The NBA Bag, Volume 1

Kevin Love

Editor’s note: Every Wednesday from now until the final day of the regular season (April 16), I am cranking out an all-NBA mailbag for the Triangle with a 5,000-word limit. If you want to send me an NBA email, send it here and stick “NBA Bag” in the subject heading. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: I dare you to write an NBA mailbag. And I double-dare you not to mention the Harden trade in that NBA mailbag.
—Randy, Norman, Oklahoma

SG: You’re on!

Q: Diehard T-Wolves fan here. Since everyone claims Love is leaving after next year, I am trying to come up with a trade that makes sense. Love for Thibs, Noah, Butler and a pick, who says no?
—Paul, San Francisco

SG: You can’t stick Thibs in Minnesota and have him try to get Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin to play defense. That’s un-American. The Thibs laughing GIF will become his full-time personality until he’s institutionalized.

Anyway, here’s the best case for keeping Love: We just watched what happened in Portland, when Unhappy LaMarcus Aldridge turned into Happy LaMarcus Aldridge as soon as the Blazers started winning.

On the other hand, Minnesota hasn’t shown Love anything for six years other than “We’re a complete mess behind the scenes,” “Congratulations, you’re the new KG circa 2005” and “If you want to go down as the best player who never played in a playoff game, you should definitely stay here.”

I think they have to trade him. Only four trades make sense. Any Love trade should happen before June’s draft — one year before Love can opt out of his contract — and it can’t happen without his wink-wink consent. For instance, you can’t trade him to Detroit for Andre Drummond and draft picks; he wouldn’t want a front-office situation that’s just as screwy as the one in Minnesota. But you could trade him to these four places:

Location No. 1: Phoenix
I gotta admit, the thought of Love playing run-and-gun in Jeff Hornacek’s entertaining offense with Dragic and Bledsoe is downright titillating. But this would be the ultimate quarters-and-dimes-for-a-two-dollar-bill trade: something like Alex Len (last year’s no. 5 pick), three 2014 first-rounders (from Indy, Washington and Phoenix, all top-12 protected at least) and a protected Minnesota first-rounder that Phoenix already owns (thanks, David Kahn!) for Love and J.J. Barea’s Expiring-in-2015 Contract. That’s about 60 cents on the dollar since there’s no lottery pick in the deal other than Len … and he might be the Ukrainian Meyers Leonard for all we know. I am lukecold. Odds of this happening: 12-to-1.

Location No. 2: Los Angeles
Love went to UCLA, dates an actress, lives here during the summers, the whole thing. If there’s a smart way to get him here, he’s coming. Cross the Clippers off for now because they’d never trade Blake Griffin when he’s playing this well. The Lakers? That’s far-fetched since they have no trade assets, no present and no future beyond “We have a lottery pick!” and “People love playing here!” Only one scenario works: a three-teamer in which Memphis gets Pau Gasol (sign-and-trade to reunite the Gasol hermanos), Minnesota gets Zach Randolph (expires in 2015) and L.A.’s unprotected lottery picks in 2014 and 2017, and the Lakers get Love. That’s 80 cents on the dollar, especially if that Lakers pick falls in the 3-to-5 range.

Problem No. 1: It’s too hard to pull off three-teamers. Problem No. 2: If I’m the Lakers, I’d rather keep my 2014 pick and cross my fingers that I can sign Love in 2015 (and his Olympics buddy Kevin Durant one year later). Problem No. 3: Because of the Stepien Rule, the Lakers can’t trade that 2014 pick right away because they already traded away their 2015 pick (to Phoenix). They’d have to make the 2014 pick, sign that player, THEN trade him. (Highly unrealistic.) And Problem No. 4: If you’re Love, why trade one mess for another? Why not wait a year? Don’t worry, Lakers fans, the NBA is rigging the 2014 lottery for you. You’ll be fine. Odds of this happening: 15-to-1.

Location No. 3: Chicago
Hmmmm … what about Taj Gibson, Charlotte’s 2014 first-rounder, their own 2014 first-rounder and the rights to Nikola Mirotic for Love? Even without a lottery pick, that’s 75 cents on the dollar for Minnesota. And if Chicago made the deal AND amnestied Carlos Boozer, then assuming the cap goes up next season, it’d have enough cap space left to throw at someone like Lance Stephenson or … (wait for it) … Luol Deng! INTRIGUING! Noah, Love, Rose, Butler and Deng/Lance? Here come the Bulls!

The problem: There’s no sexy piece in that trade for Minnesota. How do you sell that baby to your fans? “We replaced our franchise player with two non-lottery picks we’ll definitely screw up, an unknown foreigner and Taj Gibson! GET YOUR SEASON TICKETS NOW!” I can’t see it happening unless Love’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, makes it clear that they’re only OK’ing a trade to Chicago. Odds of it happening: 4-to-1.

Location No. 4: Boston
Like Love in Minnesota, Rondo can leave Boston in July 2015. And like Love, you can’t trade him unless it’s a team that (a) has assets to give back, and (b) could entice him into staying. Harder than you think. Houston and Dallas don’t have the assets. New York DEFINITELY doesn’t have the assets. A “Rondo to Sacramento for Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams’s expiring and the right for Boston to swap picks once in 2014, 2015 or 2016” deal makes sense on paper — and was seriously discussed last week, too — until everyone remembered that you’d have a better chance of seeing Rondo host an ABC late-night talk show of him playing Connect Four with celebrities called Connect Rondo than you would of seeing him spend the rest of his prime, five years, in Sacramento with Boogie Cousins.

