Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An NBA Article About Nothing

By Robert Campbell

Here I sit, driving a little too fast down a snow-filled back road on Saturday evening, following lagging MapQuest directions that I'm pretty sure just took me in a full circle, and listening to terrible rap music that could only be understood with subtitles and an Urban Dictionary flip-book.

I'm trying to withhold myself from opening the sealed McDonalds bag to my right and stealing a handful of fries before dropping off the remains at the household of a loyal Uber Eats customer, but, more importantly, I need to somehow come up with an NBA story idea in the next five minutes so that my editor doesn't mail me a bag of chopped fingers and freighting anecdotes from the Ghost of Missed Deadlines Past.

Of course, I'm kidding about that last part. Marc's a great guy and doesn't actually do that. Anymore.

Still, the point remains the same. I'm tasked with coming up with an informative or groundbreaking NBA story more than five months before the playoffs even start. And I get it — it's our job to distract you with minor storylines and subplots throughout the season to keep the audience entertained while ultimately building up to a big finish. It's our duty to overreact, overanalyze, and suggest every team's bump in the road could be an unfixable pothole. Every three-game skid calls for a panel discussion and every coach-player disagreement deserves a 30 for 30.

What if I told you ... that LeBron James overruled Tyronn Lue's play call in a meaningless game against the Kings in early December. That's got Emmy written all over it.

Though, to be honest, outside of game analysis, injury updates, or league transactions, there's nothing really urgent or necessary to discuss a quarter-way through an 82-game schedule. This is essentially an article about nothing. Don't get me wrong, that is not to say the NBA isn't exciting. In fact, I think the NBA is more exciting on a daily basis this year than it has been in recent memory.

I've loved watching Kyrie Irving break the collective ankles of the league, and LeBron reaffirm our beliefs that he isn't human. I've enjoyed seeing Houston gel as a team, San Antonio keep pace without Kawhi Leonard, and Golden State continue do what they do. I'm glad that Joel Embid is healthy and his running mate Ben Simmons is blossoming into a star. Russell Westbrook is still a mad man and the Greek Freak is well, a freak. And as much as we may hate to admit it, that guy and his pops in Los Angeles are pretty interesting, too.

But we need to keep it all in perspective. We can enjoy and appreciate the game without making absolute declarations and ultra-bold statements at every opportunity. The Cavaliers start slow so they must be washed up. Houston plays well when CP3 was injured, so they must be better without him. Lonzo Ball has a few bad games, so he must be a bust. Haven't we developed enough as a species to be able to assess the entire magnitude of a situation before coming to such an unequivocal conclusion? For God's sake, we're grading draft classes a month into their careers.

Again, I understand it's our job to do this, but that doesn't make looking at power rankings and contender/pretender articles at this time of year any less laughable. Multiple early November power rankings had the Grizzlies at No. 1. Fast-forward a month and they are 8-18 with a fired coach. The Pistons were the two seed in the East just last week, but does anybody really expect them to finish higher than a seven- or eight-seed?

This isn't like a 12- or 16-game football schedule where every win or loss could drastically affect national rankings and playoff positions. Even the 30-odd-game college basketball schedule can cause the sport's outlook to change on a moment's notice, with one bad defeat or upset victory altering seeding or a potential invitation to the NCAA tournament. Suddenly, a single loss by the Celtics to the Bulls last night doesn't seem that important.

I love the NBA. All I'm saying is to enjoy it for what it's worth at this point in the season — an exciting game with the best athletes in the world doing things you could only do by holding square, L2, and R2 at the same time. Stop examining and dramatizing every box score. Don't buy into the every-day hype the media desperately tries to sell you. Let's all just take a deep breath, sit back, and prepare ourselves for Cavs/Warriors IV.

Here, again, I sit. It's a day later and I have moved locations to a hipster coffee shop in midtown Manhattan as I await a scheduled meeting and edit this story. The people next to me are eating avocado toast and over-strategizing for their child's preschool entry interview. I'm pretty sure one of them is faking an accent. I'm pretty sure I hate them. The landscape of the NBA hasn't changed since the last time I sat down to write. This really is an article about nothing.

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