Say what you want about the NBA, it still values its titans

Say what you want about the NBA, it still values its titans

For all the misguided complaints about the melodrama that can be the NBA at times, or the claims that its “wokeness” will be its ruin, or how the league beats itself up over load management or whatever else, it still offers something that none of the other three non-NFL leagues can. And that’s regular-season games that feel weighty. The Nuggets and Celtics T night is just the latest example.

They put on a 48-minute treasure, which isn’t surprising given that they’re the two best teams in the league (when the Timberwolves’ or Thunder’s balls drop, they can raise a complaint about that statement). Even a casual basketball fan could see the difference in class last night, even if the win in the standings really only meant something to Denver as the Celtics place atop the East is pretty much assured.

There was a crispness to the ball-movement, the defensive rotations, the crashing into rebounds, the shot-making, and those who would step up in the last minutes to make the plays necessary. One couldn’t watch Nikola Jokic or Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum (even on a relative off-night) or Jrue Holiday and not think they were seeing the top of the line that the NBA had to offer.

And certainly the intrigue of a game like last night’s is that it portends to something. Fans know that it is an actual preview, or the beginning of a story that will conclude in June, or a high likelihood of it. It’s something to follow.

The NFL and its parity that it will tell everyone it was built on is its own creature. No other sport can be compared to it. It’s a unicorn. The NBA Finals have overtaken the World Series in TV ratings and interest. There may be a host of reasons, but one has to be that the Finals feel like a conclusion to a months-long, if not years-long story. Even last year’s Denver-Miami series, hardly storied teams, had a two-time MVP in Jokic carrying out something of a quest to justify his personal honors with team ones. Basketball fans know who he and Jimmy Butler are.

Meanwhile, the World Series has just become whatever two teams come out of October and baseball’s random playoff system. Fans didn’t follow the Rangers or Diamondbacks in the same way, especially the latter as they spent most of the regular season tripping over their own dicks and just happened to trip slightly less than other teams trying to nab the last wild-card spot.

But that’s been the story for years now. The NBA offers up teams in its showcase where pretty much everyone knows their base story. And you can tune in on a Thursday night in March and get a glimpse of what might be to come.

Some of that is the nature of the NBA, where two or three great players will always guarantee a team is around the contender scene. It takes less to build a contending NBA team than a contending MLB or NHL team. But going by ratings, that’s also what people want. After last night, there will be plenty who hope Denver and Boston do it six or seven more times come June.

Kyle Dubas gives up on the Penguins

Switching over to one of the NHL’s most storied teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins, one might have to ask their GM Kyle Dubas what it is, he would say, he does here?

Dubas officially waved the white flag on the Pens by dumping Jake Guentzel to the Carolina Hurricanes for a smorgasbord of meh and huh. The Penguins got three prospects, but none which project to be anywhere near the first-liner that Guentzel still is. There’s a couple picks in there, too, but only a first rounder if the Canes make the Stanley Cup Final. It’s not an impressive return for the best forward on the trade market and that several teams were after.

Dubas got a lot of buzz when he took over the Leafs in 2018, as he was the rare non-former player and analytic dude to get the wheel for a team. And he’s shown he can take the big swing, such as signing John Tavares in Toronto or trading for Erik Karlsson in Pittsburgh. And that’s a good thing, one that more GMs shouldn’t be so terrified of taking.

But it’s the rest that Dubas hasn’t gotten right. The Leafs haven’t won a division and only got one playoff series win under his watch. The Penguins are going to miss the playoffs by open lengths, both teams lacking much behind their stars. Dubas’s drafts in Toronto produced . . . Rasmus Sandin? Nicholas Robertson? Sure, the Leafs were always drafting late, but GMs have to make something of the picks they get. Or turn them into something via trade. Dubas hasn’t really done that.

Dubas inherited most of the Pens’ problems, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t on the hook for wasting yet another brilliant season from Sidney Crosby when those are running out. He was the hope of hockey observers who wanted to see a team run differently from the grunt-and-fart ways of the past, and yet all Dubas has done that we can point to is go big-game hunting without unearthing the undervalued players that top-heavy teams need to man the bottom six or second pairing behind the names in lights.

Maybe all Dubas is good at is covering up sexual assault accusations. 

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.