By: Yennaedo Balloo
It’s a well worn joke that the NFL is just a shade above the theatrical, preplanned drama of the WWE. The New England Patriots won their first of six titles in the current “era” in the Super Bowl after 9/11. The Saints were the upset victors the year New Orleans was ravaged by Katrina. This year, nothing anyone tells me will convince me that this wasn’t the year the NFL owners collectively agreed to send the Cheeto in Chief a wink and blown kiss:
The Los Angeles Rams squeaked into the Super Bowl thanks to a call so blatantly in error that there’s literally a class action lawsuit against the NFL to get the decision overturned. California has distilled its entire being the past two years from the coastal surfer state, to a collective middle finger to Donald Trump in every way possible. So, how perfect that the LA Rams somehow get to the bowl just to be summarily beaten by the President’s favorite team.
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t feel like the game last Sunday was a waste of time to watch, not only predictable but a slog to get through thanks to the appalling lack of offense. Congrats, you all got your Super Bowl. Are you happy? No, you’re definitely not. If you claim you are I can see beyond the veneer. But I’m not here to rub it in, I’m here to help. There’s an exciting three months of real athletic drama and competition ahead:
It’s the back half of the NBA 2018-19 season folks. Get psyched. The trade deadline is this week, and that is always a major catalyst for change and desperation moves to try to fix the kink in the machine that isn’t quite gelling, and this year we’ve got a doozy. The LA Lakers are trying to make a trade deal for superstar Anthony Davis, and the New Orleans Pelicans are trying to get an unhappy superstar off their roster. The Golden State Warriors have fought their way back to the top of the standings, but are tied for the #1 spot with the Denver Nuggets.
Since my last visit to TehBen.com night has become day. The Rockets? Sitting comfortably in 6th place in the West from dead last a few months ago. The Lakers? On a losing skid creeping into the double digits thanks to LeBron needing to skip games for “load management,” and all the drama of a young player set that isn’t stepping up without LeBron providing the boost (including the largest single game deficit loss in LeBron’s personal NBA history).
Aside from the trade deadline, there’s also the All Star game: the NBA’s spring break before the run to The Finals coming up on the 17th. In tandem with the trade deadline, the League is repeating the format from last year that made for the first interesting All Star game in a good long while. Once again, East and West conferences have captains LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo respectively who’ll pick their teams schoolyard side via a televised draft on the 7th. Interesting to note that LeBron takes the West’s captain’s helm from Steph Curry who led the West last year against LeBron. This means we could actually see LeBron and Curry play on the same side of the court this year if the picks fall the right way. Last year, I picked LeBron’s team to win the All Star Game, and I caught some flack on Twitter for the prediction only to be vindicated by the outcome of that game. This year? I’m feeling confident in that decision. Why? Because LeBron isn’t just a great player, he’s got spectacular basketball IQ. I’m certain he’ll put together a well balanced, effective squad that’ll top Giannis’ team. The All Star game ALWAYS comes with player drama that leads to off season moves (Kawhi Leonard’s distemper with the Spurs last year allegedly stemmed from his experience seeing how other stars were treated at the All Star Game). Also, it’s said that Chris Paul’s decision to leave the LA Clippers for Houston came from playing in the All Star game alongside James Harden two years ago.
Thoughts After the Trade Deadline
There’s a great skit from the last season of Chappelle’s Show, where Dave plays out reconnecting with an ex that dumped him before he made it big, and convinces her to leave her husband and come live with him. When she arrives, he surprises her with his wife and son and reveals it was all a revenge scheme to ruin her like she tried to ruin him.
I bring this up because the Pelicans still have Anthony Davis after luring the Lakers into proposing a number of trade deals that assuredly have members of the squad who were put up on the trade table questioning their place in the team and loyalty to the Lakers.
I’m not going to go into every trade that got in before the deadline, but I want to point out the beauty of a league where a deal not happening is going to be tremendously impactful. A lot of breath gets wasted about player loyalty (see Kevin Durant), but it’s only starting to become apparent how much more tenuous and impactful organization loyalty to players really is.
Blake Griffin is having a tumultuous year with the Pistons, and I’m old enough to remember when the Clippers promised him they’d someday retire his jersey and hang it in the rafters of the Staples Center (if you’re old enough to read, you’re old enough to remember this, it was only 2 years ago).
Going back to my previous hypothetical around a rocket start the Clippers have had this year? Tobias Harris has gone to the 76ers, which makes the Sixers look like the Pepsi to the Warriors Coke in East versus West now. As an LA sports fan, I’m settling into a lovely few weeks of tank city. The Lakers are on a skid the morale isn’t likely to bounce back from anytime soon, and the Clippers are having a garage sale in favor of longer term team development rather than squeaking into 8th seed for the playoffs.
The drama to watch for as we make this home stretch run to the playoffs? It’s going to be fairly predictable that the already temperamental young squad on the Lakers are basically the hyenas cornering Scar at the end of Lion King at this point. Anthony Davis on the other hand? He wanted to be traded, and while some think that means he’d phone it in, he’s going to use these final weeks to show every team he wants to be courted by that he’s worth a max contract.
The Bucks have also been a storm force that doesn’t get mentioned much, and the Rockets adding Shumpert to their lineup is one of those moves that’ll either make them unfairly good, or land like a wet fart (I’m hopeful of the former).
Meanwhile, through all this, the Golden State Warriors fight on. It could be another year of a Warriors finals matchup, in which case you might ask, how is this any different from the NFL with the recurrent Patriots Super Bowl?
Well my friend, it’s quite simple. The board has been pretty well upended by these trade moves and shifts. It’s a whole new game in the run for the NBA Finals thanks to this trade drama. Let’s go.
Pop that popcorn, we’ve got a busy few weeks ahead. Welcome back NFL fans, the hoops family is ready with the juice. The NFL season is done. Long live the NBA.