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The “No Sleep Till the NBA Playoffs” Mailbag

What’s the perfect length for the NBA season? Have we underrated Karl-Anthony Towns? And could the NBA lottery really be rigged?

(Getty Images/Lionsgate/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Lionsgate/Ringer illustration)

Sorry there hasn’t been an NBA mailbag in a few weeks — I’ve been resting myself for the playoffs. Send future questions to themailbag@theringer.com. As always these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: My solution for the player rest issue: make a new rule that coaches have to submit all DNP-Rests before the season. Fans have the info before they purchase tickets. Players get the rest they need. Players stay healthy and don’t get fined. Less bitching from guys like Stephen A. and people from old folks’ homes. You’d still need schedule-makers to be competent for avoiding back to backs for teams on national TV. Adam Silver could even make a rule that teams will get fined for resting players on national TV games. Would that work?
— Omar, Cleveland

BS: I don’t believe that it’s a "resting" issue. Here’s what I told Zach Lowe on one of our podcasts:

Here’s the catch: I said that to Zach in March 2015 (52-minute mark). And it’s only getting worse. I’m constantly amazed by how hard everyone plays these days. When a contender like the Warriors goes through the motions on a random night, it turns into a 24-hour news cycle. Are the Warriors worn out? Have they lost their swagger??? Thanks to League Pass, social media, and the never-ending slew of national games, the level of scrutiny is unparalleled — and on top of THAT, they’re playing a smaller, faster, unrelenting style that’s littered with slash-and-kicks, run-outs, chasedowns and protect-the-rim-by-committee leaps. Maybe stars aren’t getting hammered in the lane like they did in the Laimbeer-Oakley days, but they can’t take plays off either. There’s a reason nobody plays 40-plus minutes a game anymore. You can’t.

Why do we need an 82-game NBA season? For one of my favorite dumb reasons: "That’s the way we’ve always done it!" That’s code for, The players and owners know the season should be 76 games so we can eliminate every "four games in five nights" scenario, but we don’t want to lose six extra games of ticket revenue and TV money. Don’t just blame the owners; they split revenue 50–50 with the players. If the players want more rest, bargain for it — give up six games and see how it affects the league’s overall revenue and salary cap. Oh wait, the cap will go down? And you won’t make as much money? Looks like we’re sticking with the current plan — 82 games, rest at the last minute whenever we want, screw over the fans who bought tickets because who cares about them, right?

Do you know how we ended up at 82 games? Starting with when Bill Russell showed up in 1956 …

1956–57: eight teams, 72 games … 36 against your three conference opponents (12 games each), 36 against your four nonconference opponents (nine each). That actually makes sense!

The next four moves stemmed from greed, greed and greed …

1959–60: eight teams, 75 games
1960–61: eight teams, 79 games
1961–62: nine teams, 80 games
1966–67: 10 teams, 81 games

And then …

1967–68: 12 teams, 82 games … 40 against your five conference opponents (eight each), 42 against your six nonconference opponents (seven each). Again, that actually makes sense!

Barring a lockout, we haven’t budged from 82 games in 49 years, only we added another EIGHTEEN teams? What?

Go back to my aforementioned "76" — that’s 30 nonconference games (15 opponents), 30 non-division conference games (10 opponents), and 16 division games (four opponents). If we pressed RESET and created the best 30-team schedule possible, it’s 76 games — that removes one game a month, saves us about 24,530 hours of sports media complaints about resting, and solves pretty much every resting problem, right?

My suggestion for the umpteenth straight year: Drop to 76 games and guarantee seven playoff spots in each conference. Start the season 10 days early (in mid-October), end it in early April after Game 76, then have your 16 non-playoff teams battle for the last two seeds in a single-elimination Entertaining As Hell tournament as the playoff teams rest. Oh, and if you miss any of the softened 76-game schedule for "rest"? You don’t get paid for that game. Thank you and please drive through.

