We are finally past the All-Star break and the trade deadline is disappearing in the rearview mirror. Finally, real NBA basketball can begin. Every storyline up until now – the Anthony Davis botched trade saga, Luka Dončić’s unbelievable rookie season, or James Harden continuing to drain 30+ every damn time he hits the court like some sort bearded magneto if magneto’s power was shooting basketballs good (and also had a beard) – you can throw all of that in the trash. Now, this shit is for keeps. It’s March and it’s go time baby! Playoffs are on the horizon and every win matters… aaaaaaaand, oh never mind, the playoffs are set. Oh wait, they’re over? It’s done? Then why did we even play? Why did we show up? Why did our players make all of the sacrifices? What was this exercise in futility?
This was what it was always going to be. This is the NBA, and if you’re going to survive, you’re going to need to keep these things in mind:
1. Don’t let them see you cry
You’re good; top 10% in the league for sure. If a fan bought your team’s jersey, there is a good chance it’s your name on the back. You’re loyal, and you’re here to win with this team. That’s your first mistake. You cared too much, and you let everyone know it. First you’re calling out the team flipping phoneys, then you’re repping your city on Instagram, before you know it you’re in too deep. You win games but just can’t get through the big matchups. Even when you make the playoffs you know you’ll run into a superstar or two (or four) and 7 games will just be too much to ask for your plucky squad of young believers. Each big loss hurts more and more, grinding down your spirit. You put on a brave face, double down on the idea that you never quit on your team, never ran away, but it becomes too much to bear. Eventually something changes – the media starts asking if you are part of the problem. Well, who needs them? You’re too good for this and your prime is being wasted. Loyalty is for suckers! It’s time to get yours! Which brings us to…
2. Have an escape plan
Basketball is widely considered a team sport… if you suck at it. Passing is for bench players, and if you are one of the best in the game you know you are your team’s only chance to win. They need you and you hold all of the cards, but these scrubs aren’t going to get you a ring. Once you’ve eaten up as much of your current team’s salary cap as possible, it’s time to cut and run. You have a few options at your disposal, but what seems to be in vogue these days is taking a Machiavellian strategy to force ownership to trade you. Conspiring with your agent to undermine the league is your best bet, but be cool about it.
3. Deny, deny, deny
In today’s news cycle who knows what is true and false. We live in a Schrödinger’s box of alternative facts. Words mean nothing, and that can work for you. You and your crew should at all times be playing at a Little Finger level of spreading misinformation and half-truths. Demanding to only be moved to a certain city is a great way to get slapped with a tampering fine. So is saying you want to play with another player. You know what? Just don’t name names. Of anything. Teams, players, landmarks – keep them all out of your mouth. Don’t give them specifics or you’re going to tampering jail. You’ve gotta play it cool; throw them off your scent. The best way to do that is make it look like it was ownership’s idea. You’ve got to inception your GM into trading you where you want. Get your agent to draft a list of cities you’d be willing to go to, but make sure the only real option is your preferred choice. Include some defunct franchises – how about the Spirit of St. Louis, the Washington Bullets, or the Wakanda Rhinos?!
And if all else fails, you can just…
4. Be Kevin Durant
Do whatever you want. Who gives a shit? Re-sign with the unstoppable evil empire of basketball? Run Draymond out of town? Make a billion dollars in New York? Join LeBron in LA because competition is for idiots? Start a new dynasty in Philly or Milwaukee just because it would be hilarious? This is your league, GET PAID!