And now, the longer view on the Russell Westbrook–Chris Paul deal that you haven’t seen yet:
Okay, that was nice. Now what else you got?
And no, Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona isn’t going to cut it.
Sure, you can do the winners-and-losers analysis that everyone has, secure in the knowledge that when this much money is being shoveled into the air, everyone wins just for the spectacle.
But let’s be honest here—Thursday evening was the moment that NBA free agency peaked for all time. You won’t get this much high-level human entertainment moved in such a short space of time ever again. No deal is now unthinkable. The salary cap is in shards. A championship parade is a for-sale sign. Injuries are now load management. Total silence is the new presser and secrets are now more fun than leaking. Sources are now liars who may just be voices in one’s head. A handshake is the same as a wave from across a parking lot. A contract is merely a suggestion. And roster construction is now essentially The League Of Super Friends in which everyone ends up being as disposable as Aquaman. All of these new truths were bestowed/inflicted upon us in the four weeks since the end of the playoffs, and piled atop each other they make an epochal moment in North American sport.
One that won’t be repeated, not with this level of grandeur. There will be new attempts to recreate these days in future offseasons, each more contrived than the last, and they will all fail horrendously because contrivances always fail. We will ask when free agency died as entertainment, making a bunch of shark-jumping references as we go, when the answer is right in our faces.
Westbrook for Paul and a bunch of draft choices to a team that already had a bunch of draft choices is, I decree, the last true jaw-slackening moment in NBA history, because everyone’s jaws were already at knee level.
Here’s what comes next instead of that:
- The owners will meet at some resort to discuss “getting control of our game,” and Adam Silver will starts tossing off veiled threats about “the health of the game.”
- The agents will walk into those meetings and demand 20 more chairs and 40 more sandwiches.
- The agents will win (because the owners have all the discipline of a preschool recess) and then turn on each other when they grab all the general managers’ jobs and then complain about cost certainty and player ingratitude.
- Players will line up their contracts for maximum leverage, think they’ve invented something new and cool and be greeted with “Yeah, Kawhi, 2019.”
- Stephen Curry, the longest-serving single-team player in the league even as we speak, will politely answer a question about staying with one team his entire career and be damned as unadventurous and weak-willed.
Now we could make a bunch of other not-quite far-fetched scenarios to pad this out, but the real truth remains: this was the best anything can ever be. Everything after this is imitative at best and insufficient at worst. Even a couple players being unable to play for the first 25 percent of their new contracts was not a deterrent to having massive new contracts thrust upon them, and the only way you can beat that is if a team signs a player who had died several years earlier (James Dolan needs his beer held). This was it, kids—the NBA offseason’s Citizen Kane.
Let us leave you now with the vision of Adam Silver as Orson Welles as the closing act of the greatest offseason ever, the one Don Nelson never tried to envision on his most aggressive day in the kush warehouse. And if you find yourself clawing at your eyes trying to eradicate either of those images, take solace in the knowledge that this is the event horizon of basketball business in all its magnificent absurdity, and absurd magnificence.
Ray Ratto eagerly awaits the 2025 draft in which Sam Presti has all the picks.