By Alex Wong / @steven_lebron
It hit me the other day, a realization as I was sorting through the over/under win totals for each team in the NBA: I’ve always had an extremely cynical and bleak view of how the league operates from a competitive standpoint.
Great teams are by the handful, and that handful rarely changes. Occasionally, teams will invite themselves into this elitist club — Oklahoma City is there for now and a case could be made for Sacramento in the early 2000’s and the New Jersey Nets when Jason Kidd was point -uarding anyone and everyone to the Finals — but overall, shifts in the league’s power structure over time are rare, if they happen at all.
I’ve repeated that thought every year with disdain, a resignation that all the excitement amounts to not much in the grand scheme.
But I’m starting to turn a corner on this, or at least I’m trying to.
The league is one of limitations. Let this year’s Denver Nuggets be my guinea pig.
In less than two years since getting rid of their superstar, they’ve rebuilt themselves into a deep, talented team whose individual players can all be categorized as having high ceilings: the potential of who they can become is greater than who they are. Together, this is the perfect team to (mis)place all your optimism towards.
Teams like the Nuggets represent the opportunity for change, the possibility of shifting the power structure, to crack the glass ceiling that is in place.
And yet the skeptic in me refuses to follow through with that thought all the way. The other day, a knowledgeable basketball friend of mine (don’t we all have one of those) told me he wanted to put a bit of money on the Clippers winning the title, not because he believes they will, but because he likes the value in the bet and talked himself into the possibility.
I was steadfast in telling him to not even waste his money. This is not the league where teams can find themselves in the championship game in any given season. There’s structure. There’s order. Things rarely get upset.
But like the Kings or the Suns in the past decade, Denver or some other team might represent that hope.
And maybe even if championship aspirations are unrealistic, there is still a joy in watching a team grow into something that you place expectations on or along the way to coming up short, finding out things about individual players that you didn’t know.
In the big picture, your familiar culprits will be there for the end game to compete for the title. But look closer at the details, and stories exist that can be appreciated too.
It’s a simple thought but one that I want to place more emphasis towards, because I think it’ll help remove the resignation and tired attitude that I have towards a league that has so much to offer.