The NBA tipped off this week, and I can honestly say this is the first time in a number of years that I could care less. I’ve gone my entire life being a huge NBA fan. What Bear is to the MLB is what I am to the NBA. My Grandpa has always been a big fan of the NBA (and for good reason) as he was able to watch Bird, Magic, Jordan, The Bad Boys, Reggie Miller, the list goes on. He even took me courtside to Bucks and Bulls games as kid, which is where my love for the game of basketball was born.
However, lately with what the league has become I’ve noticed myself becoming less and less interested. Going from seeing Dwayne Wade single handedly win the Miami Heat an NBA title in 2006, to Coach Popp winning six in my lifetime with players he grooms and who buy into his system. Now to seeing DeMarcus Cousins take a Mid-Level Exception to join the Warriors and snag a solidified ring… Kawhi Leonard refusing to play for the Spurs because he’d rather be in a big market… Jimmy Butler requesting a trade because he doesn’t like his teammates and wants to play somewhere he would rather live…. guess what Jimmy? Not everyone likes their job or their co-workers… it’s little things like that that I think really water down the league and continue to take away from what used to be a great brand of basketball. What ever happened to NBA coaches and GM’s being in control of their teams? Since when are players like Jimmy Butler able to tell their bosses how to do their job? I wish that was the world we lived in.
While the NBA never will be (and never was) what college basketball is simply because of X’s and O’s and in some cases coaching, it used to be fun to watch. You used to see teams compete night in and night out. Whether it was the Kings with Mike Bibby and Chris Webber against the Nets with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson. Believe it or not, people would watch that game. It was always decent basketball with a lot of talented players on every team no matter who was playing. Now go look at the Kings and Nets rosters and let me know if you think they could beat Gonzaga… Or Loyola-Chicago for that matter! People go to Nets games in hopes of seeing Jay-Z rather than watch Spencer Dinwiddie play (I actually have no idea who that is, so that might make sense.) Outside of a handful of teams, the NBA is almost unwatchable… But there’s also some teams and players to try and watch.
What to Watch for in the East
Our Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are quite literally the ONLY reason I watched the NBA this week. Brand new coach in Mike Budenholzer, Giannis being a legitimate MVP candidate, to the Eastern Conference being wide open with the departure of LeBron. The Bucks will be a lot of fun to watch this season. I hope to see them contend for the 2-spot in the East behind Boston. (Side note – the new home of the Bucks, Fiserv Forum, allows you to order a beer off an app from your phone while sitting in your seat. That’s game changing and will alone get me to a Bucks game this year.)
When Kawhi got traded to Toronto, I literally chuckled. Instantly I thought to myself, “this is such a Poppovich move.” Remember when Belichick traded what was a 2nd round pick in Jamie Collins to the Browns because he was complaining about playing time? Yeah, that’s almost exactly what Popp did to Kawhi. Kawhi stated he “only wanted to go to LA.” What did Popp do? Shipped him off to Canada! Loved it! I’ll be interested to see what happens with Kawhi this year in Toronto. Will he go through the motions and just hope to get to the summer of 2019 where he will more than likely join LeBron in LA, or will he actually compete and try and keep Toronto in the hunt for the Eastern Conference crown?
Brad Stevens is quite simply the BEST basketball mind and coach in all of the land at all levels. Watching what he did last year in the NBA Playoffs against the Bucks without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward was truly amazing and absolutely brilliant to watch. I wasn’t even mad that the Celtics knocked off the Bucks because I absolutely loved watching the Celtics play basketball. The Celtics are without question the best team in the East. They’re reloaded with all their stars and have probably the best bench in the NBA. JUST KIDDING! Their bench isn’t that good, but their coach is and that alone puts them over the top. If you want to watch good basketball, watch the Celtics.
The Rookies in the East
Usually, rookies in today’s NBA don’t really get me too excited. If we’re being honest, what is a rookie in the NBA anymore anyway? I guess Ben Simmons was Rookie of the Year last year in his second year. Weird how that works… Anyway, outside of Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell in recent years, rookies don’t really make a huge impact in their first years. However, this year in the East there are some really talented players and I look for them to impact their teams right away. Tre Young in Atlanta – Everyone wants their own “Steph Curry.” This kid might be the closest thing to it! Collin Sexton in Cleveland – LeBron is gone and so is Kyrie. This team needs a true point guard and a player who can score. Sexton might be their guy. Kevin Knox in New York – When he was drafted, most people hated the pick. As a basketball mind and watching him in the summer circuit, this kid might be the most athletic and talented kid in the draft. I look for him to make a huge difference in New York this year. Mo Bamba in Orlando – Bamba might be the most exciting rookie in the NBA this year. His sheer size alone makes him a force on both offense and defense. Bamba is my pick for rookie of the year.
What to Watch for in the West (or lack thereof)
I’m going to try my best to stay away from being negative about the West but it’s so hard…Outside of the obvious in Golden State and LeBron in LA, I’ll give you some headlines to watch in the West.
Just when everyone thought PG13 was leaving OKC to join LeBron in Hollywood, he shocks the nation at Russell Westbrook’s party and states he’s staying in OKC. While some NBA experts claim this was a good move for him (and I openly admit I liked it initially also because he didn’t join a super team **cough cough KD and Cousins**) it might actually be the worst decision he’s made. I want to preface that I really like Russell Westbrook and I think he’s the best all-around athlete in the NBA. But I would absolutely hate to be his teammate. Especially if I’m a scorer like Paul George. Russell is going to get his, and Paul George is better with the ball in his hands. I’m interested to see how this relationship and duo pans out. Last year it didn’t seem to ever click. Time will tell. Look for PG13 to either return to his All-Star caliber form, or completely fall of the face of the NBA earth.
The San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been a power in the West for the last two decades. But when is the last time you’ve seen them play on TNT on Thursday’s, or ESPN on Wednesday’s? You don’t! Because they’re boring to watch! But they WIN. People would rather watch the Rockets and Warriors play iso ball and jack up 40 three’s then the Spurs play basketball. BUT I’LL WATCH THE SPURS! The Spurs are well coached and again, Popp finds ways to get guys that will fit his system and buy into what he is selling. If it were up to me, the NBA Finals would be Spurs vs. Celtics. The two teams have some solid players but not one “superstar.” (with maybe the exception of Kyrie) I’m interested to see what life is like in San Antonio with the loss of Kawhi and the addition of DeMar DeRozan. I think the Spurs are better off with DeRozan.
Okay, so, Carmelo in OKC last year was just bad. I never liked the move and if you watched a Thunder game last year, it clearly made no sense. Some think going to Houston will revitalize ‘Melo’s career. I think differently. Carmelo’s career is done. He’s nothing but an average scorer who has a great name and a dude who is clearly on the ride for a ring. To me, the only thing holding him back from being a Hall of Famer is a title. So why not join a team in the East where you don’t have to go through the NBA All-Stars (Golden State) to even have a chance at winning a ring? Is there even an NBA All-Star Game this year? They should do an intra-squad scrimmage of the Warriors on National television and lower the hoop to 9 feet and have the UConn women do the dunk contest. I might actually watch that. Anyway, Houston is a great team, but you still have to go through the gauntlet to even GET to the Finals. Carmelo going to Houston confuses me, but I’m curious to see how it plays out.
Overall, as harsh as I may sound and as tough as I am on the West and the league, I love basketball and I still (kind of) love the NBA and I’m going to watch a lot of games. You just won’t catch me watching a Rockets or Warriors game. Go Bucks and Fear the Deer!