Awards, stats, and team records can provide a snapshot of any NBA regular season, but it’s hard to sum up the 2017-18 campaign with just that. The past six months have been full of more What the Hell moments than maybe ever before. Here’s a look back at the most bizarre with just a week left in the regular season.
11. John Wall Gets a Little Too Frank on National Television
Wall not only quote-tweeted Marcin Gortat’s “Great ‘Team’ Victory!” subtweet and topped it with an “Lol”—the first two stages of grief fit into three letters—he went on an impromptu media tour to be even more explicit. (He later deleted the tweet then claimed someone else did the deleting.)
Wall told ESPN that Gortat gets “the most spoon-fed baskets ever” while he’s playing point guard. He also took offense to the “everybody eats” motto Washington adopted after his injury: “It wasn’t classy the way they said it,” Wall said.
10. Eric Bledsoe, Man With 237,000 Followers, Subtweeting the Suns
I Dont wanna be here— Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) October 22, 2017
Bledsoe later claimed that the tweet referred to being at a hair salon. The Suns told him to stay home the next day and traded him two weeks later.
9. The Clippers Trading “Clipper for Life” Blake Griffin
Unloading Griffin and his five-year, $171 million contract was the best move L.A. has made in years. But it was a whiplash-inducing change from seven months prior, when the franchise pitched Griffin on returning by holding a fake jersey retirement. “Clippers for life” is what president Lawrence Frank called Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in October. Clipper for LIFE. (Or, Clipper for 104 More Days.)
8. The Grizzlies and Magic Starting Out Hot
As of November 1, Memphis was the best team in the West. That day, the Grizzlies would face the most brutal team the East had to offer: Orlando, which was then tied for first place in the conference.
Four games later, on November 11, Memphis began an 11-game losing streak. On the same day, the Magic kicked off their own nine-game losing streak. They’re now both second-to-last in their respective conferences. But we’ll always have November 1.
7. The Bulls’ Hot Streak in December
Teamwork makes the dream work ... and the tank fail. Nikola Mirotic’s first game back from a broken jaw suffered at the hands of teammate Bobby Portis kicked off a seven-game win streak, during which he and Portis were Chicago’s most effective two-man combination. The two seemed to get along, too. From the time Mirotic returned up until Mirotic was traded to the Pelicans, Portis only swung for high-fives.
This move from Nikola Mirotic was so nice even Bobby Portis gave him a high-five pic.twitter.com/xlYFKQejzE— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 19, 2017
6. LaVar Ball Calling Out Luke Walton
What stamina a little birdy must have had to fly all the way to Lithuania! One told Ball, who was stationed in Europe to watch over his other two sons’ fledgling pro careers, that Walton was having issues with the Lakers’ locker room, and Ball shared that information with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman back in January. Per Ball, Walton didn’t “have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.” It then took Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka a suspiciously long time to back Walton publicly. Lonzo Ball, meanwhile, danced around disagreeing with his dad, saying he would “play for anybody.”
5. The Bucks Not Hiring Another Coach
Milwaukee was two and a half games back of fifth place in the Eastern Conference when it fired head coach Jason Kidd in late January. The risk of making that switch midseason was that it might disrupt the team’s flow, but it was a worthwhile bet considering how Kidd’s schemes, especially on the defensive end, seemed to be strangling Milwaukee’s potential.
Except the Bucks never hired an upgrade. (No offense, Joe Prunty.) The franchise decided to roll with Prunty, Kidd’s assistant, until the season’s end, even though the East may never again be as open as it has been this season.
The Bucks will finish the season as the 6-, 7-, or 8-seed. If the Pistons were at all serviceable, they probably wouldn’t be in the playoffs at all. The bench is a mess when Giannis sits, and it’s unclear how much their role players will be able to help him in the postseason, or the future.
4. Damian Lillard Not Letting the Past Be the Past
The Blazers were still swimming in mediocrity when Lillard requested a meeting with owner Paul Allen to talk about the direction of the organization. It makes sense for a 27-year-old in his prime to think about the future. But Lillard also used the sit-down to make Allen explain the past, specifically trading Will Barton to the Nuggets ... four seasons ago. Dame Time does not heal all.
Maybe Lillard got the closure he was after—Portland has gone 25-9 since the meeting.
3. All Things Kawhi Leonard
Gregg Popovich has been an NBA head coach for 22 years, but in May, he called Kawhi’s quad injury something he’d “never, never” seen before. Little did he know that the entire season would be a first!
To recap: In January, Kawhi went back to the sideline after playing only nine games. Then he and his camp were reported as being “distant” from the Spurs organization. Then Kawhi wanting out was brought up. Then Popovich called that silly. Then Leonard was cleared medically by the Spurs. Then he sought a second opinion. Then he opted to not remain out. Then Pop said he’d be surprised if Kawhi came back at all. Then Kawhi participated in practice a week later. Then he decided again to sit out for the rest of the season. Then he left Jordan Brand’s contract proposal at the altar. Then it was reported that the organization pressured him to play back in January despite him saying multiple times that he didn’t feel ready. Then he was “implored” by his teammates to come back. Then his teammates denied imploring him to come back. Then Tony Parker said that his own quad injury was 100 times worse than Kawhi’s. Then Kawhi’s group traveled back to New York to work with his own doctors again. Then Nate Robinson (???) said that he heard that Kawhi wanted to be traded.
That about sums it up. Until tomorrow.
2. The Tunnel “Brawl” After Rockets-Clippers
Somehow, Mike D’Antoni screaming “fuck you” at Blake Griffin was not the highlight of this night.
Mike D'Antoni drops a "f*** you on Blake" pic.twitter.com/2QkM6fvGHm— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 16, 2018
Chris Paul’s first game against his former team at Staples Center ended up chock-full of ejections and shoving and lost butt pads and Austin Rivers trying to fight in a suit. Postgame was better: It was reported at the time that Paul led a group of Rockets through a secret hallway at the arena to confront the Clippers in their locker room while Clint Capela played decoy at the door. It was later clarified that most of that didn’t exactly happen that way, but we’ll always have the memories.
1. The Mystery of Markelle Fultz’s Shoulder
Fultz’s shoulder injury belongs in a fourth-year medical school textbook as much as it does a true-crime series on FX. The five-month saga of the no. 1 overall pick blurred the lines of DNP designations and led to reams of cyberspace being devoted to Reddit conspiracies.
Fultz’s recovery process never made sense because the issue never made sense. The rookie said he changed his free throw form because of shoulder soreness, but then GM Bryan Colangelo told the media that Fultz changing his form is what caused the shoulder soreness. Were fluids drained or were they inserted? Did his shot turn into Carly Rae Jepsen at the mound because of the pain or because of the yips? And for the love of the Philadelphia beat reporter’s iPhone storage, WHY WERE THESE VIDEOS TAKEN SO FAR AWAY?
The mystery officially became a cold case after Fultz’s first game back last week, when the rookie face-to-face ghosted a sideline reporter:
Did you do something to your shoulder or did you just start feeling soreness?
Is there a reason that you don’t want to talk about the injury specifically?