The Leadoff: Fun Season?

With the NBA playoffs starting on Saturday it is officially the end of the NBA regular season and what a season it was. There were some crazy things that happened that we have all but forgotten about due to the daily freight train of information that blasts into our faces via our various devices day in and day out. Hello, does anyone remember when Rajon Rondo asked Chris Paul what the five fingers said to the face? Or how about when Marcus Smart kicked dirt behind him with his feet like a cartoon bull before he charged into Joel Embiid sending him sliding across the floor?

Not only did we have fights, farewell tours and fraud but we also go the best behind-the-scenes practice story since the Jordan era when it came out that Jimmy Butler, upon apparently being fed up with the lack of dedication and work ethic among his teammates, entered practice hissing like a radiator and grabbed the third string guys and beat the starters in a practice game. If only other sports gave us stories like this. Before Mike McCarthy was fired, I always dreamed that Aaron Rodgers would do something like this in practice and grab all the defensive lineman and throw them out wide and go all scorched earth on the Packers’ secondary proving that one, they suck, and two, that the receivers around him don’t matter.

Apparently, Derrick Rose discovered the Fountain of Youth somewhere and didn’t bother to tell anyone. The former MVP has been an afterthought and a feel-good story ever since leaving Chicago and then erupted for 50 points this year and emerged as the Minnesota Timberwolves best point guard. Draymond Green called Kevin Durant a bad word, Luka Doncic and Trae Young look to be the real deal, Anthony Davis decided he is done with New Orleans and on a night that we said goodbye to two legends of the game in Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, Jamal Crawford dropped a 50 burger at the age of 39. I'm fairly certain Crawford will be burying pull-up three-point jumpers in an open gym somewhere five years after the sun has burnt out and the apocalypse has begun.

Does anyone remember Markelle Fultz? This was supposed to be his year and he even played in a few games and it looked like he might have turned the corner and found some semblance of the confidence that made him a No. 1 draft pick and then it disappeared faster than free samples at a Costco on Sunday and he was traded.

I can’t tell if I am just delirious with delight and recency bias but this might have been the most fun I have had in an NBA season in the past five years which is pretty remarkable considering that LeBron wasn’t even a factor. Oh yeah, LeBron James didn’t make the playoffs this year for the first time since 2005. Want to know what else happened in 2005 to make yourself feel old? The office aired its pilot episode in 2005, George Bush started his second term, Youtube was founded in 2005. Think about that, Lebron has been around since Youtube began. I’m pretty sure if you asked a high school kid today when Youtube was founded they would assume it came somewhere in between the discovery of electricity and the printing press.

The playoffs begin Saturday and all of the matchups are interesting in their own way but two of them stick out to me. Warriors versus Clippers and Nets against Sixers look like the two most intriguing matchups, not because we don’t know who will win but because of style and animosity. Now I don’t know any Clippers’ fans but I do remember a few years ago when the DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul Clippers, who couldn’t make a conference championship, fancied themselves as a fair test to the Warriors. The games had passion, energy and genuine hate between the teams. The Warriors have been fighting with everyone this season, including the referees, so I'm looking for emotions to run high in those games.

The Sixers versus the Nets is exciting because of the unknown potential of the Nets and the volatility of the Sixers. Philadelphia is unquestionably one of the most talented teams in the league and the only other team next to the Warriors that can put four all-stars on the floor at the same time but at times they lose their identity when they struggle and if D'Angelo Russell and the Nets can make things interesting it might get really hot in that Sixers’ locker room. Embiid and Butler have already proven to be outspoken, imagine if one of them isn’t getting the touches they think they deserve?


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