Q: If ever there was a season where the NBA needed your Entertaining As Hell Tournament, this is it (mainly because it would be the best chance Boogie and the Brow would have to get in, GO PELS!). On a scale of 1 to The Hangover photo reel, how much fun would it be to watch Minnesota, Denver, New Orleans, Portland, Dallas, Miami, Charlotte, Detroit, and Milwaukee go at it for those last two 8-seed spots? Make it happen Sports Czar.
— Alistair, Texas

BS: Your EAH matchups (and my guesses) if the season ended today …

No. 1 Miami over no. 16 Brooklyn
We’d use comedians to announce this game. Maybe Bill Burr and Hannibal Buress.

No. 2 Denver over no. 15 L.A. Lakers
Luke Walton’s pregame speech: "No, no, no, guys, we’re not tanking this game, we’re gonna TRY in this game. Got it?" By the way, I have Denver as a minus-140 favorite to pull off one of the 8-seeds.

No. 14 Phoenix over no. 3 Chicago
The "We Hate Our Team And Completely F’ed It Up" Bulls take on the "We Like Our Team of Young Dudes And We’re Kind of Excited to Be Here" Suns. I could see the Suns drawing heavy gambling action, becoming two-point favorites on the road, then almost losing on a late Jimmy Butler 3 that no other Bulls celebrate because nobody else wanted to play another 2017 game, then the 3 being overruled by replay, but not before Niko Mirotic punches Butler in the face and the Bulls brawl on their bench as Fred Hoiberg doesn’t realize what’s happening for a good 25 seconds. I’m not saying it would happen — just saying I could SEE it.

No. 13 Orlando over no. 4 Detroit
"Two franchises that hate what they are and where they’re going, playing for the right to lose in the next round … coming up on TNT!"

No. 5 Portland over no. 12 Philly
Fun basketball matchup and an even better social media matchup: The Portland Soccer Moms vs. The Hinkie Truthers! Did you really just insult Robert Covington? GO CHECK HIS DEFLECTION STATS ON NBA.COM RIGHT NOW!

No. 6 Charlotte over no. 11 New York
Don’t sleep on Kemba trying to re-enact his famous Big East tournament run or Melo exploding for 129 points in three EAH games. Actually, you can sleep on that second part. Are the Knicks really doubling down on the triangle? They’re really going to try to perfect an offense that leads to post-ups and long 2s during an era when everyone else is jacking up 3s? We’re really doing this? Is Phil Jackson trying to get fired? Is Phil Jackson awake?

No. 10 Sacramento over no. 7 New Orleans
Our marquee matchup of Round 1. Is there any doubt that Boogie goes for 43 points, 20 rebounds, eight turnovers, six fouls and an ejection? And is there any doubt Buddy Hield hits nine 3s and wins the game, followed by Vivek calling it the greatest moment in Sacramento Kings history (and not necessarily being wrong)?

No. 9 Minnesota over no. 8 Dallas
Come on, like you wouldn’t watch every second of this game. Why doesn’t this tournament exist? Why????

Final Eight guesses: Miami over Orlando; Denver over Phoenix; Portland over Sacramento; Minnesota over Charlotte.

Final Four: Miami over Minnesota; Portland upsets Denver as Jusuf Nurkic goes for 35 points, 27 rebounds and three Marlboro Reds. Your final playoff teams: Miami and Portland. (Next up: Throwing out conferences and turning the actual playoffs into Kirk Goldsberry’s idea of an NBA Sweet 16…)

Q: As a Memphis Grizzlies fan, at what point do I hit the panic button on this Chandler Parsons contract?
— Josh, Fayetteville, Ark.

BS: About eight months ago.

Q: Tom Haberstroh (who I like) tweeted, "This @kpelton piece tackles Kawhi’s MVP’s credentials, including the overrated concept of "BEST TWO-WAY PLAYER." It’s now overrated to be the league’s best two-way player? When did we decide this?
— Jack Lewis

BS: It’s not overrated if the league’s best two-way player doubles as (a) one of the NBA’s six or seven best offensive players by any metric; (b) one of the NBA’s three best defensive players; (c) the only All-Star on a top-4 contender cruising for 62-plus wins; (d) the only active star who can say, "I outplayed LeBron head-to-head in the NBA Finals when I wasn’t even in my prime yet"; (e) the only current NBA star who can successfully defend Westbrook, Harden, LeBron, Durant, and Davis; (f) one of the two best perimeter defenders I’ve ever seen in my freaking life; and (g) our only NBA star who can say, "There’s 40 seconds left in Game 7 and it’s tied — I’m gonna score on LeBron, and then I’m gonna stop him from scoring" (and actually believe it).

