Sports

2023-24 NBA season’s 5 most insufferable off-court storylines

With the NBA season officially upon us, now is a good time for preseason prognostications, and I’m not talking about win totals or who’s going to take home the title. No, no, no, that’s not what the NBA is about anymore. It’s about player movement, lusting over possible super teams, and mind-blowing trades. The word of the day is “Hype.”

I say that because the mid-January NBA on TNT broadcast will inevitably hit us with America’s favorite stat: How many games has superteam X actually played with its full roster of future Hall of Famers? And because we’re likely to get as many regular season contests featuring Phoenix’s Big Three as Baskin Robbins has flavors (I think it’s still at 36), fans will get antsy, or bored, and turn to the warm embrace of trade fodder.

Remember the NBA’s old mantra: “I love this game”? We’ve gotten so far away from that attitude that it’s reasonable to question what fans are more interested in. The Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal trade sagas are over, fulfilling the wishes of those who begged to see the two All-Star guards on teams worthy of their talents, and now it’s time to put that enthusiasm to the test, and — oh the humanity! — watch the games.

Anywho, whenever you get bored during tonight’s doubleheader, here are the five most insufferable off-court storylines of the 2023-24 NBA season.

5. James Harden

Ideally, this drama pushes through like an afternoon summer rain, and we never have to talk about the Beard again. Please, Daryl Morey, just trade him to Siberia of the NBA, so hoops fans can continue to ignore/shun the Clippers.

Never in a million years will Los Angeles’ forgotten franchise be the center of the NBA universe, and we know that because Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George’s tried, and it’s going so poorly that they’ve resorted to flirting with Harden. And you know you’re grasping for attention when that happens.

4. Luka Doncic

If I was penning some sort of bold predictions piece for any number of mundane outlets, “Luka Doncic asks out” would’ve made the list. Every contender out West, other than reigning champ Denver, and Dallas, shored up their deficiencies. The Mavs’ most notable offseason move was re-signing Kyrie Irving, and I’m not getting buddy cop vibes from him and Luka.

Doncic wants to win, or at least be surrounded by enough talent that his play style isn’t challenged, but this Dallas team isn’t that, and despite numerous protestations stating the opposite, Irving hasn’t wanted to play basketball for five years. (At least not under the rigidity of the NBA, and its insistence that employees show up for the most crucial part of the job.)

3. Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns has serious main-character energy for a guy who’s at best a supporting character. With Anthony Edwards getting top billing, a slow Timberwolves start, or at least the team’s usual apathetic approach will make not only fans of Minnesota restless, but also all of those looking for quick fixes to their franchises’ woes.

KAT won’t even have to make a formal trade request; ESPN will do it for him, and if that doesn’t work, I’m sure Rachel Nichols would love to help facilitate a mutiny. I can feel NBA Twitter trying to manifest this into existence as we speak, and I stopped wielding the force a year, and a half ago.

2. Joel Embiid

Rarely do All-Stars actively try to leave a market as big as Philly, and a franchise as storied as the 76ers, but Jimmy Butler opted for Miami, Ben Simmons quit on the franchise, and of course, there’s the ongoing Harden situation. That’s two All-Star departures since 2019, with a third imminent, so either there’s something in the water, or the Sixers are just really good at pissing off their stars.

That’s pretty comical considering how far the organization bent over backward pampering them, and the fanbase’s approach running antithetical to positive reinforcement, but it’s opening day of the season, and multiple periodicals are talking about how much the Knicks would give up for Embiid. (As if Philly would ever trade its MVP to New York, or Embiid’s health would last longer than Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees.)

1. A star to be named later

I used a generic catchall to end this piece because I’m not done admonishing you for clicking on a story about trade bait on THE OPENING DAY OF THE SEASON. Being this desperate this early for your team to make a franchise-altering acquisition means you should begin the process of removing all emotion and allegiance to the organization (at least for this year), and pick up a different hobby.

Maybe try water polo, crochet, spoon collecting, anything but populating the Reddit boards with pleas for a savior that are guaranteed to go unanswered. The lone outcomes of this masquerade are pain, suffering, and a five-year contract for Jerami Grant, so let it go.

Trust me on this one — I’m a sports writer.



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