[Programming note: I will not be posting a rankings next week due to some more traveling, sorry about that!]
Writing this on Sunday night, I still can’t believe the OKC-Golden State game from Saturday night.
I was on a cruise for my friend’s bachelor party, and I had decided I was going to be a decent human being and not abandon my group for 3 hours to watch the Warriors-Thunder game, which was unquestionably a lie I told myself but knew that I was going to immediately break. The first night we got there I scoped out a place on the ship that would be carrying the game (not every TV was going to carry the channel) and planned exactly when I would duck out and duck back into the group. The second half started, and there I was, with a group of people sitting and avoiding the social group’s (and in some cases – wives/girlfriends/husbands/boyfriends) that we came with. This was the first time I watched a Steph Curry Supernova game with strangers in a sports bar setting and to call the room electric was an understatement. From diehard fans to casual fans, we each were appreciating the same plays and same players but in our unique ways from our unique perspectives. When Steph started hitting his daggers in the 4th quarter, the crowd grew – most notably non-basketball fans who were just stopping because of the commotion we were making. When Steph hit his game winner? Yelling, high fiving, hugging, running around with hands on our heads- old people, young people, all races and genders – we had it all. If that was a scene in a sports movie, critics would have remarked that the scene was too unrealistic and corny, and it would’ve never happened in real life.
I am unfortunately too young to have understood the Bulls 72 win season or Michael Jordan’s overall dominance, I wasn’t around for the great Celtics and Lakers teams led by Bird and Magic, I’m just fortunate that I’m here to witness this Warriors team. Another unique part of the Warriors this season is the rare (almost) universally accepted joy that has come with watching this team, and that’s been rare in a sports “First Take” culture that benefits off negative stories and has all the ratings incentive to generate those when they aren’t readily available. The 2015-16 Warriors are a love letter to basketball and I am swooning in their greatness.
Now, what about the other 29 teams in the league? What are we watching them for? What are they playing for? Well! I’m glad you asked….
- Warriors (53-5) [LW:1]: I’ll be watching them gun for 73 and watching Steph do at least 15 batshit crazy things before the season is over.
- Spurs (50-9) [LW:2]: I’ll be watching the Spurs “quietly” being on pace for 70 wins and still with a better Net Rating per 100 possessions over the Warriors prepare for their annual “where the Hell did the Spurs come from?” playoff run. Also, BOBAN! Lastly, could we be watching the last of Tim Duncan?
- Thunder (41-18) [LW:5]: I’ll be hoping that the Thunder not continue to make weird decisions like playing Randy Foye over Cameron Payne and driving the Internet crazy. How about playing Anthony Morrow zero minutes while giving Dion Waiters steady time? Will they finish out strong enough to truly give the Warriors and Spurs a challenge in the playoffs?
- Cavaliers (41-17) [LW:3]: The “Lebron is unhappy with Kyrie and Kevin Love” thing happened later than at this point last season, and I continue to be fascinated with this dynamic. I’ll be watching them inevitably turn it up for the playoffs and then scapegoat Kevin Love this summer for their inevitable loss to the Warriors (or Raptors?)
- Raptors (39-19) [LW:4]: I’ll be watching them to see if Lowry can continue to play at this absurdly high level while holding this Raptors team to a higher standard than we expect. Will they surpass the Cavs for number 1 seed? Can DeMarre Carroll give them *anything* in the playoffs? If so, why couldn’t they beat the Cavs in the playoffs?
- Clippers (38-20) [LW:7]: I’ll be watching Chris Paul, poor bastard, continue to kill himself on the basketball court and end another season as a solid, but not great team. This summer should, and it looks like it will, bring massive change to the Clips locker room – who will be the biggest piece to go?
- Celtics (35-25) [LW:6]: I’ll be watching Brad Stevens continue to push this team to artificially high win totals given their talent while the team remains in 45-50 win territory year after year like the Joe Johnson Atlanta Hawks
- Heat (33-26) [LW:9]: I’ll be watching to see the weird Hassan Whiteside dynamic play out over the rest of the season, also will hopefully see more of Dragic and Wade not on the court together as much. Wade has had a great season individually, but I’m not sure how long it’s sustainable for him to be a number 1 option (spoiler: it’s not any more) [I hate when people do the spoiler thing, sorry]
- Grizzlies (34-24) [LW:10]: I’ll be watching this team 20x more than I was at the beginning of the season. Lance Stephenson/Tony Allen/Zbo/Birdman/Matt Barnes ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is so much fun – and why not? Any home games especially should be must watch TV. I’m truly looking forward to them in the playoffs
- Hawks (33-27) [LW:11]: I’ll be watching to see if this team is truly in need of a complete shake up, or can they recapture some of the chemistry that propelled them so much last season? Wild speculation: I think the Teague/Shroder dynamic has hurt their locker room and that’s why both of them were featured in trade rumors. For the rest of the season, it’ll be interesting to see how Al Horford is playing – is he ready to move on himself? I personally would like for them to keep the team generally together, with them sending either point guard to another team this summer.
