Just because LaMarcus Aldridge has his lowest scoring average since he was a rookie, his lowest true shooting in five years, and his lowest rebounding average ever this season doesn’t mean he’s cooked at 35.
It’s just that he’s at a different point in his career, much like Blake Griffin, who has been so rejuvenated since arriving in Brooklyn that he’s dunking again after a three-year hiatus.
Now, human secret ingredient Aldridge is joining the Nets, too, teaming up with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving in a quest to bring New York’s most populous borough its first major sports championship since the 1955 Dodgers. Sorry, teaming up with Durant, Harden, Irving, Griffin, Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, and DeAndre Jordan. The Nets are loaded.
Brooklyn already is 31-15, a game and a half behind the 76ers in the East, and that’s with Durant having missed more than half the season. Being able to plug in superstar talents like Aldridge and Griffin, as role players to suit the stage of their careers, is fantastic lineup construction.
Health is a worry, sure, but it is for other contenders, too, like the defending champion Lakers, who sit fourth in the West as they await the returns of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But on paper, it’s hard right now to argue against the Nets being the title favorites.
That being the case, who would be the most hilarious team to do to the Nets what’s always been done to the Nets since they joined the NBA, and deny them a title?
The Pacers have ex-Net Caris LeVert, who was shipped out in the Harden trade, and Indiana currently matches up with the Heat — although the bottom of the East playoff race is very much in flux — to have the chance to face Brooklyn in the first round. Either the old friend or the crew of Jimmy Butler and a bunch of dudes taking down the star-studded Nets would be quite something.
Boston, San Antonio, and Golden State all would be right there as comical in huge upsets of a team employing their former stars, although all of those possibilities would be more of a shock than a comedy.
The Clippers built Lob City with Griffin, but their own build to title contention with imported stars as the historic No. 2 team in their market hits in a way that’s more Spider-Man pointing meme than true comedy.
The Lakers would be darkly comical insofar as whatever anyone tries to do, LeBron and AD are inevitable. Them beating the Nets would be, “the NBA, eat at Arby’s.” Funny in a way, but not delightful by any means.
The Bucks and Sixers are just the other really good teams in the East. Whatever.
The correct answer is sitting fifth in the East, did next-to-nothing at the trade deadline (with all due respect to Terrance Ferguson), and has one legitimate star who has led his team to two oh-we-were-close-but-we’re-still-not-on-the-Nets’-level losses this year. It’s the team that’s 10 stops away on the 2 and 3 trains from Atlantic Center, the New York Knicks.
Nothing that could happen in the NBA playoffs this year would be more gutbustingly funny than Julius Randle leading Tom Thibodeau’s greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team, which started the year with 500-1 championship odds, past the fully operational Death Star that still, even after nearly a decade in Brooklyn, smells like New Jersey.