The end of the 2018-19 season is here. Let’s talk about it.
Another NBA season is in the books and it brought us everything we love about the game plus plenty of the shit we hate. Petty drama, shocking surprises, eye-popping stateliness, political intrigue, and of course great games. Now that it’s done, let’s go over some of the best, worst, and strangest aspects of the season.
I started writing this BEFORE Magic Johnson pulled a Danny Glover and said “I’m too old for this shit” on the last week of the season and peaced out before even telling his boss.
The Los Angeles Lakers, those eminent fail sons buoyed by a history the current owner of the franchise didn’t earn and a national media that desperately wants to have more April and May games in LA and New York, signed Lebron James in the offseason. I honestly thought Lebron plus Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and the right free agents would definitely be able to get them into the playoffs. Magic Johnson apparently thought any and all free agents would work and signed the exhumed corpse of Rajon Rondo, the head of the Space Cadets Javale McGee, and “we’re just never gonna talk about the time he threw a woman down the stairs” Lance Stephenson.
After Lebron got hurt in December, this shit went way sideways. Ingram slumped. The free agents revealed they weren’t actually that good. And Lonzo…man. When your point guard shoots 42% from the free throw line, I don’t care how good his defense is. That is horrid. Oh, and he got hurt again. He has played 99 games in his first two seasons due to a litany of lower leg injuries. I see a productive future for Zo in the league, but there’s a lot he has to figure out, both on and off the court. Speaking of which, Lonzo Ball fired his agent, dropped his family’s shoe company in favor of Nike, and is now ensnared in a sad family/business drama.
I kind of hate talking about the Lakers so much, but they were such a shitshow this year, on such a huge scale, they warrant further examination. And Lebron was part of the reason they were a problem. Despite the fact that he had another amazing offensive season (27.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 8.3 APG), it felt like he truly declined. Part of it was his defense: it was trash. Then, his fellow Klutch Sports client, Anthony Davis, tried and failed to force a trade to the Lakers that fell apart because the Pelicans looked at the players the Lakers offered and said “get the fuck outta here.”
I do have a perverse appreciation for what Lebron did this season, though. He showed he gives absolutely zero fucks about the Laker Brand. He half-assed his way through the season, tried to get all their young, promising players traded for a dude with one eyebrow, and laughed his way through it all. What a legend.
The Birth of Big Butler Energy
This happened before the season, but Jimmy Butler shitting all over the Wolves organization, DESERVEDLY I would say, became something of a motivational mantra. Whenever you feel too depressed to do anything, summon your inner Jimmy Butler. Walk into your office like the badass you are. Think how they can’t fucking sell popcorn without you or whatever you do. Just don’t, like, say it out loud and talk to Rachel Nichols about it.”
The Systematic Destruction of Defense and Inflation of Stats
I’ve always hated the oft-spoken belief that “there’s no defense in the NBA.” There is and there always has been. The people who say this are usually the people who prefer college basketball over the NBA because they really like watching lesser skilled players brick jumpers and dribble the ball off their foot during crunch time. They also really like it when athletes are treated like cattle, not the extremely valuable laborers they are.
HOWEVER! This year, the NBA tried to give them more ammo. Defense is so hard to play in the league these days, considering you have to guard a lot of ball handlers above the three point line now and damn near everyone who sees the court can bomb from three. There’s more space than ever and the league instituted new rules to more harshly penalize the more physical brand of defense that is supposed to hinder these pesky perimeter players. Illegal screens are still cool, though.
This has led to even more scoring this year; 111.2 points per game on average per team, up from 106. 3 from last year. More importantly, it has led to even more eye-popping offensive stats and a greater importance on the offensive game of superstars. The stats have become inflated to the point where they just don’t matter as much as they used to, even at these rates. For example, Russell Westbrook just averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive year and nobody gives a shit. James Harden might be the best, most impactful, player in basketball and his defense is…fine. It’s not great overall, though his post defense is, but being the best player in the game doesn’t mean being a dominant force on both ends. It’s kind of been that way for the past few years, but that was because we all knew Lebron was simply coasting on defense in the regular season and would turn it back on in the playoffs. Now, it’s a lot more imbalanced.
While there are still great defenders, even on the perimeter, the league might do well to try to tip the scales back towards defense a little bit. We don’t need to bring back mid-2000s era basketball, but a way to make guarding on the perimeter a little less impossible might do well for the competition.
Kings and KANGZ
So the Kings had their best season in years and, as of this writing, are expected to fire the head coach who helmed it all. There’s a lot to write about this team that I plan on expanding upon in a separate piece, but you can imagine fans’ consternation.