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Monday, June 17, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Six days. That’s how long it took to turn the entire NBA upside down.

Six days. Plus one ruptured Achilles tendon, one torn ACL and one blockbuster trade.


Uncertainty was rampant as the offseason neared, even before the sudden turn of events that included Toronto ending Golden State’s reign. Plenty of intrigue still exists — especially around the decision facing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. But new, unimaginable questions have surged to the fore.

Instead of simply wondering where Kevin Durant will go if he leaves the Warriors, we also must ponder his likely drop-off as a 31-year-old returning from Achilles surgery. Instead of just weighing the odds that Klay Thompson would re-sign with Golden State, we’re also forced to consider the ramifications created by his knee injury.

And instead of mulling whether the Warriors should be favored or merely co-favored to reach a sixth consecutive Finals next season, we have to contemplate them possibly missing the playoffs altogether … while the Los Angeles Lakers make a title run?

Six seasons. That’s how long the Lakers can miss the postseason and stink up the league before making a colossal move.

True to their identity, the Lakers have acquired New Orleans’ star big man, Anthony Davis, just like the franchise previously made room for high-profile bigs like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. The reported deal, not official yet, cost them Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and four first-round picks, including No. 4 in Thursday’s draft.

“Laker Nation, you wanted the great Jeanie Buss to step up and bring a championship team back to L.A. and she’s doing just that!” Magic Johnson tweeted Saturday night, nine weeks after his sudden resignation as president of basketball operations turned the franchise into a soap opera.

(Speaking of melodrama, here’s hoping that Lonzo Ball’s move from L.A. to New Orleans ends his father’s 15 seconds. I suppose TV producers could always fall on the Hollywood angle when they sought commentary from LaVar Ball, but that excuse is no longer available. Frankly, it was never a valid reason anyway, unless content is purely clickbait and measured by shock value.)

The Warriors’ three-peat bid ended in horrific fashion with a depressing storyline. But the NBA can’t be mad about the Larry O’Brien Trophy residing up north for at least a year.

Toronto has become a fantastic basketball city and now stands as a bona fide example of the game’s international flavor. The organization is led by a Nigerian, president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, and one of the starting forwards is Cameroonian, Pascal Siakam. The starting center is a Spaniard, Marc Gasol, and a key reserve, Serge Ibaka, is from the Congo. A bench player, Jeremy Lin, is of Taiwanese descent, while the director of sports science and guru of “load management,” Alex McKechnie, hails from Scotland.

Under normal circumstances, the Raptors would be primed for a repeat bid. But like their superstar leader, Leonard, the future is unknown. He has given no indication that he’ll stay in Canada. Winning the championship could influence him to stick around, unless his heart is set on playing at home, in Los Angeles.

Toronto can offer him everything except that, which could be a deal breaker.

“There’s nothing more we can do,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told reporters Sunday. “We’ve done it. The city has done it. This franchise has done it. The coaches have done it. My teammates have done it. We’ve done our job.

“The best way to recruit somebody is to just be yourself over the course of the year, and I would assume that he knows what is here and what makes this place special. If it’s enough then it’s enough. If it’s not, then it’s not.”

With A.D. and LeBron James, the Lakers can offer Leonard a chance to play at home AND a chance to become a back-to-back champion. Already considered title contenders without Leonard, the Lakers would be prohibitive favorites if they land The Claw.

Meanwhile, Durant and Thompson, expected to be among the top free agents this summer, instead are relegated to sad afterthoughts. They’ll sign with some team and be paid handsomely next season, regardless. But they likely won’t be factors on the court until the 2020-21 season.

Six days.

So much has changed so quickly. I know the game moves fast, but this is ridiculous. The swift upheaval and next wave of swirling unknowns is enough to suggest a new acronym for the NBA:

No Blinking Allowed.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.


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