Q: I like your argument that the Lakers should stop counting their five Minneapolis championships. This has become my new hill to die on. If the Thunder can’t take credit for the ’79 Sonics championship, why should the Lakers claim their Minnesota years? And why can’t the Timberwolves hang five championship banners celebrating Minnesota’s glorious ’50s run, or induct George Mikan, Slater Martin, and Jim Pollard into their Hall of Fame. I also think they should demand that their commentators refer to Shabazz Muhammad as the spiritual successor to Elgin Baylor.
— Ian McPherson

BS: When Trump and Putin make me America’s Sports Tsar, one of my first rules will be that cities can’t take credit for championships that were won when the team was based outside a 150-mile range of its current city. For instance, the 1948 Baltimore Bullets won the title; I’m OK with Washington honoring that one. But Sacramento and the 1951 Rochester Royals, OKC and the 1979 Sonics, L.A. and the five Minneapolis titles, Philadelphia and the 1955 Syracuse Nationals, Atlanta and the 1958 St. Louis Hawks … just stop it. Thank God we won’t have to worry about this when the Clippers move to Seattle in six years.

Q: What would you trust Jimmy Buss to run? He obviously couldn’t run the Lakers. Then he couldn’t run a coup against his sister. Would you trust Jimmy Buss to run a Keurig? A microwave? A plant? And I don’t mean like a car manufacturing plant, I mean a house plant.
— Cameron in Austin

BS: I think you just created NBC’s next hit game show.

Q: Stage Mom LaVar Ball has already guaranteed himself a reality show deal. TLC asks you to name the program. Do you go with:

(a) "Balls to the Wall"

(b) "Ballin on a Budget"

(c) "On the Ball"

(d) Something else
— Austin Bradshaw

BS: Doesn’t it have to be called "Loose Balls"? Hot take: I enjoy the Ball brothers; I think LaVar Ball is hilarious; and I consume any and all Ball brothers content. They’re like a benevolent, less-manipulative version of the Kardashians, only with 3-point range and more ball-busting. And they’d never go near Kris Humphries. I’d definitely watch Loose Balls.

Q: Celts get the first pick, who you taking?
— Andy, Leominster, Mass.

BS: Lonzo. You don’t just get a potential superstar; you get someone who generates a completely different rhythm for your team. Lonzo shows up and suddenly you’re pushing the ball with pace, you’re always making the extra pass, you always have your hands up, you’re always moving downhill. He’s contagious. He’s like one of those SNL cast members who makes every sketch better even if he doesn’t have a ton of lines — he’s basically Will Ferrell. And you couldn’t pick a better professional era for him than right now. Oh, everyone’s running the floor shooting 3s and playing slash-and-kick? Great! My name is Lonzo, I’m here to help! Stick Lonzo on any NBA team and they’re better within two months. Any of them. All 30. I think he’s brilliant. I’ve seen these other guys before; I’ve never seen anything quite like Lonzo. (Uh-oh, I just guaranteed that he goes 3-for-16 with nine turnovers against Kentucky tonight.)

Q: On Zach Lowe’s podcast, you mentioned Isaiah Thomas possibly being expendable if the Celtics end up with Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball (which I agree with and think is definitely possible). Don’t they warrant the idea of moving on from Mr. 4th Quarter so you don’t have to pay IT $200 million? I can see Danny Ainge calling Vlade Divac and being like "guess who you’d be lucky enough to have back for the low price of 4 no. 1s and a pick swap in 2025." Yes? No?
— Ben Roth

BS: If the Celtics land a franchise point guard in May, why would they keep that player AND pay Thomas $35–40 million per year? Say Thomas is looking at a five-year, $200 million deal that starts in the fall of 2018, when he’s 29 years old. Would you really want to pay a 5-foot-9 defensive liability $40-plus million per season when he’s 33 or 34? What’s the history of tiny NBA players aging well into their​ mid-30s?

