“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.”
Notice that in this list of my favorite things, I didn’t list the NBA. “This League” and I have been at odds for several seasons, but to quote Silvio Dante quoting Part III, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull … me … back … in!”
My attention to the Association was dormant and then Kyrie, Hayward and Horford came to Boston. I wasn’t crazy that the Celtics were like every other modern contender in the NBA, but it’s always fun to root for a winner, right?
Two years later Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are gone and a year after that Hayward joined them. Kyrie felt typical of the modern league, Horford was a surprising opt-out (if you could be surprised by an opt-out) but Gordon Hayward was just disappointing. Not from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Hayward doesn’t make sense in Boston: he plays the same position as Jayson Tatum and always felt like a middle child who isn’t sure where he fits. But Hayward’s story felt genuine, I wanted to believe that it was a tough decision to leave the only team he’s ever known in Utah, but the lure of playing for his college coach Brad Stevens was just too darn strong.
Apparently that lure wasn’t as strong as the one to move to Charlotte and play with Lonzo Ball. But it wasn’t the Hayward departure that has pushed me away from the NBA. In fact, I responded to every frantic text about Hayward last week with, “So?” The Celtics are probably better without Hayward. What has soured me completely on the NBA is just the rumor of the Celtics trading for James Harden.
It’s hard to imagine, but trading for a league MVP and scoring champion disgusted me as much as the Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford signings combined. But why is that? Why would one of the best players in the league joining my favorite team be as unpalatable as pearl onions? This has caused me a great deal of reflection as to the roots of my dislike of the NBA.
Here are the top candidates:
— Hero ball (Running down the shot clock by slowly dribbling for 23 seconds and then chucking up a contested 3 at the buzzer, down 1, rather than, I don’t know, RUNNING A PLAY?!?!)
— Eurostep (legalized traveling)
— Super teams and rapid player movement (covered above)
— Overreactions to EVERY whistle. Players react to obvious calls as though the official made a pass at his mother at Christmas dinner.
— Alternate jerseys/no team colors. The Orlando Magic unveiled new orange uniforms last week. Orange. They didn’t change their team colors from blue, white, black and silver. No, they just have orange uniforms sometimes when they feel like it. There are certain basic tenets that you recognize as a sports fan: green is Celtics, red is Bulls, yellow is Lakers. Why are the Utah Jazz wearing yellow and orange one night, purple the next and navy the night after that? That sort of thing should be outlawed on a federal level.
— Flopping (the NBA is closer to soccer than I am comfortable with). James Harden is practically the poster child almost all of my gripes. Lebron is the worst, but Harden introduced the Eurostep and flopping, I’ll have to get back to you on teams having 17 uniforms every season, but that feels like a Lebron thing. The thought of Harden coming to Boston and having to root for everything that I despise would be like A-Rod becoming the Red Sox manager or Peyton Manning buying the Patriots. You might be successful but you would always feel the underlying filth.
Player movement has driven me nuts since “The Decision” and the decade of the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality that followed have cheapened the product. Like the weather in New England, if you don’t like it, just wait a minute. Don’t like your basketball team? Just wait a minute, it’ll be different. Better? Maybe, but if it gets too good the key pieces will leave before the next election. If James Harden came to Boston, it would only start the countdown before he found his way to Florida or Los Angeles. Why? Because everybody’s doing it, but nobody’s singing about it.
Sterling Pingree is the senior staff writer for Jeff Solari’s Maine Sports Chowdah newsletter and a co-host of the 3 Point Stance Podcast with NFL veteran Mike DeVito and Aaron Jackson. An avid golfer, Pingree has been a member for more than a decade at Bangor Muni. He is a native of Kingfield and was a 4-year letterman in basketball and baseball at Mount Abram High School.