If you know how the book ends, reading every page becomes too tedious. There will still be some passages that are just beautifully crafted and are always worth reading. But if you know the end, undoubtedly something is lost in the build-up.
Such is the 2018 NBA regular season.
The struggle of a long season is usually attributed to the middle months of the MLB season—during the ‘dog days of summer’—when the weather is hottest and teams are entering their fourth month of playing 6 games a week.
But in the 82-game NBA season, come January and February a similar grind can develop.
And in today’s NBA, where the Cavs and Warriors have met in three consecutive Finals and seemed sure to be destined for Part IV until a recent Cleveland skid and subsequent overhaul, it may be that for LeBron and the Warriors, the formality that is the regular season is proving hard to stomach.
For LeBron and the Cavs, the makeup may have always been destined to fail, and in the end the mix proved too toxic to even make it through the season.
The result was an 8-10 record since January 1 and trade deadline activity that saw them ship out Isaiah Thomas, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye and bring in George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr.
In the Cavs’ first game just without the six players they traded away they won in Atlanta 123-107, and in their first game together, King James and his new teammates went into Boston and beat the Celtics 121-99 and went into Oklahoma City two nights later and closed out the Thunder 120-112.
Problem solved. Until June.
And in Golden State, there has been an increasingly contentious relationship with NBA officials as well as Steph Curry’s injured ankle, each a potentially scary situation for Warriors fans given their own personal histories re: Curry’s ankle and bad on-court behavior.
Curry has come back strong, and Golden State’s record hasn’t suffered—the team is just too good (in fact Golden State has only lost more than 3 games in a month once since Steve Kerr took over in 2014-15, when they lost 4 in April of last season)—however the frustrations of having to play out the regular season have shown.
The Warriors lead the league in ejections and have amassed 46 technical fouls, the 3rd most in the league.
Draymond Green leads the NBA with 14 technical fouls and has been automatically ejected from 3 games, and Kevin Durant is tied for the 2nd most technical fouls in the league with 11 and has earned a league-leading 4 automatic ejections.
Even coach Steve Kerr has the earned the 4th most techs in the league among coaches, with 5.
The benefit of a long season, though, is that just as it allows for discontent and boredom to set in, it allows the time for teams to iron them out.
For LeBron and the Cavs, there is time to provide King James with a whole new support staff and for him to get them in line.
For Golden State, there is at least time to simmer down. If they can’t, and continue without checking themselves, there will ultimately be suspensions to deal with, and to two of their most important players.
And for those same two players–Green and Durant–shorter leashes from those same officials come playoff time.
One would hope that Draymond Green would have learned the ultimate lesson when his team lost Game 5 to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals with Green under suspension for a kick to the groin of LeBron James in Game 4.
They lost the series in seven games, and Green was left with the reality that things could have gone much differently had he not been forced to sit out the fifth, which Golden State lost at home with a chance to finish the series.
And for Steve Kerr there is even time to experiment with reverse psychology.
During a 46-point blowout of the Phoenix Suns on February 12th, Kerr stepped aside during timeouts and let Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and David West take his place and instruct the team.
Kerr explained himself by disclosing that he felt as though his team wasn’t hearing him anymore, joking that they, and even himself, were tired of hearing his voice.
Think about that and then answer this:
Do you even know who coaches the Phoenix Suns?
And such is the 2018 NBA regular season.