At the start of every NBA season there’s a line that divides all 30 teams and the division only becomes bigger as the season progresses. No, I don’t mean the lines that divide conferences, divisions or even playoff teams. The line I’m referring to is the line that separates title contenders and everyone else. It is, after all, what ultimately counts. I like to call that line Teams That Matter. For the record, a team that matters is one that is capable of going on a deep playoff run and a deep playoff run is making it to either Conference Finals. In our 2014 season preview, I predicted that there were maybe 8 teams that matter. That leaves 22 teams that don’t matter. As a fan of a team that doesn’t count this season (LA Lakers), I’ve come up with a list of ways to enjoy the NBA when your favorite team doesn’t matter.
- Find some entertainment value in your team: Even bad teams have an interesting or intriguing story line to follow. Or, at the very least, there’s at least one entertaining aspect about them. If you’re a Knicks’ fan you can watch each game to see how many players shorter than Andrea Bargnani outrebound him. Of course the Nuggets have Kenneth “Manimal” Faried and every hoops fan should enjoy watching him play. As a Lakers’ fan, I’m interested to see if Wesley Johnson can transform himself from a completely useless player to a halfway useful player. There’s always the “Riggin for Wiggins” narrative to get behind if you’re a fan of the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, etc.
- Youthful rejuvenation: There’s a plethora of young and promising players throughout the league. Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Eric Bledsoe are among those players that are the future of the league. Watching to see how these players develop and grow on their potential is always fun.
- Join a fantasy basketball league: I’m late to this party, but I’m about to enter my third week as an owner of a fantasy basketball team. Thus far, it’s been completely enjoyable. I normally watch as many games as I can and this gives me a different kind of rooting interest. No longer am I just hoping for a competitive game. I now find myself rooting for specific players to perform well. Players, such as Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward and David Lee, that I was previously ambivalent about. It also helps to join a league with friends that you can talk shit to.
- Bandwagon another team: Doing this is probably committing a sports faux pas, but when your favorite team is lousy you need a way to escape from the reality that your team sucks. In no way am I suggesting that you abandon your favorite team. This writer bleeds Purple and Gold and has done so for close to 30 years. What I am suggesting is that in between those losses you simply pick a team with a more promising season to follow. Teams, such as the Warriors or Rockets, who are attempting to cross that line into teams that matter. Even a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves could be fun to temporarily root for. They have a young, talented core that hasn’t managed to stay healthy over the past two seasons. If their key players of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio can stay on the court this season they might turn themselves into a team that sort of matters by making the playoffs. If not, Love and Rubio are fun to watch.
- Give Stephen Curry an ankle transplant: This may not be medically possible, but it is of the utmost importance for all NBA fans that Curry’s ankles hold up for the next 8 years or so. Curry ARRIVED on the scene last season and he made a lot of noise with his forte – shooting. There’s almost nothing prettier or exciting than a step back jumper from Curry and he is capable of making that shot from pretty much anywhere on the court. His shooting exploits already have some declaring he’s the best shooter the game has ever seen. Curry’s Warriors team is looking to elevate themselves into a team that matters this season. (I think they can) Yet his fragile ankles may take all of that away. Curry has already had two surgeries on his right ankle in his young career and a bruised left ankle caused him to miss a game against the Spurs last week. For the love of all that Dr. Naismith has created, I implore all those in the medical community to find a way to keep Dell’s son’s ankles healthy.