The end of the NBA regular season is near. It seems like it just began, but by late night, May 16, the 66-game trek will be done.
Also, one presumes, when the play-in experiment gives way to the actual playoffs, all those superstars as interested in the regular season as their absence must cause so many fans to be, will miraculously recover.
Because, have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Blake Griffin taken the court for the Nets at the same time even once?
Or, how much time have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George missed?
When the time comes, not only are they bound to be healthy, but we’ll be hit over the head with playoff questions, too.
Can somebody come out of the East the way the Heat came out of the East last season?
Can the Nuggets eliminate one of the L.A. teams again or perhaps this time both?
Can the Lakers even attempt a repeat, even with healthy superstars, because it can’t be easy starting in fifth place, presuming they’re not caught by Dallas, Portland or both.
Questions like that will soon be in vogue.
Today, however, we’re answering none of them. Instead, we’re answering these two:
Who should you root for and who should you root against?
Much more fun.
Go with the latter first. Who should you want to lose? You should want the Lakers, Clippers and Nets to lose.
You should want the Lakers to lose because they’re boring. They’re in fifth place and still they’re all anybody talks about. Were they in first, the professional yappers who say so little would be asking if they’re peaking too early. In fifth, the result of injury and disinterest — or maybe they’re just a bunch of scrubs beyond LeBron and Davis — the question is can they put it together without home-court advantage.
Lakers, Lakers, Lakers.
It’s worse than the Brady bunch.
You can’t root for the Nets because, come on, how can you root for the Nets?
It was one thing when Irving and Durant decided they’d take over the world from Brooklyn.
It was another when Harden decided he didn’t feel like being a Rocket any longer and held Houston hostage until getting traded.
It was yet another when Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge received buyouts from the Pistons and Spurs, deciding, “You know what, now that I’ve been paid, I think I’ll go to Brooklyn and play for nothing.”
Aldridge has since retired, having suffered an irregular heartbeat, but his choice to get paid off and sign for a song, as Griffin did, remains unseemly.
You can’t root for the Clippers because they’re the ones who started it all, the whole trend of players becoming general managers unto themselves, colluding amongst one another, forcing their way to destinations of their choosing; well, unless you want to pin it on LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who got themselves to Miami at the same time, winning it all in 2012 and 2013.
Good for all of us, there are so many teams you should be happy to root for.
You’ve got the Jazz who’ve quietly gone about putting together the best record in the NBA, all without a superstar, unless Donovan Mitchell qualifies in his fourth Salt Lake City season, having been drafted 13th overall in 2017.
There’s the Suns, the latest proof the problem in Houston two years ago when Chris Paul wanted out, was not Chris Paul but James Harden.
Moved to Phoenix from Oklahoma City, the Suns are shockingly good since Paul came along, the same way Oklahoma City was shockingly good last season.
Should the Jazz drop a couple games they shouldn’t, Phoenix could jump into the West’s top spot.
You can root for Dallas and Portland, too. They may not be going anywhere, but they’re mostly home grown and Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard are treats to watch.
There’s the Nuggets, maybe the most watchable team in the league, led by triple-threat center Nikola Jokic. He’s not only played in every game this season — who does that anymore? — but averaged 26.2 points, 11 rebounds and 8.7 assists, MVP numbers if ever there were any.
Options abound in the East, too.
Philadelphia, under Doc Rivers, who bolted the Clippers to get there, are finally the team they’re supposed to be.
Atlanta, since firing Lloyd Pierce and elevating Nate McMillan, is finally putting wins together, having gone 20-8 since the change, even 5-1 without Trae Young.
Suddenly, the Knicks, yeah, the Knicks, have come alive under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau. They won 11 of their first 27, but have gone 23-12 since. Playoff basketball at The Garden, hello!
So many great stories.
Not great because we’ve been saturated by them, great because we haven’t and great because they’ve come into being the old fashioned way, through team building rather than mercenary hunting, by being well coached rather than run by stars, by running systems that win games rather than gaming the system.
They are teams you want to watch win, which, come to think of it, is why most of us began watching sports in the first place.