It's the trade season
Your boy Shoals isn’t above some impassioned repetition, so get ready for the sameness: this season has been a massive disappointment. Spare me the chatter about the shocking Hornets and the toughened Kings, the Mavs’ new, scorched-earth ethos, or even the koan-like over-indulgence of the Lakers formula; half a campaign is enough to get the point. And dare not indicate to me Nash’s sure hand, Melo’s arrival, or even Kobe’s scoring bonanza—these are not forks in the round, or added levels to the salad. They're the obvious and inevitable repeating itself or letting its muscles get especially veiny.
But perhaps nothing magnetizes my take on things like the utter, damnable reluctance with which I survey the trade-worthy waters of this coming week. This is what, as NBA rumor fiends, we supposedly live for all season: to see rosters upended, idle dreams come true, and the complexion of the sacred starting fives transformed into a wholly new animal. The line between total chaos and remarkable re-ordering is indeed a fine one, but at its best, the trade deadline can give teams a second wind that, for the fan, suggests a second season. The “it doesn’t matter, now it does” transition eludes many players and aggravates spectators of the Association, hostile or loving alike. The trading days, whether or not they’ve actually affected a team, act as the veil through which the first half passes, the bullshit-filter that sees priorities changed, agendas honed, and everyone put on notice that fucking around is officially over.
Looking at the innumerable prospective moves currently being batted about by cyberspace’s rusty paw, I find nothing that would signal this kind of new beginning. That’s partly a function of who’s likely to change zip codes. Most of what we’re hearing this year involves names who are not merely compromised and besieged—they’ve given us all ample cause to straight downgrade them. With the exception of Pierce, who for no good reason gets name dragged through the mud every few days, we fans and most of the league has burnt out on tales of K-Mart, Starbury, and Francis (to cite the biggest fish), talented malcontents whose best days seem behind them. Anyone expecting too much of them will weep, and a team that lowers its expectations will be mocked by the echo left in a name that once rang like brass.
Don’t think for a second, though, that it doesn’t also go back to what franchises are trying to reconfigure and where a well-placed trade would land them and the rest of the league, which needs so badly to hear that roar of decisiveness. Put plainly, I have trouble believing that the many middling line-ups that have so ruined my fan’s devotion could all of a sudden take on the form of believers. Not only will the above-mentioned players (or a host of lesser equivalencies) fail to rally a new team—their riddance won’t somehow free up squads just waiting to be relevant, and moving pieces like this is a reminder of how careless and jack-assed front offices can be, not a stretch-run call to arms. And if the unthinkable were to happen—Iverson or Garnett leaving the cities they helped build—a shockwave of shock would overcome anything else the NBA has on its calendar between now and doomsday.
In effect, I’m proposing either a hopeless contradiction or a truly hopeless scenario. Teams need meaningful trades, somewhere in the league, to wake up and smell the post-season; yet at the same time, trades can only make a difference if there’s something definite there to be salvaged, galvanized, or privately discovered. This would seem to bring it all back to the players being offered up and just why they’re for sale. But while it doesn’t help that much of this year’s crop comes with decreased reps or "burden" scrawled all over them, I’m fairly convinced that this season is just too crappy and inconclusive to ever spring to life. That no one lively is getting shopped might be making this worse, but it’s probably just a symptom of it.