Let’s say the Celtics luck out and get Lonzo or Fultz — in two summers, Lonzo/Fultz, Avery Bradley (a free agent in 2018), and Marcus Smart (eligible for an extension next summer) would cost 90 percent as much as Thomas by himself. It’s a bummer to think about — he’s been a blast to watch, he’s a local folk hero, and there’s been some real 2004–2005 David Ortiz parallels these past few months. But the Celtics care more about dominating the next decade than contending in this one. Drafting Fultz or Ball, then dealing Thomas at the height of his value (both performance and salary) would be the Belichick move. Still, it’s a moot point if they don’t get Lonzo or Fultz. (Also, there’s a zero percent chance that Thomas, Bradley AND Smart are on the team together in October 2018 for a combined $70–75 million a year, but that’s another story.)

Q: Did you see the Nets pulled within five games of the Lakers with 11 to play? This is going to give me a heart attack.
— Text From My Dad

BS: (I’m really gonna miss having these Nets picks.)

Q: As a diehard NBA nut, I was delighted to hear that Rajon Rondo was planning a 10-year reunion vacation for the 2008 Championship Celtics team. What a terrific idea! I begrudgingly understand that KG and the fellas have "lost Ray’s number," but I am baffled that Rajon somehow apparently forgot to invite Scot Pollard (who expressed his displeasure on Twitter)! If you were putting together a tropical island getaway reunion that you hope is a great party, wouldn’t Scot be the FIRST call you make? I’m perplexed. Thoughts???
— Davey Moran, St. Joseph, Mo.

BS: When Pollard appeared on Survivor, he bragged about being an NBA champion and I said to myself, "Wait, what? The Kings never even made the Finals!" I hopped on Basketball Reference, searched for his name and realized that I had totally forgotten about the 173 regular-season minutes and 26 out of 26 playoff DNPs that he logged for the 2008 NBA champs ON MY FAVORITE BASKETBALL TEAM. And I’m paid to remember this shit. Can you really blame Rondo for forgetting that Pollard was a player dressed like a coach and not an actual coach?

(By the way, how can you have a 10-year reunion without Ray Allen? There’s no KG trade without Ray Allen! There’s no Game 4 Finals comeback without Ray Allen! Isn’t the move to invite him and pretend that it’s all water under the bridge, then bust his balls from the moment he shows up? It shouldn’t be a reunion, it should be a Secret Ray Allen Roast. Book Jeff Ross right now! Ray has OCD — when he stabbed the Celtics in the back, he did it over and over again until he got it right!)

Q: Do you believe ESPN’s theory that the Tinderization of the NBA has gotten players more sleep on the road and hurt home-court advantage?
— Jessica, Madison, Wisc.

BS: I believe that everyone shoots more 3-pointers now. Three-pointers are more random and unpredictable. It’s boring, but it’s true. I also believe that travel habits and resting/dieting habits are better (which improve the chances for road teams), and I believe that home-court advantage has been slipping for a while because of the people looking at their phones and visiting fans getting tickets on secondary markets (as anyone who attended the Celtics at Warriors game this month would tell you). I also believe we were just as worried about home-court advantage 26 months ago.

Q: Let’s time travel, shall we? Back to all the preseason buzz surrounding Karl-Anthony Towns. Remember the GM survey? All the magazine covers? How he was the next big thing? Then the team floundered, KAT struggled on D, and everyone got whiplash from jumping off the bandwagon in November … KEEP IN MIND HE’S 21. His 28-game stretch since Jan. 19: 28.5 points, 12.6 rebounds, 60/43/82 splits. Little early to anoint Jokic as the best young center in the league, no?
— Sandro Young

BS: Thanks for throwing the bucket of freezing water from Lake Minnetonka on us, Sandro. You’re right. It’s only a 28-game (and counting) sample size, but KAT’s extended hot streak spawned the following four subplots …

A. Minnesota went 14–14 over that 28-game stretch, just decent enough to allow Towns to resign from 2017’s "Good Stats/Bad Team" Empty Calorie All-Stars and hand its starting center spot back to the man who’s owned it for this entire decade … that’s right, Boogie Cousins. (Sorry, it’s true.)

