Now that the regular season is in the books, let’s revisit some of the best story lines of the regular season that got us here. The 2016-2017 NBA was not short on history or drama.
From the beginning the two were dynamic, and you could tell the Thunder had something special. Over the years Durant & Westbrook seemed to form an unmistakable bond, and to the outside were like a classic super-hero duo. There was Durant; quiet, tall, and humble, the batman who sometimes acted more like Robin. Then there was Westbrook, the alpha among alphas, incapable of slowing his roll, and the ultra-competitor.
Last year seemed to be a turning point for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team made it to the Western Conference Championship and took a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors before ultimately choking away the series. The early whispers in free agency were that Durant would take his meetings with other teams but ultimately, he’d go back home to OKC, the city he’d loved so much, to play with the star he’d become so close to.
— KG’s Area 21 (@KGArea21) April 16, 2017
We all know what happened next. Overnight the Thunder went from contenders to a team most thought wouldn’t make the playoffs. All summer the beef between Durant and Westbrook seemed to be simmering; there was Instagram trolling, an overall indifference to each other in the media, and then jawing in their first head to head game, Westbrook yelling at Durant at midcourt “I’m coming.”
Rest & Relaxation
The NBA front office appears to have finally taken an official stance on the new rest phenomenon we see across the league. It’s nothing new, it has been happening slowly for a decade or more, and the truth is, what do they do about it?
I don’t remember the 1960’s NBA when Wilt Chamberlain played a season in which he averaged 48.5 minutes, having played every single minute of every game, and some overtime to push his average beyond the length of a normal game. I do remember that Michael Jordan seemed to be on national television every game when I was a kid and that Kobe Bryant never seemed to miss any games, even if he was pushing his Achilles back into his shoe. The truth is though, this new generation of NBA players has a different perspective than the player-turned-broadcaster crying “back in my day” (I’m looking at you Shaq and Chuck.)
This generation has more information about the toll the season puts on their bodies, they are making money so much faster and in so many more ways now. In a society with a shortening attention span, the 82 game regular season may be endangered. Do they shorten it by 20 games? Could they play series in each city like Baseball does to cut down on travel?
I don’t know the answers and apparently neither does Adam Silver because no matter how many press conferences he holds or sternly worded letters he writes, I have a feeling that from now on if the NBA on TNT falls on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, we’re not going to be seeing many of the stars play.
Trust the Process?
What do we do about the Philadelphia 76ers? The team has been tanking for what seems like a decade, they keep drafting these big men with huge upside, and equally huge injury histories and then just as their third year rookie Joel Embiid was finally getting going, he injured himself. Nerlens Noel is already gone, next year Ben Simmons should debut, what do they do with Jahlil Okafor? How long do we trust the process?
We’ll all wait to see what next season brings, but we all said that last year too.
James Dolan Vs. Charles Oakley
The New York Knicks are a disaster. Their hometown super star has seemed disinterested for at least the past two seasons. As some sick joke they spent the off season signing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, or at least the pieces that Tom Thibodeau didn’t completely grind away in Chicago, they both ended the season injured, Noah suspended for weed because, well who cares?
After the team stumbled into another losing record and forgettable season, James Dolan, owner of the dysfunction, couldn’t help but bring the spotlight back onto his team.
In a Knicks home game vs. the LA Clippers on 2/8/2017 former New York Knick great Charles Oakley, had apparently seen enough. He’d taken to throwing some trash-talk Dolan’s way, who was just a few rows ahead of him. Ever the petulant child, Dolan decided to have Oakley thrown out of the arena. Oakley put up a fight, was thrown to the floor, handcuffed and led out of the arena.
The entire debacle was embarrassing, Oakley came out looking like the victim, Dolan the thin-skinned owner, and then in one of the best troll jobs an NBA owner has ever pulled, the next week when the Knicks went to Cleveland to play the Cavs, who was sitting court side next to Cavs owner Dan Snyder? None other than Charles Oakley.
The Season of the Triple Double
The 1961-62 NBA season a few incredible things happen. Wilt Chamberlain accomplished two records that to this day are untouched, the famous 100-point game and of course he averaged a mind-boggling 50.1 PPG. The other record many believed unreachable; the triple-double that Oscar Robertson averaged for the season. For over 50 years nobody really ever came close, over an 82 game season it was just something nobody had the endurance for anymore.
Then, Kevin Durant left OKC and Russell Westbrook was put in a prime position to do it again. After 82 games Westbrook averaged 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 APG, and shows no signs of slowing down now that he’s lead his team back to the playoffs to match up against former teammate and MVP hopeful James Harden in the first round. Can you imagine if OKC had been able to keep Harden, Westbrook and Durant together?