Photo By: Ryan from Unsplash

Well, for the first time since 2007-ish, I finally turned on an NBA game and didn’t know who I was watching.

Nike certainly didn’t make it any easier by making teams wear abominable uniforms that don’t even remotely resemble their wearers’ team colours, but garb aside, the two-week stretch where Omicron made 10-day hardship exemptions the norm resulted in things like this happening on a nightly basis:

Wait, that last one is actually just the Pistons’ everyday roster, my mistake. It got pretty ugly for a while, and even though the Jazz just sent their B-team up against the Raptors last weekend, most teams aren’t having to rely on five-plus G-Leaguers every night anymore as was the case around Christmas.

The Raptors finally got healthy just in time for the government to put the kibosh on fans attending games, which seems about right given how the last couple of months have gone. But hey, they actually look good when they have their whole team. The FVV-Trent-Barnes-OG-Siakam lineup is a ton of fun and is definitely a playoff-calibre lineup (the bench, well…not so much). VanVleet is looking like a lock for the All-Star game at this point, Siakam has been playing back at his All-NBA level from 2019-20 after starting the season slow on his way back from shoulder surgery, and Scottie Barnes continues to make his bid for Rookie of the Year in what is already looking like a loaded draft class. 

Speaking of VanVleet and his All-Star candidacy, I was planning on doing my All-Star picks for this week’s SIDELINES, before remembering what an easy article that is to write and how silly it would be to waste that gimme before the semester actually starts. I’ll probably write that at the end of January or beginning of February, but regardless, VanVleet is an absolute lock on my meaningless ballot.

Some other All-Star related things I’m thinking about: 

  • Two Celtics almost definitely can’t go to the All-Star game; is it crazy that I’m leaning towards Jaylen Brown over Jayson Tatum for, again, my meaningless ballot?
  • Because pretty much everyone has missed some amount of time dealing with COVID, I don’t think missed games should be as big of a factor this season.
  • Will Tim Duncan Evan Mobley make it as a rookie?
  • Is it actually a disservice to vote for someone to spend their All-Star break in Cleveland as opposed to five days in Cancún?
  • The NBA has usually had a local artist perform at halftime — J. Cole in Charlotte (2019), Chance the Rapper and Common in Chicago (2020) — will they stick with that theme for Cleveland? If so, candidates range from Kid Cudi to Machine Gun Kelly; sticking with Cleveland references, that’s like picking from LeBron James or Darko Miličić. Don’t let me down Adam.

I hope they’ll invite Klay Thompson to the three-point contest, too. He returned last night to play his first game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals — over 900 days ago — after missing 2020 due to a torn left ACL, and then missing all 2021 due to a torn right achilles. So the two worst injuries in basketball, one to each leg, in two consecutive years. Inviting him to the three-point contest is just an easy way to do a cool thing for a guy who is universally beloved and also kayaks to work everyday.

Sticking with the Warriors, who instantly become the most fascinating team with Klay back, watching Draymond Green this season is like the side of ginger that comes with sushi; the ultimate palette-cleanser. Just watched Marcus Smart jack up a three with 17 seconds left on the shot clock and three open teammates? Accidently put on a Pelicans game? Witnessed Baker Mayfield karaoke in the pocket before hucking another pick? Just flip on a Draymond highlight. It’s so refreshing, so wholesome, the first quarter of that Warriors-Suns game on Christmas instantly came to mind when writing this. Here’s a big ol’ side of ginger the next time the Rockets play your team, all from that first quarter of Warriors-Suns on Christmas. The first and second passes are great, but these next two are just incredible: behold, and behold.

Between all the injuries, callups, COVID-19, seeing zero fans one night in Toronto and 20,000 the next in Dallas, it’s been a bit of a wonky season. I’m hoping to bounce around quite a bit from week to week here without honing in on one team in particular. Some topics I’m thinking of: What the hell happened in New Orleans? The 2022 draft is also supposed to be stacked, with three horses in Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, and Chet Holmgren at the tippy-top, so I’ll probably do something on that later in the semester. In the meantime, the NBA is never short on drama, so there’ll always be something worth writing about, even if it does look like the G-League at times.