Cody is visited by the ghost of NBA future, Kobe Bryant, and puts the entire space-time continuum in jeopardy by telling us what happens.
Last week, I looked back at the wacky and wild 2020 NBA season. But much like any reasonable person riddled with anxiety, it’s damn hard to slow down and be fully present right now. It’s that moment where a mist swirls around my ankles, raising ever higher. The TV flickers. I feel a lurch in my stomach and a pressure in my head. I’ve either opened Facebook or I was the first muggle to travel by Portkey. Hard to tell these days. So I’m doing the only thing one can, I’m mentally getting the hell out of here, and looking forward.
It’s the waning days of warmth. End of Summer 2021. It’s a time filled with optimism and hope (please lord). I can hug my family without having to catalog every person they’ve talked to, every place they’ve been, every surface they’ve touched, or the air they breathed. What a beautiful world.
It’s a time of hope. I just got a call that my hoops rec league is back on. I will soon be returning to a place when my therapy and my exercise are one in the same and involve nine other people, five of whom want to fight me. Seven if you count the refs.
I hop in my flying car from, a joint venture between Tesla and Google, and the news pops up on the dashboard length screen. The 2021 NBA season has just concluded. It started around the end of January in hopes of wrapping up before football season. It was a great season. Some teams, like Portland or Philadelphia, had high hopes but ended up slipping because of injuries. Some teams, like Phoenix or another team that starts with P, went on surprising runs.
Luka Doncic won the MVP. Giannis had a great season, but after another playoff flameout, voters got Giannis fatigue. LeBron did his standard dominant regular season coasting job, waiting to go Super Saiyan until the playoffs. So Luka, averaging 31 pts, 10.5 rebs, and 9.5 assists took home the big prize after leading the Mavericks to the 3rd seed in the West conference.
The playoffs were not in a bubble this year but were no less memorable. I’ll go through the other seeds:
1. Denver Nuggets
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. Phoenix Suns
8. New Orleans Pelicans
1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Miami Heat
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Boston Celtics
5. Toronto Raptors
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Indiana Pacers
8. Washington Wizards
Even after coming off an eye-popping run to the Conference finals, the Nuggets didn’t take their foot off the gas. Wiith a condensed schedule and resumed travel, Denver provides a slight edge. Combining that with their relative youth, they cruise through the regular season.
The Clippers respond to Doc Rivers firing as much as they do Ty Lue’s hiring and battled their way to the second seed. Kawhi is still that good, let’s not forget. Their housemate, the Lakers have a few injuries and start slowly. That dropped them down to the fourth spot.
The Grizzlies young core was a year older and a year wiser and maybe the most fun team to watch game to game. One cold night in Boston, Ja Morant gave Daniel Theis a concussion by dunking on him so hard. Their main competition was the Pelicans. Zion played 50 games, which was just enough in the super-competitive West.
The Warriors took the first month to get used to each other again and then skyrocketed up the rankings. Speaking of Rockets, Westbrook gets hurt again, they had an identity struggle and fell out of the playoffs.
The darlings of the Bubble, the Suns, keep that momentum, as well as a few choice trades, moving and finally make the seventh seed.
In the Eastern Conference, the Bucks remain their dominant regular-season selves. But the Miami Heat gave them a run for the one seed. The boys in South Beach are built to succeed, with different players going off on different nights. The Celtics also make it back to the top 4 by continuing to grow and develop their young wings. Brown and Tatum combined to score an average of 45 points a night.
The final team in that top four group was the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both come back healthy. They backed up the brinks truck or at least the brinks cart for Joe Harris. Deandre Jordan is technically still there. Similar to the Warriors, it takes them a bit to adjust and shake the rust off. But then it was ON.
The Washington Wizards 8th seed was a joke. Atlanta actually sneaks in to the 8 spot with a .500 record after picking up some veteran leadership in Gallo and Jae Crowder.
Who won the title out of those groups, you’re wondering? Do you have your checkbook ready to place the bet? Do bookies take checks? What’s a bookie?
The Denver Nuggets finally get over the hump and represent the West in the NBA finals. Jokic is transcendent. Murray takes a leap in terms of consistency. Porter is a reliable third banana. They traded Barton, Millsap, and a future first-round for Lauri Markannen from the Bulls. This gives them a massive and sweet Finnish shooting front line. They don’t play a game 7 for the entire playoffs.
Their opponent in the finals were the Brooklyn Nets. KD at 90% of the player he was before blowing out his Achilles is still better than 93% of the league. That injury usually takes two years to come back from—if you do at all. That timing lines up beautifully with the start of the playoffs. Kyrie has his faults, but he’s back where he belongs as the second star. They have size, shooting, and loads of playmaking. Not to mention a coach in Steve Nash who has a knack for grooming tantalizing offenses. Kyrie did tweak his knee in game two, however.
The Nuggets took advantage and won the 2021 NBA championship.
A new champion. A new vaccine. A new world. My stomach lurches again. I think for a moment that my Google has simply initiated the landing sequence. But the mist is back.
The fantasy ends and I’m sweating and alone, watching a rerun of Michael Jordan’s Flu game in the dark. At least we still have Hardwood Classics.