The NFL has long taken a week off after its conference championship games before returning to dominate the sports news cycle with what usually proves to be largely meaningless storylines in the buildup to the Super Bowl.
The NBA and NHL are in the midst of long seasons that are months away from ending and spring training has yet to start in baseball. This makes it pretty simple for the NFL to spend the week as king of the sports landscape. Only that hasn’t been the case this time and if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t noticed he is making a mistake. (Insert your own joke about the number of mistakes Godell has made.)
It started Monday when the story broke that New Orleans star Anthony Davis had no intention of signing a contract extension with the Pelicans and wanted to be traded. Davis is signed through the 2020-21 season, but it’s clear he wants to join LeBron James and the Lakers as soon as possible.
This news became the lead story on ESPN and pushed the Patriots-Rams matchup out of the spotlight. The NBA wasn’t done flexing its collective muscle.
On Wednesday, out of nowhere (wink, wink), news surfaced that Kristaps Porzingis was being shopped by New York because the currently injured star wasn’t buying into the Knicks’ plan. A few hours later, Porzingis was on his way to join rookie standout Luka Doncic in Dallas in a multi-player, multi-draft pick trade.
The NBA’s fireworks weren’t done.
On Friday, Celtics star Kyrie Irving made it known that he plans to explore his options this offseason by telling reporters, “ask me July 1,” when he was asked if his mindset had changed regarding remaining in Boston when his contract expires.
This all is happening with the NBA trade deadline approaching next Thursday. It’s humorous that Davis was fined $50,000 by the league for making his trade demands public when commissioner Adam Silver should have been sending Davis and his camp a thank you note.
This isn’t anything new as Silver and Co., continue to prove to be geniuses at keeping their product, and star players, in the public eye. We all still figure that Golden State is going to win its third consecutive NBA championship and fourth in the past five years, and while that might bore many, what the league has perfected is off-the-court drama that isn’t really counterproductive. (Fans of the impacted teams might argue this point, but they will get over it.)
Players aren’t getting arrested, they aren’t hitting people. What they are doing is creating havoc for their employers and it’s difficult to turn away from that. NBA free agency has become as or more compelling than the game itself — how many of you find yourselves hitting refresh on Twitter each July 1 to see the latest Woj bomb? — and this season there has been no letup in the drama.
Jimmy Butler’s desire to get out of Minnesota became annoying for Wolves fans but provided daily speculation about where he might end up. Butler’s trade to Philadelphia was followed by the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green feud in Golden State and then Butler was unhappy in Philadelphia and it just never ends.
At this point old-time sports fans are shaking your heads and wondering what the hell I am writing about. How can I write something positive about a league which appears to be run by players and in which drama (albeit, not truly negative) becomes the main attraction?
Understand this: The NBA isn’t all that worried about you if you’re nearing 50, like I am. What they want is the 18-to-35-year old fan and, for the most part, those folks love the constant soap operas. They love going on social media and seeing who wants to be traded, who just yelled at their coach and who is looking to form the next super team with his friends. (The answer today is Kyrie.) On and off the floor, the NBA has become the ultimate in reality television.
This year that show has been expanded to take on Super Bowl week and, by all accounts, it has proven to be a hit.