For some, the aftermath of the trade still lingers. If it’s anything like how I personally feel, it’s a bunch of conflicted feelings that didn’t get a chance to be resolved back in January. Mostly because Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to suit up that night, plus the fact that Part One of this matchup didn’t take place on home turf. Well, we can now check both of those boxes, so a bit of closure is likely on the way.
For others, the shock and awe of the swap is old news. If it’s anything like how I personally feel, enhancing the team’s chances at a title run far outweighs any personal attachments. The greater good was served and we’re here for it.
Hey, I told you I was conflicted.
Nevertheless, for all parties involved, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally on deck. With just a little over 24 hours of nervous anticipation left, I suggest you clear your schedule of any potential Friday night distractions. It’s one of those nights where if you don’t regularly have access to an ESPN feed, you plan accordingly.
The beauty of it all, though, is that the interest level in this game extends much wider than just the city of Toronto, country of Canada, and the Spurs’ fan base.
Hell, MLSE might even be trying to lock down J. Cole for the halftime show as we speak. I could even offer up my old school Raps jacket if need be.
If you want to argue that I’m being a little too theatrical, have at it. But short of James Dolan actually selling the Knicks, you tell me what the majority of basketball fans should be watching instead. What we should be arguing about is whether or not the NBA missed an opportunity, and I’m only being about 40 percent sarcastic when I say this: After the 3-Point and Dunk contests took place on Saturday, Raps-Spurs should have been the matchup on Sunday! Although, I will admit, that Steph bounce pass combined with Giannis’s monster finish might have been worth the slumber in between.
Which reminds me, I tweeted out a question/comment this past Saturday morning that I think is appropriate to share:
Did I miss Larry Johnson at some point last night? If so, it’s a shame he wasn’t involved in some capacity. If he’s on my own personal mount rushmore of reasons why I’m a basketball fan, I can just imagine what he means to the people of Charlotte. #NBAAllStar
— Mike Nelson (@LineupLowdown) February 17, 2019
With that said, All-Star weekend did manage to incorporate the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Dell Curry, Glen Rice and Mugsy Bogues into the festivities. Still, when you mix in J. Cole’s salute to the 90s, all of the above makes one reflect on what has happened since.
1. Just how little the Hornets as a franchise has been involved in the mainstream NBA conversation.
2. Just how much the Raptors have joined it.
Charlotte’s 10-year identity crisis after changing their name to the Bobcats didn’t help matters, but it just goes to show you how much “star power” means in this league. Let’s just say the Hornets are far removed from the glory days of “GrandMama.” Those Converse Reacts were pretty sweet, though.
In general, it’s no secret that the NBA is closing in on the NFL for “top dog” status in North America. And if you’re under the age of 30, it likely already is. With the NFL inquiring about Adam Silver’s commissioner services, you know a substantial climb has been made. So, if you weren’t used to people calling NBA players by their first names beforehand, the league’s connection with its fans will only get that much more personal.
Enter Kawhi. He might like to keep a low profile off the court, but his loud-and-clear resume on the court instantly moved the needle farther than anything the “We The North” movement accomplished. At least as far as trending topics go that aren’t in our own backyard.
I see you New Balance, well played.
On the other hand, enter DeMar. A player many of us were uncertain of at the start. His annual growth kept us coming back for more, and by the time his Raptors career was over, he
arguably became the most beloved player in franchise history. Truth be told, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion if the DeMar era didn’t do the dirty work, and I mean that in more ways than one.
As some of you may have noticed (or not), this is the first time I’ve been seen or heard on this site since the summer. Actually, the last time we spoke was right in the thick of that aforementioned aftermath.
The gist of that piece was threefold:
1. Understanding why the trade caused such a divide.
2. How embracing what promised to be a better on-court product and taking emotions out of the equation was in this fan base’s best interest.
3. A firm blessing and a tip of the cap to Masai.
If you’ll allow me to quote myself, here’s an excerpt:
“The timeframe of when a person actually became a fan could help decipher which side of the trade they’re on. There’s obvious exceptions to the theory, but if you’ve been here from the jump, chances are you’re on board. If you signed up somewhere in the middle, chances are the DeRozan era tugs at your heart strings the most.”
Come to think of it, some food for thought: Can that same theory be applied to the MJ-LeBron debate?
Now, like many of you, I’ve been down for the cause since day one. But what I didn’t account for was what motivated me to start writing about this team in the first place. Damon Stoudamire brings back fond memories, Vince and Bosh gave us hope, but only the movement I spoke of earlier made me want to get involved. There’s so much to be said about seeing something through to the end, and when unfinished business all of a sudden became unattainable, I simply needed to call a timeout.
However, I could only stay silent for so long. Mainly because the intrigue surrounding this club started to stack up.
I’ll try to keep this list as short as possible. No promises, though.
1. Whether Kawhi stays or ends up being a one-year rental, he’s reminded everyone who forget just how impactful and infectious his two-way pedigree can be. At times, the rest of the offense does tend to stand and watch, similar to stretches with DeMar. But to his credit, he makes sure it doesn’t last as long. Even his “Load Management” program is understandable (well, somewhat), though I can totally understand how a parent taking their kid to their first ever basketball game takes issue with getting the short end of the stick.
There’s no way that happens tomorrow night, right?
2. The leap and ongoing evolution of Pascal Siakam. It just might be the most enjoyable development so far. He’s shaken off almost all of his timidness as a rookie, polished up his post game, become a menace in the open floor, and the team already has faith in him to dictate the action with the game on line. In terms of meaningful connections with fans, I think it’s safe to say his meteoric rise and homegrown history has him next in line to become what DeRozan left behind.
3. Not only is Danny Green’s 3-point percentage back over the 40 percent mark for the first time in four years, his underrated defense is almost as good as his podcast.
4. Faith in a consistent Serge Ibaka has been restored. So much so that we shouldn’t have a problem if Marc Gasol eventually crashes the starting unit permanently. I say we focus on what this team can accomplish when they’re on the floor together, even if it’s only for short minutes at a time. Too bad the same couldn’t be said about C.J. Miles. Shooting his way out of town with the team already short on outside threats could come back to haunt in the playoffs. #KnockOnWood
5. K-Low has been up to usual bags of tricks. Fearless leader most of the time with a career-high in assists (2nd in the NBA at 9.2 per game). On the flip side, his lowest field goal percentage since 2012 and his lowest 3-Point percentage since 2009 have made him the team’s occasional scapegoat. Something tells me those stats will bounce back now that Jeremy Lin is in town, but of course, as this season has reminded us, Lin’s just a Lowry injury away from potentially leading this offense.
6. Last but certainly worthy of a few shoutouts: Masai for once again achieving the best of both worlds. Toeing the line between going all in and keeping a competitive future intact, has really become his brand. Jonas Valanciunas for his passion, team-first attitude, and for making strides numerous people thought he couldn’t. As for Delon Wright, here’s hoping
Vancouver Memphis treats him well. Flashes were undoubtedly shown, but not only does VanVleet make more money, the team surely had more confidence in him with the mission at hand. The Wright vs. Bobby Portis debate also might be over.
By the way, tomorrow isn’t the playoffs, so feel free to put your homer hat down for a night. Home court advantage throughout the playoffs promises to be a dogfight, but just like back in November when Casey stole a win at the buzzer, and back in January when DeRozan recorded his first career triple-double, it’s okay to enjoy a little closure-filled revenge.