Did you ever watch the TV series “Bones”? I never did when it was on the air, but I had enough people subsequently recommend it to me — on account of my known affinity for mind-numbingly predictable cop dramedies — that I’ve binge-watched a bit on Hulu over the last few months.
My assessment? Well … it’s a mind-numbingly predictable cop dramedy, with an over-reliance upon impossibly kitschy personality quirks to differentiate between all the one-note characters. This one can’t recognize that her devotion to “living in the moment” is actually masking a fear of commitment. That one’s super-genius intelligence makes interactions with the common folk hilariously (not really) awkward. Actually, there were TWO of those. Really, perhaps the only character surprisingly intriguing was the intern whose over-the-top depressive tendencies manifested themselves in a predilection for the morbid and macabre. He was just as singularly-dimensional as all the rest, but at least in a way I haven’t seen a million times.
And now — hilariously awkward transition alert! — I find myself applying his fatalistic worldview to the end of the NBA regular season.
After the Jazz’s loss in Atlanta on Thursday night, there was a four-way tie — at 42-30 — among the teams occupying the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff ladder. The Thunder, Spurs, Jazz, and Clippers all sported identical records, which sent many a Twitter pundit agog at the sheer unpredictability bound to thrill and entertain us down the stretch. We don’t know what’s going to happen and isn’t that great?!
I take a contrarian viewpoint … namely, that, extrapolated far enough out, we know exactly what’s going to happen, and so nothing which occurs before really even matters that much. Which is to say, in the end, the Warriors will — quite annoyingly — prevail once again, regardless of how all the incredibly fascinating seeding below them shakes out.
Sorry, but I can’t help it. I see social media commentary ad nauseam espousing the virtues of earning the No. 7 seed so as to be in a position to upset the neophyte Nuggets and also avoid a matchup with the Warriors until the Western Conference finals (by which time the basketball gods may have seen fit to deal Golden State a calamity of fate-changing proportions), and I just can’t muster any excitement for such a chain of events.
I suppose if your team finds itself in possession of the Larry O’Brien Trophy when it’s all said and done, all arguments become null and void; but I personally can’t envision much joy emanating from a title borne out of serious injuries to BOTH Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, which is what it would take. Furthermore, distasteful as I may find the latter for his devoid-of-competitive-spirit and unapologetically-mercenary if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach, I still would rather not try to dethrone him by speaking into existence some sort of misfortune.
So, given all that, can’t we acknowledge and concede that the NBA postseason to come is traveling on the train of inevitability? Which pathway — short of disaster — leads to something other than the Warriors getting another parade this summer?
Last season at least, the Rockets posed a legitimate and credible threat to GSW’s dominance — until Chris Paul went out and Houston missed a bajillion 3-pointers in a row, anyway. This season, who can say the same? What’s the reasonable and rational argument against Golden State?
No one takes the Nuggets seriously, after all. Houston is a lesser iteration of last year’s team. Is San Antonio gonna bury them under an avalanche of midrange shots? One of the top Eastern teams in the Finals, perhaps? Milwaukee, with its combination of long arms and improved deep shooting? Toronto, unleashing Kawhi Leonard? Sorry, but you can’t convince me that any opponent is capable of beating a team with Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins four times in a seven-game series.
Which leaves us with … what? Golden State’s diminished depth this season? Durant and Green imploding the chemistry with an ill-timed argument? Their regular-season boredom inadvertently extending into the postseason? That is, to be frank, less than grasping at straws.
So then, the only conclusion I have left to me is an admittedly pessimistic-if-unshakable belief that, the notion of free will notwithstanding, this NBA campaign’s end result is a fait accompli, already all but written on the pages of future history.
That character on “Bones” was asked in one episode to help determine how a murder victim died, and blithely retorted that “Life is always the cause of death.” Not particularly helpful, if nevertheless true from a certain warped perspective. In that sense, fixating upon whether your team finishes fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth may prove an enjoyable distraction, a pleasant diversion, but it ultimately doesn’t change the fact that, in one round or another, the Slim Reaper is coming for your basketball mortality, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
THREE MORE THOUGHTS
A smidgen of a throwback • This is gonna come off a bit “back in my day”-ish, which isn’t my intent, but I can’t help but find all the histrionic condemnations of Marcus Smart giving Joel Embiid a shove in the back kind of funny. When you’ve seen Kevin McHale straight-up clothesline Kurt Rambis and not get ejected; when you’ve seen Bill Laimbeer make it a point to repeatedly kick McHale in the foot while guarding him, knowing it was already broken; when you’ve seen Pat Riley’s 1990s Knicks play even a single game, well, it’s hard to get THAT worked up about a two-handed shove to the back that results in nothing worse than a 280-pounder sent sprawling. Was it immature of Smart and costly for the Celtics? Yup. Did it deserve to be penalized under the current set of rules? Absolutely. Was it, as “Fezzik” from “The Princess Bride” would call it, “unsportsmanlike”? Without question. Was it dangerous? I’d argue no. Smart got ejected and fined $50K, and that’s probably enough punishment. Resorting to making us all listen to grandstanding moralizing about destroying the integrity of the game, or whatever, is just beyond unnecessary.
Know when to stop talking, champ • So, a week or so ago, Klay Thompson put Warriors fans on blast for not making enough noise of late at Oracle Arena, insinuating they’d perhaps become spoiled by the team’s success. Then, after spending the subsequent days apologizing, he comes out Thursday and calls them “fickle,” which is a bizarre criticism of a fanbase that was intensely supportive of that franchise long before it got to its current level. “At the end of the day, the love from the media and the fans can be fickle, just because it’s so game-to-game,” Thompson said. “We live in a time where it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ You can’t get caught up in the love right now.” No idea why he’s suddenly on fans’ case, but considering they’ve sold out Oracle for more than 300 consecutive games. It would seem the only thing “fickle” right now is Thompson’s appreciation of 18,000 people who come out to watch him and his teammates 41 times a year.
Some love for the zombie Spurs • How many times have Gregg Popovich & Co. been prematurely written off over the years? I’m guessing it happened a bit this season too, with Manu Ginobili retiring, Tony Parker departing, Kawhi Leonard forcing his way out and being exchanged for the good-if-decidedly-lesser DeMar DeRozan, and with point guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White going out for early — the former for the entire season. And yet, here the Spurs are, winning nine in a row late in the season and set to make the playoffs yet again. Are they true contenders? Not hardly. But considering there were no real expectations of them at all, and they were left for dead yet again, seeing them continue their slow trudge onward remains an impressive sight to behold.