NBA

What I would like to give each NBA team for Christmas

The holiday season is a time for gift-giving and NBA teams could use some gifts themselves to make the season more enjoyable for them. I came up with a gift idea for each team that I would like to give them if I could afford it, a gift that I think would help them out, or at least bring them a bit of joy.

Golden State Warriors: A Nintendo Switch with Overcooked and Overcooked 2

What do you get the team that seemingly has everything? Things look great for the Warriors, though with the return of DeMarcus Cousins imminent, there is some concern about how they will function with five All-NBA talents on the floor at once. So I’m opting to give the Warriors a Nintendo Switch preloaded with Overcooked and Overcooked 2. These are cooperative cooking games that require an intense amount of communication and teamwork in order to deliver the dishes to your customers. Mastering this game will undoubtedly prepare Curry, Durant, Thompson, Green, and Cousins for the perhaps higher stakes world of NBA action, where being able to anticipate your teammates’ needs is just as important as it is in Overcooked’s virtual kitchens.

Washington Wizards: Personality Plus at Work

The Wizards are predictably a mess, with teammates who don’t get along and a roster that is underperforming relative to expectations. It’s unclear which came first — the discontent or the losing — but either way, addressing the locker room turmoil that is always boiling just below the surface couldn’t hurt. Accordingly, I would like to get them several copies of Florence Littauer and Rose Sweet’s book, Personality Plus at Work: How to Work Successfully With Anyone in the hopes that this helps them get along with each other, leading to more on-court success. I have not read it myself, but it has a 4.5-star average rating on Amazon, which seems promising.

Chicago Bulls: A money management course

The Bulls have made a lot of financial missteps in recent years, though perhaps none as egregious as giving Jabari Parker a $20 million dollar per year deal this past offseason, especially considering he’s already out of the team’s rotation. I would like to give team executives Gar Forman and John Paxson a money management course so they could learn how to avoid such deals in the future. Of course, there’s really no incentive for them to improve considering the absolutely insane job security they somehow have, but hey, I have to try.

Denver Nuggets: A top-notch first aid kit

The Nuggets are currently dealing with an absolutely devastating spate of injuries, leaving them without Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Isaiah Thomas, and Michael Porter, Jr. For Christmas, I would like to give them a very good first aid kit, in the hopes that it can help get these players back on the court as soon as possible. Injuries are a natural part of the NBA season, but they suck and I hate them and I wish they would go away. The league is so much better when players like Millsap and Harris are healthy and ready to go so while I do enjoy seeing what injured players are wearing on the bench, I’d much rather just see them play.

Oklahoma City: Some competent 3-point shooters

Despite being third in the Western Conference, the Thunder have only the 20th best offense in the league and are currently last in 3-point percentage and just 27th in 3-pointers made. Their league-leading defense is certainly enough to win them plenty of games, but a reliable shooter, or three, would be great for them and just what they need to make them look like a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. They do hopefully have Andre Roberson coming back from injury in the near future, but that only promises to exacerbate the disparity between defensive greatness and offensive stagnation so this gift appears to be precisely what they need.

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Hanging over the heads of the Pelicans franchise is the upcoming expiration of Anthony Davis’ contract in the summer of 2020, meaning that the franchise could lose the best player they’ve had since Chris Paul for nothing. Despite their first-round playoff victory last season, the team has not been particularly inspiring to start things off this year and is desperate to find a way for Davis to fall in love with the city and the franchise so that he’ll be more likely to stay. And what would be more likely to do this than the best novel ever written about the city, John Kennedy Toole’s hilarious and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, which recounts the mishaps and hijinks of Ignatius J. Reilly. I’m not sure if Davis is much of a reader, but if he is, few things could turn him on to the charms of New Orleans that he may have missed quite like this great book.

New York Knicks: Just an absolute ton of cash

James Dolan was quoted in a recent interview with Ian O’Connor that he’d be open to selling the Knicks for the right price, so I’d like to give him a boatload of cash to just go away in the hopes that, in his absence, the Knicks could finally become a consistently competent, relevant team for the first time in many, many years. Plus, let’s be honest here, Jimmy D would almost certainly be happier singing underwhelming blues covers than he would be running the Knicks — somehow everyone seems to know this except for Dolan himself.

Dallas Mavericks: Slovene lessons

After a stellar start to his rookie season, it’s abundantly clear that Luka Doncic is the future of the franchise. With that in mind, it would really make sense for teammates and others in the organization to accommodate him and make the 19-year-old Slovenian feel as comfortable as possible, and what would be a better way to do that than learning to literally speak his language? Just imagine how pleasant being greeted by Dirk Nowitzki or DeAndre Jordan in Slovene would be.