B. Can you remember thinking about the 60–40–80 Club before? Me neither. (Needless to say, it’s empty.)

C. Only four players averaged 20 points a game while making 60 percent of their shots: 1967 Wilt (24.1, 68.3 percent), 1980 Kareem (24.8, 60.4), 1987 McHale (26.1, 60.4), 1988 McHale (22.6, 60.4), 2005 Shaq (22.9, 60.1) and 2006 Shaq (20.0, 60.0). That means 1987 McHale started the 26–60 Club and owns the only locker in the clubhouse. Could Towns pull off a 26–60 for a full season? What about the 26–60 Club AND the 60–40–80 Club?

D. Only two players averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists while making 55 percent of their shots: 1967 Wilt (24–24–8, 68.3 percent), 1968 Wilt (24–24–9, 59.5 percent), 1980 Kareem (24–13–5, 57.7 percent). Well, here’s Jokic’s past 28 games since January 16: 19.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 58–34–83 splits.

As I wrote in my piece about Russell Westbrook, we’ve somehow entered the NBA’s version of the Steroid Era without the steroids (we hope). Everywhere you look, a 2017 player is doing something that leads to the sentence, "Only (X) players in NBA history have (done what this guy’s doing)." But "Which 21-year-old franchise center would you rather have … Jokic or Towns?" has turned into a fantastic NBA argument. (I’d still pick Jokic because it’s a little easier to build a dominant offense around him. But it’s close.)

Q: Wouldn’t the most Belichick move of all time be to trade Tom Brady and keep Jimmy Garoppolo?
— James Kaiser

BS: You bite your filthy tongue.

Q: I just wanted to thank you for taking your son to John Wick 2. I told my wife about it and she was appalled. Now, anything I do with the kids doesn’t seem so bad. I can play an extra hour of video games with them and if my wife objects, I can just say at least I didn’t take them to John Wick 2, right? Keep up the good work, maybe if you let him watch Saving Private Ryan we can get a Nintendo Switch.
— Adam, Kingston, Ontario

BS: We might go see John Wick: Chapter 2 a second time this weekend! My 12 favorite seeing-it-in-the-theater action movie experiences (many detailed here) …

1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982, First Blood
1988, Die Hard
1989, Lethal Weapon 2
1990, Total Recall
1991, Terminator 2
1993, Cliffhanger
1993, The Fugitive
2004, Man on Fire
2008, Taken
2011, Fast Five
2017, John Wick 2

Now — I got to see only ONE of those 12 movies with my son. (Granted, a movie in which John Wick kills 128 people, but still.) I’m just happy that my son now understands the simple lessons in life, like "Don’t ever kill someone’s dog," "Don’t ever steal someone’s favorite car," "Don’t ever leave the house without wearing your bulletproof vest," and "Don’t ever kill someone inside the Continental."

Q: Will Derrick Rose be the first NBA MVP not to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame?
— Sal in Conn.

BS: If that was a 40-pound trophy season like 2016–17, that would be one thing, but that was the definition of a 5-pound trophy season. That MVP season wasn’t any more or less impressive than Penny Hardaway’s two-year peak in Orlando, right? And Penny didn’t make it, either. I don’t think Rose gets in. By the way, four post-Russell seasons should have spawned co-MVPs for teammates: 1970 (Reed and Frazier), 1972 (West and Wilt), 2006 (Shaq and Wade), and 2011 (Wade and LeBron, for carrying a three-man Miami team to 58 wins with a massive bull’s-eye on their backs). I always thought of 2011 as the Wade-LeBron season.

Q: Does it trouble you that Danny Ainge is starting to look a little bit more like Gary Busey every year?
— Chad Hughes

BS: It does now.

Q: As the playoffs approach, I can’t help but think about the nut punch heard ‘round the world. In the fourth quarter with Game 5 in hand, LeBron aggravates Draymond, leading to the most infamous nut punch in sports. Adam Silver suddenly has the option to extend an underwhelming NBA finals, pulls the trigger and the rest is history. What would have happened if Draymond’s knuckles landed safely on the LeButt instead of LeNutts?
— Grant, Chicago

BS: I think the following things happen (and don’t happen) …

1. Golden State wins in five.
2. Durant goes to San Antonio.
3. Love goes to Boston for 2016’s no. 3 pick.
4. Al Horford still signs with Boston.
5. Harrison Barnes still signs with Dallas.
6. Golden State replaces Barnes with Mirza Teletovic and Dion Waiters for one-third of the money.
7. Joe Lacob writes an autobiography called WINNER.

