NBA: Collecting Title Is Never Easy, Bubble or No Bubble

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

Under the heel of unparalleled circumstances, and with a list of variables as long as each roster threatening to snatch legitimacy from the title run of this season’s eventual champion, some people have already written-off the National Basketball Association’s restart in Orlando, Fla. as a competition for a trophy that might as well be pock-marked with asterisks.

To that I say, so what.

This condensed, bubble-contained season will certainly be unique but it won’t be the first, nor the last, season in which the Larry O’Brien trophy is claimed in a presumably opportunistic fashion and met with a sentiment of pessimism from some fans. Conspiracy theories surrounding the NBA is a long and storied tradition and whether provoked by injuries, monetary disputes or player suspensions, arguments against the validity of titles won under mitigating circumstances have long-existed in sports in general.

But time has a way of coercing fans into releasing contempt that in the moment was held for titles that may have caused ever-so fine print to be etched into certain championship banners. Meanwhile the teams who raised those banners couldn’t care less about how things broke in their favor, only that they did and that they were able to take advantage.

Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and their Toronto Raptors teammates from 2019’s historic title run appeared no less euphoric after capturing the franchise’s first-ever title even though it came at the expense of an historic Golden State Warriors team that — with series-altering injuries to both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson — was undeniably wounded and ripe for the taking.

Former San Antonio Spurs legend and 2020 first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame inductee Tim Duncan’s enshrinement in Springfield was absent any prominent mention of the first of his five championships having been won in the 50-game, strike-shortened season of 1999 and its unlikely that has been included on his career-encapsulating plaque.

History will present the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers as the first team to ever recover from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, not a team that did so as a result of Warriors forward Draymond Green’s suspension in that series’ Game 5 or his teammate Andrew Bogut’s series-ending knee injury in the second half of the same contest.

The caveat to the 2020 season is, of course, the pandemic forcing its indefinite suspension four months ago and the layover leading to a handful of key players opting out of its restart, chief among them being Portland Trailblazers forward Trevor Ariza and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, both of whom were starters and expected to factor heavily in each team’s playoff run.

Both Ariza and Bradley have since been replaced — the Trailblazers plucked point guard and G-League Most Valuable Player runner-up Jaylen Adams from the developmental Wisconsin Herd, while the Lakers summoned J.R. Smith from the corner once-former and again-current teammate LeBron James likely sent him to after his unforgettable late-game blunder in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals as a member of the Cavaliers.

If this season does reach its intended conclusion and a champion is indeed crowned in October, it will be owed almost entirely to the implementation of — and players’ adherence to — unconventional, yet absolutely necessary, protocols designed to maintain the integrity of the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus in Orlando in the name of the overall health of the players being kept there.

Schedule for 8-game seeding round for every team (NBC Sports Chicago)

To my pleasant surprise, things have largely gone off without a hitch and the NBA has acted swiftly to preserve the sanctity of its bubble on the few occasions in which it could’ve been jeopardized.

Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis and Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap were each required to quarantine for one day after forgetting to get tested last weekend. Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams was placed in a 10-day quarantine after being photographed in Atlanta’s Magic City strip club during what was a pre-approved departure from the bubble to attend the funeral of a family friend. Williams will miss the first two games of the restart as a result, including Thursday night’s tilt with the Lakers.

With the NBA’s report of zero positive tests last week, the stringent measures look like they are working as intended.

This comes in stark contrast to the sobering news Monday that 13 Florida Marlins players and coaches tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to the postponement of three games and an outbreak of doubt that the Major League Baseball season can continue without interruption.

In spite of being an opponent to the resumption of a season bound to an ongoing pandemic that continues to defy the nation’s leading infectious diseases experts, I remain cautiously optimistic about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s re-imagining of this 2019-2020 campaign and like him I’m as eager as any other time we’ve approached the playoff season to watch the drama of the post-season unfold.

Even as some people have already begun to invalidate the yet-to-be crowned champions.

One response to “NBA: Collecting Title Is Never Easy, Bubble or No Bubble

  1. Pingback: NBA Finals: Conflicting Feelings Surround LeBron’s Latest Coronation | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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