Atlanta Hawks: Ingmar Bergman’s cinema

In honor of the 100th birthday of the legendary film director, Ingmar Bergman, the Criterion Collection is releasing a massive box set featuring 39 of his films, which is bound to be a great gift for any cinephile on your gift list. The Hawks’ DeAndre Bembry is a noted movie lover, one who will occasionally solicit recommendations from followers on Instagram, and while his thoughts on the Swedish auteur are unknown, Persona, the Seventh Seal, and several other of Bergman’s films are must watches for all film fans. 39 movies may seem like overkill, but with the Hawks already out of playoff contention, Bembry and his teammates will likely have plenty of time to kill starting in mid-April so the amount of content here should be the furthest thing from an issue for them.

Memphis Grizzlies: the boygenius EP

This joint release by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus was one of the best of 2018, with my only legitimate complaint being that I wish it were longer. These three artists have tremendous chemistry together, yet still manage to retain the best of their individual voices as well, never losing themselves as part of the whole. Also, Julien Baker is a national treasure. I have no reason to really believe this, but I could definitely see Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. enjoying this record, perhaps with the last track, “Ketchum, ID,” which plaintively displays a yearning for green pastures, where one can rest and find peace, meaning a little extra to them as they edge ever closer to the end of their careers.

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat: A new and expansive Amnesty Clause

The amnesty clause was a part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which basically gave every team in the NBA a do-over on one contract, allowing them to wipe that player from their books. While almost every franchise would like the chance to do that agin, few would benefit from such an opportunity more than Portland and Miami who are playing players such as Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner, Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Johnson anywhere from $10 to $27 million for the next two to three seasons. It’s not ideal and has hamstrung both teams, but especially the Heat who are currently outside the playoff race in the East. Assuming no such gift is feasible, at least the bulk of these contracts expire in 2020 so that’s something.

Indiana Pacers: Tyreke Evans the ability to finish at the rim

The Pacers did not make any big splashes in free agency this offseason, though they did sign Tyreke Evans to a one year deal in the hopes he could provide them with scoring off the bench, but despite his taking nearly half of his shots at the rim, he is making just 41 percent of them, well below the league average of 57.8 percent in that area. If Evans could make even a league average percentage at the rim, it would be a huge boon for the Pacers, providing them with a solid playmaker and scorer in those times when Victor Oladipo is off the floor.

Philadelphia 76ers: For Markelle Fultz to be healthy and well

The saga of Markelle Fultz has only gotten stranger and more mysterious with the recent diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome. He has not played for the team in nearly a month and is currently undergoing physical therapy in the hopes that he will be able to play without pain and regain his lost shot. It’s unclear if physical therapy is enough to heal whatever ails Fultz or if he needs something more, but whatever it is, I hope that he gets it and that the 76ers soon have the services of Fultz, and that he looks like the future star they thought they were drafting in 2017.

Phoenix Suns: The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

Albert Camus, the Nobel Prize winning author, once wrote an essay entitled “The Myth of Sisyphus,” which attempts to answer the question of why we should choose to live in spite of the absurdity of existence by examining the Greek myth of Sisyphus, which tells of a king who was punished by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill, which would then roll back down, making him repeat this futile act for all eternity. Camus ultimately concludes that since “The struggle itself is enough to fill [one’s] heart… one must imagine Sisyphus happy.” This essay may be of use to the Phoenix Suns who are currently struggling through one of the most discouraging seasons in recent memory. They are 29th in offense, 25th in defense, and their array of young players is not really coalescing as hoped. Perhaps reading Camus may help them to find happiness in the struggle of a long and hopeless season, allowing them to endure their sure to be many losses with dignity, preparing them for better times to come.

Sacramento Kings: A summer vacation package, but one that’s refundable

I was originally planning to give the Kings a nice vacation package for after the season, so they could watch the playoffs in peace, enjoying a respite from the long grind of another arduous, losing season characterized by dysfunction and disappointment. Yet they’ve surprised me and most NBA fans by so far this year and are currently tied for 8th in the West with a 16-14 record, meaning that a playoff appearance is an actual possibility. If they do make the postseason, it would be their first trip tot he playoffs since 2006. With that in mind, I’m still going to give them that nice vacation package, but I’ll just make sure the tickets are refundable just in case.

Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Utah Jazz: The ability to start a season strong

Last season, the Jazz started the season 19-28 before rallying to finish 29-6, eventually earning the No. 5 seed in the West and defeating the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. This season, despite being picked by many to be in the upper echelon of teams in the Western Conference, the Jazz have started off slowly yet again, being just 14-17 thus far. While this gift will not help this this year, the ability to start the season well will certainly help them moving forward, keeping them from having to dig themselves out of a massive hole next season as they had to last season, and will have to do again this season if they hope to make the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs: Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind

Things aren’t looking great for the Spurs’ twenty-one season streak of making the playoffs. They are currently on pace to win less than fifty games for just the second time since the turn of the century and do not look like the Spurs we’ve come to know as they rank 24th in the league defensively, hampered in large part by the loss of Dejounte Murray due to an ACL tear. The Spurs dynasty is accordingly wrestling with its own mortality, with the specter of death that haunts all good things — much like Bob Dylan seemed to be on his 1997 record, Time Out of Mind. Indeed, for the Spurs, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”

Minnesota Timberwolves: A player-friendly coach

At times, Minnesota’s young talent appears to wilt under the gaze of their notoriously difficult coach, Tom Thibodeau, whose demanding and gruff style seems like a relic of a previous time as more player-friendly coaches are the norm today. Perhaps Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins would benefit from a coach who seems attentive to their needs and particular styles rather than one who appears intent on fitting them into preassigned roles that are not necessarily suited for them, a coach who prizes player development instead of paying mere lip service to it, a coach who is not continuing to rely on schemes from nearly a decade ago. If the Timberwolves hope for their roster to reach its potential, such a gift may be needed sooner rather than later.

Charlotte Hornets: A running mate for Kemba

Kemba Walker has been playing lights out this season, carrying the Hornets to playoff contention all by himself. Only two other Hornets are averaging double digits, and one of those players is shooting 38 percent from the field so, needless to say, they could really use another star player alongside him so he is not forced to waste his prime on a team whose highest aspiration is mediocrity. Unfortunately, since the team does not many desirable assets, the Hornets do not have a clear path to acquiring a running mate for Walker, hence why it has to be a gift — and gifts do not apply to the salary cap.

Brooklyn Nets: A time machine

The Nets are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, with all seven of the Nets’ top scorers being 27 or younger. Unfortunately, though, perhaps their best player, Caris LaVert, is currently recovering from a dislocated foot with no timetable for their return. They are not playing for much this year apart from development and draft placement, as they own their draft pick for the first time in what seems like decades, so a time machine would at least accelerate the process, getting them closer to contention, or at least playoff contention, than they are currently. Of course, if they had access to a time machine, maybe they would instead opt to just go back and avoid trading so many draft picks in the first place.

Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Milwaukee Bucks: Tickets to the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Bucks appear to be in pretty good shape, meaning they don’t have a ton of obvious needs here, and plus, a little high culture never hurt anyone.

Houston Rockets: Seasons one and two of The Good Place

The Good Place is a very good television series that is about four people who die and go to the Good Place, but [SPOILER] then discover that they were in the bad place all along, which kind of seems analogous to what’s going on with the Rockets this year, and perhaps watching it will help the team gain some clarity about their current situation. After these characters discover they are not in the Good Place, they try to figure out how to avoid being eternally tortured in the Bad Place, hoping to try to figure out how to enter the actual Good Place, which sounds exactly like what Houston will be trying to do the rest of this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Lincoln logs

Cleveland currently has the worst defense in the league, allowing over 116 points per 100 possessions. Perhaps a building set of Lincoln Logs could help them learn the basic task of building a wall so they can potentially stop offenses at least a bit better going into 2019 than they have so far this season.

Orlando: Tickets to Disney Land

I mean, it’s right there and though I’ve never been, it looks fun and I’d imagine it could be a good way to build team spirit, which the Magic will need plenty of if they fail to make the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.

Detroit Pistons: A one-year subscription to the Second Arrangement

Kelly Dwyer is one of the better and more idiosyncratic basketball writers around, filling his writing with a ton of knowledge, strange cultural references, and his daily Beyond the Boxscore column makes me wonder if he’s able to manipulate time and space on a daily basis in order to not only watch this much basketball, but also write so much about it. Any hoops fan would be sure to enjoy a subscription to his substack page, the Second Arrangement, and I’m sure the players and staff of the Detroit Pistons are no exception.

Next: Meet the 2018 NBA 25-under-25

Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors: Scented candles

All four of these teams appear to be in pretty decent shape as they would each make the playoffs if the season ended today, so there’s really nothing pressing that they need that I can think of. Also, scented candles are just what you get everyone when you’re tired of doing your Christmas shopping, but don’t tell them I said that.

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