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In the NBA’s Magically Chaotic Offseason, Everybody Wins

The Process, vindicated. KD claps back. Whither Paul George? New Cavs GM candidate … Chauncey Billups?! Over four days of trades, tweets, and rumors, the NBA’s offseason has morphed into a 24–7 source of pure, exhilarating narrative.

(AP Images/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Ringer illustration)

A summation of the happenings of the past 96-hours-ish of the NBA world, where the road goes on forever and the season never ends:

Friday, June 16

News that Danny Ainge is poised to send the no. 1 overall pick to the post-Process Sixers for the no. 3 and future first-rounders Woj-nukes the internet.

Saturday, June 17

New life stirs in the howling radioactive wilderness. Markelle Fultz, consensus no. 1 pick, 40 percent 3-point shooter, pre-stage 1 RFD (round-face disease) sufferer, and two-way guard dynamo travels to Camden, New Jersey, to work out for the Sixers. The trade, at this point, has not been confirmed. Processes Joel Embiid and Dario Saric pose for a selfie in front of a locker bearing Fultz’s name; on the seat is a blue Sixers shopping bag presumably containing five bricks of pure, untraceable Hinkaine. Fultz shoots 4-of-18 from 3 and the format of the run is apparently "around the world in the backyard with your dad on the Fourth of July," but, honestly, who cares at this point.

Sunday, June 18

Freshly anointed Finals MVP takes time away from basking in the warm glow of victory to clap back at his numerous critics on Twitter, an app that, as of this writing, is still free. Highlights include:

I’m putting this one on my tombstone:

And the most "This App Is Free" thread:

Paul George informs the Pacers that he’s definitely bolting in free agency in 2018, preferably to his hometown Lakers, thus wrecking Indiana’s trade leverage. This is the MeloDrama™ of 2010–11, improved and retconned for a new generation. The number of teams who should take a rental flier on PG13 and who can is basically, like, the Cavaliers and Celtics. And then really just the Cavaliers. And maybe the Clippers. But only then if the Lakers move falls through.

Monday, June 19

With the trade now official, Sixers fans, drunk on power, unleash three years of saved anti-Process tweets upon their unwitting masters using the hashtag #RTArmageddon. As an ardent supporter of teams and their fans feeling themselves out of all proportion to circumstances, I enjoy this and I stand by everything I have ever tweeted about Sam Hinkie and the Sixers.

Meanwhile: Durant, according to sources and confirmed by basic common sense, is expected to decline his roughly $28 million player option on July 1. KD would then become a free agent for an amount of time measurable only by lasers, after which he would (re-)sign with the Warriors for a discount, thus giving the team a better shot at retaining all-around glue guy and original Lineup-of-Death band member Andre Iguodala.

Also: News leaks that the Pacers are considering facing a post-George world by handing the keys to the mercurial Lance Stephenson, who reportedly lost 10 pounds and "looks great."

Then: We learn that David Griffin — the man who, under difficult economic circumstances, assembled the Cavaliers’ title team, starting with clearing the decks for LeBron — is parting ways with Cleveland due to some alleged Dan Gilbert fuckery. This despite Griffin being heavily involved in the details of trying to bring Jimmy Butler to Cleveland.

LeBron then tweets this:

This was followed quickly by the excavation of an old clip of rumored future–Cavaliers GM Chauncey Billups saying, purely in his capacity as sports media pundit, that the Cavs should trade Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony. To which I say: Hurry, please.

That’s all in addition to a wild few minutes during which it was reported that the Timberwolves, Suns, and Cavaliers were all also gunning for Butler. And a weird hour or two in which it was reported that Kyle Lowry had "no interest" in returning to Toronto, followed quickly by him tweeting a non-denial denial.

The year-round NBA era has leveled up. The Finals ended a week ago. A WEEK AGO. And, already, the eastern scale of the league’s power balance is slipping.

The modern NBA offseason is magic, like living in a blender combining the best elements of The Bachelor, Football Manager, TMZ, and Reddit-fueled paranoia. And it’s spinning faster than ever.

The league is surely thrilled about its offseason morphing into a nearly 24–7 source of piping hot-stove facts, rumors, innuendos, and flat-out falsehoods. Sometimes, like this Monday, it’s almost as if the offseason is better than the actual season. That may be hyperbolic, but it’s hyperbole with a core of truth. The offseason is more rewarding for a wider swath of NBA fans. It’s the NBA as pure narrative, without the burdensome toil of games and winners and losers to dim the fun. When Durant and the Warriors grind the league into powdered milk, 29 fan bases lose. When KD snaps at insane Twitter denizens about farts, everyone wins.

The best thing about the offseason’s state of bright and unadulterated narrative is it is totally out of the NBA’s control. One of the dominant themes of the seven days since the end of the Finals is the (on-paper) ascendency of the Sixers, a team that spent roughly three seasons calling attention to the way the draft system incentivizes bad basketball by aggressively losing and whose fan base — half-trolling, half-sincere — elevated Sam Hinkie to martyrdom. There is no way Adam Silver is happy about this.

The other narrative involves Dan Gilbert swinging his tail around in a china shop again, endangering a Cavs team that’s gone to three straight Finals and brought Cleveland its first title in over half a century. There’s no way the NBA is thrilled about its fans realizing, yet again, that many team owners are idiots and bad.

This all speaks to the tremendously weird state of the current NBA. Historically speaking, teams that win the title set the agenda for the league, hacking an airfield in the jungle for other teams to aim for. But the Warriors’ success is essentially irreplicable, barring another massive and poorly handled infusion of cash to juice the cap. And the Cavaliers are creaking under the weight of a reawakened Gilbert. Meanwhile, a week into the offseason, the two teams that we can hold up as paragons of competent and copyable team-building are the Sixers and Celtics. If enough teams follow Philly’s tanking strategy, the league becomes a wasteland. And there’s an entire locker room full of shoes still to drop before the final shape of Boston’s team emerges.

So, let’s dig into the offseason. We’re all winners here.