1) Atlantic Division
The other day I drove by the remains of a car accident. A van had hit a guardrail, flipped over, and came to rest on its roof, nestled between two trees. Traffic both ways slowed down to gape at the sight. It was slightly horrible, but mesmerizing.
This exactly what it feels like to look at the Atlantic division standings. You just can’t help but gawk and point and wonder at the wreckage.
(By the way, later on I read in the newspaper that the driver of the van was unhurt except for some minor pain.)
2) Raps In Fore
Look who’s leading the division: The Toronto Raptors!
The Atlantic has the two Gotham teams decimated by injuries. There’s one tanking club from Philadelphia, successfully plummeting to oblivion. Then there’s the other tanking club from the land of universal health care, who despite valiantly trading off their best player, bewilderingly finds themselves in first place. The first place Toronto Raptors. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Look! There’s another van over the guardrail!
How does leading the division sit with Toronto fans? Most of them seem to be miserable about it. Nothing it seems, makes people unhappier than being in first place.
4) Then, There’s the Celtics
Boston is still waiting for Rondo, but they’re not recently injured like 9-18 New York and 9-18 Brooklyn. They haven’t traded specifically to lose like 8-20 Philly and 11 -15 Toronto. In fact, they just tried to get better by acquiring Omer Asik.
The Celtics are playing hard. They’re producing up to their abilities. They’re doing the best they can. They’re 12-17, and playing about as well as anyone could reasonably expect.
5) Merry Christmas!
Usually successful teams play on December 25th. This year that’s not necessarily the case. Look at Chicago/Brooklyn, the Injury Bowl. That contest alone tells you everything you need to know about the the ruined landscape of the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics will be resting for the first time since young Gerald Green won the dunk contest.
The sunken terrain of the Eastern Conference is skewing views. There are only two contenders in the East. Beyond that, Atlanta is decent. That’s it. Everyone else is competing to find out who’s the tallest Lilliputian.
7) The Wheel
You already know about the proposed draft wheel. IMHO, it’s five levels below a bad idea.
Right now every fan base in the league has hope. They either have hope of rising and competing in the playoffs, or hope of nabbing a special young talent in the draft. Implementing the dreaded wheel will destroy hope for half the league.
That means half the league’s fans will lose interest. But wait, there’s more: It won’t be temporary. Fans of bad teams will be able to tell exactly when they will have hope again. "Look, in 2022 we’ll have the third pick!"
Why would anyone watch a sport where they have no realistic reason to hope for a period of nine years?
8) Keep The Current System
Fans are having fun with it. They’re engaged. They’re watching every game, rooting for something- maybe not wins, but SOMETHING. There’s interest, there’s excitement. If the wheel was in place, that excitement would not exist. Eventually franchises would disappear because of it.
Besides, diving for draft choices is its own art form. The best organizations have done it. It's ugly if done year after year like Charlotte, but beautiful a la San Antonio.
Please NBA overlords, don’t take away tanking. You might as well take away music or painting. In skilled hands there is no higher art form than deftly plunging downward for a great draft choice. If you take away the current system, you take away dreams. You don’t want to take away dreams, do you?
(I have to pause…. Sniffle, sniffle.)
He’s injured. Not surprisingly, he’s being smart about it. His career is on the line, and rushing back can only jeopardize it. Take your time Rajon. Be completely ready for the glorious Celtics’ future.
10) That Celtics Future is as Bright as Can Be
The present may be an upside down. The future looks great. Those three unprotected Brooklyn picks look just like three incredibly precious gems. (Provided they don’t get wheeled.)
No one knows exactly what Danny Ainge will do with his gemstones, but he will use them or trade them to bring the 18th banner to Boston. It’s coming. Banner 18 is coming. We can’t clearly see it yet, but we can see the distant glow. Thank you Brooklyn. Thank you Billy King. Thank you Russian oligarch.
A couple of years from now this team will be remade, and great young coach Brad Stevens will have the talent to work with that he deserves.