Q: Why are we not awarding 1.5 assists for 3s made? Baseball doesn’t give one RBI for a two-run double, right?
— James Li

BS: Because it would make too much sense? Go back to the 1940s and 1950s — they wanted to measure what we were watching somehow, so they tracked shot attempts, made shots, points, rebounds and assists. Totally primitive. And assists were MUCH harder to earn. You basically didn’t get an assist unless your pass directly led to a layup or dunk — that’s why Bob Cousy averaged only 8–9 assists per game on teams that averaged 110–120 points per game. Things softened in the late-1970s when Detroit started jacking up Kevin Porter’s assist totals — that led to everything that happened in the 1980s with Magic, Stockton, Isiah, and everyone else. But we never broadened the concept of an assist. The sport became more complicated, and so did the numbers … and yet the "assist" never budged. It’s idiotic.

You know what’s amazing? WE HAVE BETTER NUMBERS. Allow me to introduce you non-stat nerds to … assist points created. That covers the total number of points created on field goals, 3s and made free throws per game. Which number tells you more?

James Harden: 27.3 APC … 11.2 APG
John Wall: 25.6 APC … 10.8 APG
R. Westbrook: 23.8 APC … 10.4 APG
LeBron James: 22.8 APC … 8.8 APG
Chris Paul: 21.5 APC … 9.2 APG
Ricky Rubio: 20.3 APC … 8.9 APG

I would also create a "mega-assist" category to cover special assists (think Bird and Magic way back when, or LeBron and Harden right now) — basically, any creative pass that leads directly to a layup or dunk (or a foul to stop a layup or dunk). So if Harden has four sweet dishes — three that lead to dunks, one that leads to free throws (one make, one miss) — he finishes with 3.5 mega-assists. Let’s start tracking this stuff. We need to be ready for Lonzo. By the way, LaVar Ball would have averaged more mega-assists than Michael Jordan.

Q: Here are the Clippers winning percentages over the past six seasons:

.589
.646
.683
.695
.683
.606

Can you tell me when Doc Rivers took over? Shouldn’t there be a significant jump for a contender with two franchise players that gets an "elite coach" and replaces VINNY DEL NEGRO?!? Doc has really only done three impressive things since taking over: 1. Convinced DJ to become a rebounding/defensive/pick-and-roll monster; 2. Beat the Spurs in 2015; 3. Put the Clippers in Salary Cap Hell.
— Nathan, Houston

BS: You left out, "4. Played over 1,500 rounds at the Bel-Air Country Club." The good news for Clippers fans: after Thursday night’s crushing loss in Dallas, I think they’ve officially run out of ways to blow victories in the final minute. They’ve exhausted every possible bad outcome except an opponent bouncing a game-winning 3 off a referee’s noggin. And that’s probably coming next week.

Q: Why aren’t people talking more about the real competition between James Harden and Russell Westbrook — the one to break the turnover record? Seriously, in this age of offensive efficiency, how is averaging over five turnovers a game acceptable?
— Ian Goodall

BS: In my NBA book, I vowed that nobody would ever break Chicago’s 72-win record, and nobody would ever break George McGinnis’s record of 422 turnovers. And both records are going down in the span of 12 months — even better, Harden (414 right now) and Westbrook (380) are going to shatter McGinnis’s record while battling for the MVP! Poor George. I always thought the turnover record should belong to someone who smoked cigarettes at halftime like George did. But Harden possibly breaking the 450-turnover barrier? Good God! What’s happening this season???

