the summer when he gave us another perfect meme? To hell with Durant vs. Westbrook, I need more flat-earth questions. It’s probably a matter of time until someone over in the Kings front office admits they’re a flat-earth truther and it’ll all make sense.