It’s hard to catch a dull day in the NBA anymore. Mere days after the NBA announced the All Star game starters, and just a week after the Association’s forward thinking recent tradition of MLK Day games concluded, the bombshell of early 2019 dropped: Marquese Chriss, the 3rd year Rockets forward, he of the 1.9 ppg, demanded to be traded or get an increase in minutes off the bench. But the most shocking news of the day would not be the biggest.
Although not much of a surprise (it was more a sense of when, not if) the news that owned the day was Anthony Davis’ agent (and LeBron’s), Rich Paul, announcing that Davis had no intention of signing an extension with New Orleans. This pretty much forces the Pelicans to trade one of the top 5 players in the NBA, who at only 25 years old has a chance to be the next face of the sport. It’s pretty much between him and Giannis and Cedi, right? I mean the 6’10 big man is averaging a decent 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.6 blocks, and 1.7 steals per game. That ain’t shabby, ya dig?
The bigger story, and a sad one for fans of non big market teams, is a mega superstar of a player forcing his way out of the Big Easy for the bigger markets of LA, Boston, or New York, the 3 locales rumored to have his ear. On one hand, just like any other talent in any other industry, players should have the autonomy to decide where they want to work. But unfortunately, in a sport like basketball, one player can make or break playoff chances, ticket sales and even the very franchise itself.
Losing a LeBron hurts. Losing a Kyrie, a Durant, a Chriss, can sour the most hardest corest of fans into questioning why they should have shown any loyalty at all. It’s a major problem for the NBA and really troubling for non Lakers fans. In the case of the Pelicans, basketball has struggled in this city and losing hope for the future may be damaging enough to the prospects of staying in New Orleans that sports conspiracy lovers like Bill Simmons are starting to see a potential move to Seattle or Las Vegas for the franchise.
With all that said, I figured I’d do a bit of an update on some of the other goings on in the Association recently.
First a few thoughts on where Anthony Davis might go. It seems fairly obvious that strings are being pulled to land Davis with LeBron in the nicer locker rooms at Staples Center. The Pelicans have already released a statement implying tampering was afoot and there are the usual rumblings that grow louder on days like this of that wonderful word that I’m sure none of us ever tire of hearing: Collusion!
The timing is interesting. It came 10 days before this season’s trade deadline. But Davis isn’t a free agent until after the end of the 2019-20 season. Why now? Because the Boston Celtics, long rumored to be pursuing AD, appear to have the most talent and assets to unload in a trade for a superstar but cannot make any trades (not involving Kyrie Irving) until after July 1st due to the Derrick Rose Rule.
That gives the Lakers a big advantage and if they can overwhelm New Orleans with perhaps their whole slew of young, high upside talent, the reward is another player that will make Lakers fans even more annoying than previously thought possible. But New Orleans and the rest of the NBA, sans Lakers, don’t want this to happen.
The Pellies can hold out for the off season to see what the Celtics and the Knicks, who should have a high draft pick, can offer while any number of teams can make a surprise offer to rent Anthony Davis for a year and a half. No star has ever left a team after winning a championship. Can you imagine the two man bigs game Davis and Nikola Jokic can run in Denver?
Speaking of the Nuggets, they and Milwaukee have been the highest achieving teams this year. Milwaukee finds themselves atop the Eastern Conference with MVP frontrunner Giannis the Greek while Denver has stayed ahead of or near Golden State most of the season at the top of the West. Although readers of this very blog predicted their success, both teams have surpassed the experts’ (this guy’s) expectations. It’ll be interesting to see if either of them make a trade deadline move because although you don’t want to mess with success, neither seem to be taken seriously as a true contender without additional piece(s). Carmelo: Denver Redux anyone? And anyone have Michael Redd’s number?
I’d be remiss not to talk about the Beard in a post dominated by the Brow. What James Harden is doing is pretty incredible and crazy as all get out. Say what you will about his style of gameplay but the man is scoring at levels only matched by Wilt freakin Chamberlain! And until Sunday night’s game which saw the return of the Point God Chris Paul, Harden had scored a ridic 298 straight unassisted points. You read that right. That was 6 straight games where Harden averaged 49.6 ppg where none of his points came off of a teammate’s pass that put him in position to score.
Road to Zion Update: The Cavs have settled in nicely for their stank n’ tank strategy, joining the New York Knickerbockers, Chicago Bulls, and Phoenix Suns as the teams that are a cut below when it comes to putting their best product forward. The Road to Zion is going to lead to Phoenix, New York, or Cleveland when it comes to announcing Draft Lottery winners in May. I think R.J. Barrett may receive strong consideration but I don’t think any of these teams will be able to withstand the wrath of their fans if they don’t choose Zion Williamson.