SVP's One Big Thing: Why I'll enjoy LeBron and Steph this season

ByScott Van Pelt ESPN logo
Thursday, February 22, 2024

The NBA gets going again Thursday after the All-Star break after the open gym last weekend in Indianapolis.

I don't need to waste any energy on what that was. I tweeted that if you don't care, neither do we. People take that as me being mad. No, I'm not. The commissioner clearly was. Despite his pleas and some old-school legends giving a nudge, apparently getting guys to care and/or try even a little is a bridge too far. But it's an exhibition. So, oh well.

The title is what matters, and the pursuit begins in earnest again Thursday. I was checking out the standings and I looked at the back end of the East. The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are the 9- and 10-seeds. Huge markets -- some All-Stars in both spots. But how much time or interest will we devote to pondering the playoff fates of either? Likely not a ton.

Now look at the 9- and 10-seeds in the West. It's the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. There will probably be a bit more conversation here. The trade that didn't happen involving LeBron James and the Warriors speaks to where those franchises and players are in their respective story arcs. You know how those work, right? In literature or filmmaking, you have (1) rising action, (2) climax, (3) falling action and (4) resolution.

The characters involved for both teams have starred in more than their share of blockbusters. But we're getting closer to the credits rolling than we might be comfortable admitting out loud. Because when that ends ... it makes us all aware of where our story arcs are.

LeBron debuted in the NBA a couple of years after I got to ESPN. Has it really been 20-something years? Damn. He's done a remarkable job of not aging out of his job and is not just capable at doing it, but still great at it. That alone ought not to be missed ... but like Tiger at his peak, he's tricked us all into thinking it goes on forever. It does not.

The Warriors' run has included legendary highs and some losses that are unforgettable as well -- because of how they lost and who beat them. The core three remains, along with Steve Kerr. Draymond Green has some grey in the beard, Klay Thompson is grappling with roles and has struggled -- openly and honestly, as he always does -- about that. As for Steph Curry, he's another king of the time warp. No longer the baby-faced kid, but somehow ageless at 35. His gifts are still evident, but here they are, along with the Lakers, on the back end of this thing.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder are young, ascending and aren't bending down to kiss rings. The Los Angeles Clippers have a guy who has demonstrated in several places he can get you a parade, and the Denver Nuggets' jewelry is still shiny and brand new. There's a lot in the way for the Lakers and the Warriors. Significant obstacles. Not the least of which is the reality of time, which is the harshest opponent any of us encounter. They have the second half of the season in this, the fourth quarter of their careers.

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