LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard

We need to talk about the NBA, and why your favorite Western Conference team is on the verge of falling apart.

Every year, the delicate dance begins of basketball’s most gifted multimillionaires balancing fragile and insatiable egos against psychopathic levels of competitiveness and drive.

If we’ve learned one thing about today’s NBA, it’s that a championship window is only opened by talent and teamwork, but that same window can be slammed shut for a million different reasons. 

Today I’m here to with a full glass of Haterade to explain why your favorite Western Conference team is much closer to falling apart than they are to hoisting up the gold ball. 

Let’s start with my beloved Lakers. After several months of trade rumors, not only is he still on the team, the Lakers brought in his on-court nemesis Patrick Beverly, and might even start Pat Bev over Russ. Is Westbrook ready to run the bench unit for the good of the team? Will Anthony Davis’ body hold up? Is winning still the most important thing to LeBron James? Is there ever going to be a day when Dennis Schroder shows up to work and isn’t remined that he fumbled an $84 million dollar bag? This Lakers team has so many question marks that the Riddler could wear them as an outfit.

And what about the defending champion Golden State Warriors? Jordan Poole is going to get mocked in every arena he goes to, and don’t think it’ll just be the fans with something to say about him eating a punch. Is Draymond Green ready to spend an entire year playing big brother and defending a teammate from slander that he helped create? More importantly, does Draymond Green have the stamina to not get sensitive himself about being the only core piece of the Warriors team that isn’t locked up long-term? The Warriors need Draymond to be volatile on the court to keep other teams off guard- they don’t need internal volatility off the court. As Draymond goes, the Warriors go.

And what about the other so-called contenders in the Western Conference?

The Mavericks lost Jalen Brunson. Don’t underestimate the attitude that a two-time NCAA champion brought into that locker room. They don’t beat the Suns to advance to the conference finals without him. Now you’re going into a season with your second and third best players being Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr? Yikes.

The Phoenix Suns gave Deandre Ayton his money, but not without pissing him off first. The one thing this team had going for it was its chemistry, and now Ayton’s comes to media day acting like a very rich grouch, Jae Crowder is sitting at home waiting to be traded, Cam Johnson had negotiations with James Jones break down, and Devin Booker and Chris Paul were on opposite ends of the choice to speak out about the Robert Sarver reports. It’s a good think Cam Payne and Mikal Bridges like to dance, because with chemistry like this they’ll be dancing their way to the seventh seed. 

The Utah Jazz blew their team up after winning the Northwest division because their stars couldn’t get along, and now they’re in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. Good luck with that. We all know you’ll end up picking a Gordon Hayward close with the 8th pick.

The Nuggets believe they’re the Warriors, like Jamal Murray taking two years to heal from injury is the same as Klay Thompson. But your team still doesn’t play defense, and your title chances are as fragile as Michael Porter Jr’s back. And I’m sorry Denver, but Nikola Jokic isn’t getting a third straight MVP on a 45-win-team. 

And what about Memphis? I like the Grizzlies- they’re in a sweet spot where the team is young, they all have friendly contracts, and they seem to like playing together. But they’ve never come into a season with expectations, and expectations can be suffocating when the national media starts to pick apart your flaws. When Jaren Jackson Jr. returns from his foot injury in a couple months, and he doesn’t improve his 40% shooting from the field? What then? What about the next time Ja Morant threatens some random stranger who is trolling him online? 

Last and least, we have the Clippers. Look, I’m happy to see John Wall happy and ready to roll. He’s only played in 40 games in the last three years, while bringing in over $120 million in salary. His story goes a long way to show that money doesn’t buy happiness. I’m rooting for him. But the Clippers are still the Clippers. Kawhi is healthy, for now. Paul George is healthy, for now. But the track record of those guys makes me feel like it might be smart money to wager on Norman Powell as this team’s leading scorer. I’ll take the Clippers seriously when they do something serious. Until then, they’re still just the Clippers.

Let me know if you think I’m Wrighster or Wrong about your favorite Western Conference team’s chances. Or let me know if you’re a Minnesota Timberwolves fan and you’re mad that I didn’t take your team seriously enough to include them. 

All I know is that if my team can’t be happy, I don’t want to see any of your teams happy. And if my Lakers do find a way to figure this out and get another title, I get to see your team unhappy either way.

Let that sink in.

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