Just after 9 p.m. on Friday, shortly after the Pacific Ocean swallows the sun and East Coasters seek companionship in the late innings of West Coast baseball, the cellphones of NBA executives, agents and players will begin to buzz. Twitter will crash.
It is in those quiet hours between the last beer on Friday night and the first mug of java on Saturday morning, when most Americans finally put work behind them and get to sleep in, that the NBA’s offseason machine groans into motion, that the league is most alive. Players either find new homes or at least lay the ground work to earning their next millions.
It’s an exciting time, it’s a frustrating time. Every offseason is significant. Contenders are born with the decisions made and the money spent in the first minutes after the calendar at the league’s New York headquarters turns to July.
Yet, the summer of 2017 marks an especially hectic time in league history. Teams are clearing room for superstars to join other superstars to match the juggernaut and, seemingly, unstoppable Golden State Warriors.
Boston, a team that came within three wins of reaching the NBA Finals not only won the draft lottery, but will enter the offseason with plans to add two more All-Stars. One, All-NBA point guard Chris Paul, has already said sayonara to his employer and teamed up with the runner-up in Most Valuable Player voting.
Suddenly, the offseason feels like picking sides during a pick-up game at All-Star weekend.
The league’s inability to smooth out a dramatic spike in the salary cap last season following its new TV deal gave Golden State the unexpected flexibility to sign Kevin Durant. Add the four-time scoring champion to a core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green that had already won a championship – and was already positioned to contend for more – and you create a monster.
How is the rest of the league supposed to keep up? The only way to beat a team with potentially four future Hall of Famers is with an All-Star lineup of your own.
After the Warriors blitzed LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the Finals in five games and Durant was named the series MVP, the rest of the NBA realized that being great was no longer good enough.
Now the only way to contend is by selling out and loading up on superstars. So now Gordon Hayward, drafted by a Utah team that in seven years he led out of the lottery and into the Western Conference semifinals, might forgo building with the team that is…