I grew up in Chicago, which means I grew up in a basketball atmosphere that was convinced the league was always rigging things for the Knicks. Even though the Bulls would go on to win six titles — beating the Knicks along the way for most of them — Bulls fans were always insistent that they had to overcome more than just the rigors of a season and a playoff run. They also had to slay the decks stacked against them by the powers that be.
Obviously, no one in their right mind ever bought into it, but Chicago was and remains basketball stupid despite the success. They’re hardly the only fanbase. Ask Kings fans about the 2002 Western Conference final and you can be sure the mention of a conspiracy isn’t too far from the surface.
What the NBA wants is just good basketball, and hopefully a few stars in the last couple of rounds. It won’t get the biggest one now, and it’s partly because the league barely gave LeBron James and Anthony Davis a chance.
The Lakers had a 70-day offseason Their season has been racked by major injuries to both LeBron and Davis. The latter was on the floor last night for five minutes, could barely walk, and was relieved of the chance to perhaps impact next training camp by being removed from the game then. How he ever got cleared to play should be the main crux of an inquest amongst the Lakers medical staff.
The Heat also dealt with a season ruined by injuries to just about everyone. The Celtics were kind of a mess all year, the past two years really, but Jayson Tatum was the only regular to manage more than 60 games and he was clearly hampered at the end. The Nuggets are the only team from last year’s final four to win their first-round series, and of course they’re doing it without Jamal Murray, whose knee exploded.
This was all too much to ask of the players, especially those who went deep into The Bubble playoffs last year. All of these teams won’t really get rewarded with a normal offseason either. This would be what we would call a short one, because this is just about when the Finals would normally be played. So the teams that have eaten it in the first round will only get three months off before training camp.
Every sport keeps asking more and more of its players. The NFL just added a 17th game. An 18th won’t be far behind. The NBA had this turnaround, and the next turnaround, and the NHL will be doing the same (at least the latter gave it’s teams an additional couple weeks over the NBA). I guess at least we’ve seen just about what the breaking point is.