Tonight it starts again after a long summer. Feels like ages ago the Warriors won yet another title and much has happened since then. But don’t worry – in case you missed something we got a brief summary here of the biggest changes to get you up to speed so you can just sit back and enjoy watching the 2018/19 premiere – The 76ers vs Celtics or OKC vs the Warriors.
LeBron + Lakers = True!
What we suspect you did not miss (did anyone, even outside the basketball bubble?) was that LeBron took his talents to Hollywood and the L.A. Lakers. It was sort of anticipated with a lot of rumors building up to it, including the listing of his son in a L.A. school. The Lakers had to give up a lot of talent in a win-now effort. Long term they might also hope that LeBron stays and that his presence attract other superstars. Most notably they are targeting Kawhi
Leonard next summer and then they will truly be able to challenge the undisputed alpha dogs in the west (yes, we are talking about the Warriors). So will the addition of LeBron make the Lakers a contender already this year? Most people doubt it, put judging from the preseason they will be one of the most exciting and entertaining teams to watch. Ran some plays that looked stolen from the Harlem Globetrotter’s playbook.
Aside from LeBron they also added Javale McGee, who played a storm last year (and won the Shaqtin a fool MVP the year before) and Rajon Rondo who is one of the more charismatic players in the league (which you can read more about here ). And lastly – and this where it gets weird – they added Lance Stephenson! Few players have had more public and enterntaining beefs with LeBron than Lance. I have no idea how these two will work things out and work together. For those of you who are not into the detais I recommend this video summary of the funniest guy in the NBA today. And I’m not taking about LeBron….
New King in the East
Maybe an even bigger splash over the summer was the move of long-time Spur Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors. If LeBron’s move from Cleveland was anticipated, Kawhi’s was not. First of all most players want to stay with the Spurs. One of the most successful franchises of the past 20 years and with arguably one of the best coaches in the world. Most basketball players would kill for a spot on this roster. One could envision a superstar (think Harden or Kobe) that would not be content in the team-first atmosphere in San Antonio. But the guy who shows displeasure and publicly askes to be traded is a shy kid who’s never publicly said anything before (and perhaps not privately either, but we can’t know for sure). Kawhi was next in line to be the front figure of this proud franchise after Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retired and Tony Parker will any year (even though he got traded before). But for some reason Leonard wanted out and said so. With time remaining on his contract, he really couldn’t make any demands and it was made clear from the beginning that Pops would not trade him to another team in the west – that’s how good he is.
Instead he got traded to the Toronto Raptors, who suddenly find themselves being one of two candidates to win the east. Only Kawhi don’t want to play there, but he will stick around for a year and then move to … L.A? Scary thought.
In exchange for Leonard, Raptors parted ways with a superstar of their own – Demar DeRozan. Who didn’t want to get traded either and allegedly was promised two weeks earlier that he would not be. Some hard feelings there I bet. So we ended up with two players who neither was very happy with their new teams. But I think competitiveness and professionalism will make both of them the thrive in their new environments. I for one are looking forward to see what Leonard can do in the much easier eastern conference. It will be between the Raptors and the Boston Celtics.
The one positive that came out of this was a tweet where Kawhi was actually laughing. Or at least as close as it gets. He also – in what might be the NBA quote of the year – claims he is a funny dude. See for yourselves!
Jimmy Butler debacle
This might not qualify as news, more business as usual. But another top 10 player who seams unhappy and begging for a trade is Jimmy Butler. He is fed up with playing with young talents that don’t take the game as serious as he does. He’s calling his teammates out as being lazy, which for those of you who has been around, is the same thing he did when anchoring the Chicago Bulls a while back. Then assisted by one Dwyane Wade. Result being a clash with his team mates, most notably Rajon Rondo who as the veteran he was stood up for his younger team mates. Which is kind of ironic as Rondo is also known for his locker room issues and for refusing to engage in a game while being in Dallas, actually sinking the whole team.
To Butlers defense one might add that the young talents in question – Towns and Wiggins – reportedly enjoy staying up all night before games playing Fortnite, which does not sit well with a true competitor such as Butler. Listening to a recent interview with Butler one can understand both the competitiveness and why there might be conflicts. Regardless – any team that can match up to Butlers ambitions and provide a squad that is all about winning will get one of the leagues best two way players.
Speaking of players with historic locker room issues, Dwight Howard signed with the Wizard. Although Howard’s all star days might be over, he can still make some noise when healthy and we can look forward to a few big-man showdowns in the east with him and Drummond of the Detroit Pistons.
The Best got Better
Just when you started to think that nobody really can challenge the Warriors – no, last year Cavaliers weren’t even close and Lakers this year won’t cut it – they actually got DeMarcus Cousins. One of the leagues best big men. And while not giving up a lot of value. This will be a team hard to beat…
So who is really in the mix? Warriors are still favorites of course. Huston Rockets looked awesome last year and should be this year also. Harden with his herky-jerky style is still close to unstoppable when playing well. They added Carmelo Anthony who does know how to score, but I’m not sure how he will keep up with the pace of the Rockets.
The Boston Celtics are going to be lethal this year. They where easily the second best team in the East last year while playing without their superstar Gordon Hayward who went down horribly in the first game (more here if you forgot) and without Kyrie Irving for much of the season. Both players are all-star caliber and if both are back and healthy – watch out!
Raptors as discussed above will also claim the throne in the east. And I would argue that if Kawhi gets back to form after injuries they have a legit chans at the title.
The Thunder was actually a bit of a disappointment last year. With the addition of Paul George and Anthony, and Russel Westbrook having the season of his life they should have went deeper in the playoffs. With Paul resigning they still should.
And the Lakers might be in the mix, even though I suspect that’s more of a wishful thinking from the NBA headquarter looking at the sales potential. But then again – LeBron have made it before with team less talented than this one. Because he is the best best player on the planet.
Jonas is GOAT
But probably the most exciting news of the off season – at least from a Swedish perspective – is that our hero Jonas Jerebko have signed with the Golden State Warriors and has an excellent opportunity to get Sweden’s first NBA Championship ever! Well … technically it is his, but it feels like all of Sweden’s. Go JJ! All eyes on you.