“It seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind
never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in”Elton John, Candle In The Wind
Greetings, True Believers! We have, at last, arrived in mid-
April August. The NBA Playoffs are here, and with them comes the misery of fifteen eliminations. Gradually over the next six weeks, the character and will of our greatest heroes will be tested. No matter if a team is swept in the first round or lose the Finals in triple overtime of the seventh game, they deserve tribute.
For the last decade, I have taken the time to give each team that fails to make the Finals their due respect, a rite my friends and I have come to call Candling- blaring Elton John’s anthem to Marilyn Monroe as another team’s light is quenched. For most of the basketball world, a team is eliminated and instantly forgotten, just a stepping stone for someone better. Not in my eyes. These playoffs, rather than documenting the great achievements of the winners, I will be your guide as we pay tribute to the most necessary party in sports- the losers.
Fourteen teams are gone already. They’re not worthy of much distinction, but I will honor them anyway.
Memphis Grizzlies (34-39, 9th in the West) – Victims of the first ever play-in tournament, the Grizzlies succumbed to injuries and inexperience. The future looks brighter for them than a few of the teams who are still playing.
Phoenix Suns (34-39, 10th in the West) – The darlings of the Bubble, the Suns went 8-0 only to come up short of making the play-in. They showed us that, if healthy, their team is on the rise. Though it is that caveat, “if healthy”, that is the reason they’re headed home now.
San Antonio Spurs (32-39, 11th in the West) – The 22-year streak of making the playoffs is dead. Long live the Spurs.
Sacramento Kings (31-41, 12th in the West) – I guess there is some small victory in Vlade Divac stepping away from the GM role after publicly admitting he was at fault for not picking Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft.
New Orleans Pelicans (30-42, 13th in the West) – The Pellies are another team with a really bright future IF they (Zion) can remain healthy. I really enjoyed watching them when at full-strength. They will be one of the more entertaining teams next year, no matter their level of success.
Charlotte Hornets (23-42, 9th in the East) – Charlotte was not invited to the Bubble, but Washington was so bad that the Hornets actually improved their standing by not playing.
Chicago Bulls (22-43, 10th in the East) – Chicago was not invited to the Bubble, but Washington was so bad that the Bulls actually improved their standing by not playing. Also, they fired Jim Boylen, so thats a plus. The young core gives a lot of reason to be excited about the Bulls future of losing in 5 games to the Raptors for a few years.
Washington Wizards (25-47, 11th in the East) – Washington, plagued by mediocrity and injuries, lost all eight games in the Bubble, stumbling down in the standings in the process. They were invited only because I guess it would have been weird to just auto-qualify the Magic and Nets.
New York Knicks (21-45, 12th in the East) – The last time the Knicks were a genuine threat to the title, the Today show offered up one of the great questions in modern history.
I kid, I know they made the Finals in 1999, but come on. The Knicks are so trash that it’s actually pretty sad at this point.
Detroit Pistons (20-46, 13th in the East) – The Pistons have no idea what their plan is, or who might be on their team next season, or even what basketball really is. At this point, I have no idea why they plan on showing up next season just to collect the 5th pick.
Atlanta Hawks (20-47, 14th in the East) – The Hawks, in contrast to the Pistons, have a lot of potential and really just need some minutes under their shoes to become a playoff team. I’m excited for the future for them.
Minnesota Timberwolves (19-45, 14th in the West) – ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. The worst franchise in American sports just keeps chuggin’ along.
Cleveland Cavaliers (19-46, 15th in the East) – I didn’t expect much, and I was still let down. The Cavs without LeBron James are just, well, Cleveland.
Golden State Warriors (15-50, 15th in the West) – Never in the history of sports have injuries to star players been more beneficial to a team’s future. The Warriors, participants in the last FIVE NBA FINALS, will get the number one pick in the draft. They will be healthy. They will be mentally rested. They will win like 75% of their games next season. Thank GOD that Zion didn’t play two years. Imagine Steph getting triple teamed, forty feet from the basket and Baby Shaq is a hockey pass from dunking. Frankly, I’d just cancel the league.
The playoffs begin Monday, with four games alternating daily until the first elimination. With no travel time, the series will be fast and brutal. Tensions will rise, maybe some hotel drama will occur. I’ll be here, ready to revel in the nonsense.
For the First Fourteen dearly departed teams, let us reflect. Take it away, Reginald…