- Trailblazers (32-28) [LW:14]: I’ll be watching Lillard and CJ McCollum continue to be such a fun back court and this Trailblazers team continue to play hard and with such a fun energy and confidence. Love what Neil Olshey and Stotts have created.
- Pacers (31-28) [LW:12]: I’ll be watching to see the Pacers continue to play close games with inexplicably bad Monta Ellis shots drawn up in final possessions. Maybe Frank Vogel drawing them up to make Monta look bad to try to get the front office to trade him? #STAYWOKE
- Bulls (30-28) [LW:8]: I’ll be watching this situation deteriorate gloriously. Noah is gone, Pau will be gone, they’ll be left with the Derrick Rose/Jimmy Butler dynamic as the veterans in the locker room. How does this kind of thing play itself out down the stretch?
- Jazz (28-30) [LW:13]: Will look to see which forwards on this team make enough of a case for them being the rotation moving forward – the Jazz need to start narrowing down who their future consists of. The Celtics are in a similar situation, and the Magic started that process by trading Tobias Harris.
- Hornets (30-28) [LW:15]: I am endlessly fascinated with Charlotte’s infatuation with Frank the Tank Kaminsky at the draft and will continue to watch to see him play. Me? Not quite seeing it, and he’s only playing 21 minutes a game.
- Pistons (31-29) [LW:16]: I’ll be watching this team continue to be well-coached and remain intrigued by the Tobias Harris acquisition. I like that they put him in the starting lineup, but how long can that weak bench hold up?
- Mavericks (32-28) [LW:17]: Chandler Parsons is good! Dirk is good! Not sure what the hell is going on with this team long term, but they’re usually a fun team and I’ll keep watching them for that reason alone.
- Wizards (28-30) [LW:19]: I’ll be watching for the inevitable John Wall explosion that’ll have all of DC freaked out that he will demand a trade. John Wall keeps killing himself trying to will this team to victory night after night and while I am not a huge Wittman supporter, I’m not sure how different this season plays out if he’s a better coach. Otto Porter is super hit or miss still, Beal has been injured and there’s no real continuity with the lineup because of that.
- Rockets (29-30) [LW:18]: The only time I turn a Rockets game on is when they’re down big because I revel in the Dwight Howard-James Harden cancerous chemistry – it gives me energy.
- Nuggets (23-36) [LW:20]: I love watching this young team with the exception of Mudiay launching bricks. He’s now shooting 33.6% from the floor, 26.6% from 3 Point, while averaging almost 3 turnovers a game. Yuckkkkk
- Bucks (24-35) [LW:21]: I’ll keep watching simply because I have no idea who the hell this team is anymore. Weren’t they the fun upstart team like 10 months ago? What happened? Are the rumors that Kidd and ownership not getting along true? I remember when Bobby Marks came on Woj’s podcast when it first started and alluded to the same…low-key a super messy situation. If only people cared about what happened to the Bucks
- Pelicans (23-35) [LW:24]: I’ll keep watching the mind-numbing decisions of Alvin Gentry. I have never been so wrong about a coaching hire in my life – Monty Williams did a far superior job navigating tough injury situations with the same roster. Why the hell do I know Bryce Dejean-Jones’s name?
- Kings (24-33) [LW:23]: I’ll keep watching the facade of George Karl and Demarcus Cousins having a functional professional relationship. Karl is gone this summer, do the Kings really want to give Rondo his next big deal?
- Magic (26-32) [LW:25]: I’ll keep watching for the dunks, thank you very much. Also, I’m glad that they put Oladipo and Peyton back together in the starting lineup – if they can’t co-exist playing together, one of them needs to go this summer.
- Timberwolves (19-41) [LW:26]: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Knicks (25-36) [LW:22]: I’m watching just for the social media! Between Derek Fisher’s Snapchat, Phil Jackson’s twitter and Kurt Rambis’ Twitter, I think that’s all the entertainment I can expect from one team in the league. Also, I’ll continue to watch Carmelo be angry that he took the money when it was clear the Knicks were bad and would continue to be bad for a while.
- Nets (17-42) [LW:27]: I’ll be watching all the little hiring news coming out of the Nets front office. Thoroughly impressed by new GM Sean Marks the more I read about and him and listen about him (including his podcast appearance on Woj’s show) and think he has a shot at turning around a failed project.
- Lakers (11-49) [LW:28]: I’ll be watching D’Angelo Russell continue to push his game despite his head coach continuing to place artificial hurdles in front of him. Also, I will be watching my favorite basketball player of all time end his career soon and I will appreciate and cherish every damn minute of it.
- Suns (15-44) [LW:30]: I’ll be watching them continue their stunning spiral down towards the bottom of the league. It is remarkable how fast and how far they’ve fallen – nowhere to go but up, right? Right?
- 76ers (8-51) [LW:39]: Meh.