Q: You know what I love most about your podcast? It’s so educational! For example, until I listened to your interview with Luke Walton, I had NO IDEA that HGH stands for "Yoga and Beach Volleyball"! I can’t wait for the next episode, where we learn that Barry Bonds was able to hit all those homers at age 37 because he took up windsurfing when he moved to San Francisco.
— Eli Siebert, Boston

BS: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q; Listening to your Larry Wilmore pod, I can’t believe you’ve watched the NBA for multiple decades and you still think there’s a legitimate chance the Lakers don’t keep their picks. When Magic Johnson goes on TV for the lottery drawing, there’s no way the NBA is sending him home empty-handed. The lottery is the great equalizer: it saved New Orleans, saved Cleveland after LeBron, attempted to save Portland and Seattle in 2007, even rewarded Philly for firing Hinkie. If they lose their 2017 and 2019 picks, the Lakers will be terrible for another few years. The Lakers being terrible is unacceptable for the business interests of the NBA. Explain yourself: Do you think Adam Silver’s NBA is really that different from Stern’s or are you completely delusional?
— Mike, S.F.

BS: Uh-oh, looks like you’ve summoned the ghost of Conspiracy Bill from the Grantland headquarters! It wasn’t always impossible to rig the lottery, but the current incarnation appears to be unriggable. You have 14 balls rattling around a goofy machine and randomly shooting up into the air. You have 1,001 different ping-pong combinations based on those random balls. And you have a live audience of team representatives and handpicked media members. I don’t even think David Blaine could rig the NBA lottery. I may or may not have watched this video 10 straight times looking for a sign of anything shady. Nope. Nothing. It all seems so boringly random and mundane.

And yet, this decade’s batch of lotteries were fishier than Trump’s Russia connections. A quick recap …

2011, 2013, 2014: In the summer of 2010, Cleveland loses its meal ticket to Miami after nearly two years of whispers that (a) LeBron was leaving, and (b) multiple teams were recruiting him through intermediaries. Cleveland wins three of the next four lotteries. The odds of that happening? One in 13,467. ****Conspiracy Bill ranking: 19 out of 10.

2012: The NBA spends a year running the Pelicans itself, oversees the Chris Paul trade fiasco, convinces Saints owner Tom Benson to buy the Pelicans in April … and one month later, they win the lottery (and Anthony Davis). ****Conspiracy Bill ranking: 10 out of 10.

2015: An incompetent small-market team (Minnesota) finishes with the worst record and actually lands the top prize for once. OR, the league needed this to happen to throw everyone off the pungent scent of the previous four years. ****Conspiracy Bill ranking: 8 out of 10.

2016: Philly pisses off everyone with the Process, forces out Process architect Sam Hinkie and brings in the Stern/Silver-connected Colangelos, then lands the no. 1 pick almost four hours after Dikembe Mutombo congratulated them on Twitter for winning the first pick. ****Conspiracy Bill ranking: 13 out of 10.

Again, I don’t believe the NBA rigs the lottery. I think it’s impossible. (And illegal.) But the following May scenarios would earn a 16 out of 10 from Conspiracy Bill …

1. Lakers, 2. Knicks, 3. Pelicans or 1. Knicks, 2. Lakers, 3. Pelicans (L.A. and New Orleans each keeps its pick).

Q: As a Redskins fan and an American, I have a question — who says no to a Daniel Snyder for Donald Trump trade? Washington would still be a dumpster fire but at least the owner would be entertaining, and Trump is 70, so Redskins fans could see the light at the end of the tunnel. As for America, for all Snyder’s faults he does hire respected people plus he doesn’t act crazy, racist or tweet. Isn’t this an upgrade for both sides?
— Ryan Quigley

BS: I don’t know if "upgrade" is the word I would use. Also, I think we’re in range.

Q: Can we take a moment to appreciate House’s point on your top-50 fast food podcast that you can’t even make the playoffs with waffle fries? You’re a writer, right? Imagine you wrote the line "you can’t even make the playoffs with waffle fries." It would probably be the greatest thing you’ve ever written, right? Now imagine it’s part of a screenplay. You audition actors who read the line and it’s meh, meh, meh, then Joe House walks in the room, shirt stained with chicken fat, and busts the line as he did on your podcast. What else do you want? Are you going to bring Philip Seymour Hoffman back from the dead? You could build an empire on the fact you can’t even make the playoffs with waffle fries. You know who agrees? The coach in your $100 million sports movie who told his team to eat healthy and he walks in a room and, well, 90 seconds later he’s demonstrably holding up waffle fries and shouting truisms about the playoffs.
— Adam Tomlinson

BS: Yup, these are my readers.