So, what do you do? Well, aren’t you better off keeping Rondo — one of the league’s 15 to 20 best players when healthy — and finding him an All-Star teammate? Enter Kevin Love. They did it in 2007 with Paul Pierce and they could easily do it again: by paying a premium price for a second All-Star, suddenly it becomes MUCH easier to get that third All-Star. The Celtics couldn’t have convinced KG to play with just Pierce … but Ray Allen and Paul Pierce? The rest was history.

OK, so what happens if Boston throws its shamrock-shaped Asset Penis on the table and trumps everybody? Let’s say the Celtics lose the 2014 lottery and end up with a pick between no. 3 and no. 5. They could send that pick to Minny along with Atlanta’s first-rounder (probably ending up in the 13-to-18 range) and their 2015 Clippers pick for Love. And they could throw in Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans’s immediately waivable deal to make the contracts work. Oh, and if Minnesota were more interested in one or more of those future Brooklyn picks that Boston owns (unprotected in 2016 and 2018, pick swap in 2017), the Celts could discuss that, too. Remember, they have a WAR CHEST of picks: 10 in five years, including Brooklyn’s draft right as they’re entering the “Deron and Joe are old and Brook Lopez wears a suit to every game” phase of the Prokhorov era. You team up Love and Rondo and suddenly it’s 10 times easier to land that third All-Star. (You reading, Carmelo?) And yes, that deal could potentially net the Timberwolves three top-15 picks in a monster draft. Odds of it happening: 3-to-1.

The big picture: If Love is loyal to a fault, he’ll stay in Minnesota. If he wants to jump to the Lakers, he should wait a year, anyway. If he wants to play in a big market and contend for a title, Chicago makes sense … unless he thinks Derrick Rose will never be the same. But if this were a poker table, the Celtics would have the biggest stack of chips right now. If any current NBA player appreciates stuff like “Celtic Pride,” “That’s a great organization that looks out for its dudes” and “wearing the same jersey that Russell and Bird wore,” it’s Kevin Love.

My best guess: I think Love rides it out in Minnesota, then jumps to the Lakers in 2015. But I wouldn’t rule out the Celtics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Q: I know it doesn’t fit your “Worst 30 Contracts” criteria necessarily (other than the title of the article) but doesn’t Kevin Love’s contract deserve a mention? Not signing him to that 5th year so you could save that hammer for Rubio was a monumentally bad decision that is likely to cost us a chance to resign him. Especially because the contract gave him an early out. Its unbelievably bad. It will keep the stench of Kahn on us for years to come …
—Steve, Coeur d’Alene

SG: You know what’s amazing about that one? That was an atrocious decision at the time … and that’s when we thought Ricky Rubio was good! Now that Rubio has established himself as the worst shooter in modern NBA history, it has to go down as David Kahn’s single worst decision. Yeah, even worse than taking two straight point guards in 2009 without making sure either of them was named “Stephen Curry.” What an abominable talent evaluation. Did anyone other than Kahn, at any point in the past three years, believe that Ricky Rubio had a higher ceiling as an NBA player than Kevin Love? It’s staggering. For old time’s sake …

Q: Did Willie Burton lose the trophy for “Most Random Player to Score 50 in an NBA Game” to Terrence Ross? I’m waiting for Contract Year Rodney Stuckey’s 50 point game. It’s coming.
—Tony N., Richmond, Virginia

SG: Nope. Willie still has the trophy — he and Tony Delk mail it back and forth every three months. And Ross will have a much better career than Willie. But Ross did earn himself pole position in this year’s “WTF Box Score” award race, which raises the question … shouldn’t we be able to vote on things like this season’s “Best In-Game Dunk,” “Greatest Regular-Season Game” and “Craziest WTF Box Score” just like we vote on the MVP and Rookie of the Year?

Off that same idea: Why doesn’t the NBA have an awards night? What is it waiting for? Throw it two nights before the draft in New York. Why not? Even if it leads to one wonky trade between two drunk owners or GMs, it will be worth it. Think of the groupies! Think of the outfits! Think of the paternity suits! Also, what chain of events would have to happen for Kevin Hart NOT to host the NBA Awards? And what are the odds he’d tell a joke that would lead to Shaquille O’Neal being slumped over the guy next to him for three minutes straight? If I had one dumb wish for 2014 other than the Lakers inexplicably making Kobe’s contract twice as long, it would be for the NBA Awards to happen.

Q: I was working valet in the Hollywood Hills for a bit for parties thrown by (Name Deleted). I didn’t know who he was, but knew he had a lot of Playboy Bunnies at his parties and was a very generous tipper. The man is mind numbingly rich, which explains all the nice cars I got to park and celebrities I got to briefly meet. Rich people with rich friends and that. The nicest car I ever parked, by far, however, was some form of Ferarri I had never seen before. When I went to open the door, a tall, graceful, chiseled African American stepped out and asked me to keep his car close. I am terrible with facial recognition but figured, yeah, this guy is SOMEONE. So after parking the car, I noticed a dry cleaner stub, picked it up, and read “G. Arenas”. WHAT THE F??? GILBERT??? Has he played basketball since Mad Men began? Oh God, how many guns are in the trunk right now? Why is he in LA mid season? Is he still on the Magic? Is he on any roster? Is David Stern paying him to go away? Does it make any sense that, 30 minutes later when Jared Dudley showed up to see if Gilbert was still there, JD3’s car is a 1/8 of what Gilbert’s costs? There is a Mount Rushmore of Keep Getting Dem Checks. It is four Gilbert’s.
—Brandon, Los Angeles

SG: “Welcome back to the 2014 NBA Awards. Our next two presenters have something in common — she always stays in the shot, and he nearly shot someone. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Kate Upton and Gilbert Arenas!”

Q: On Feb. 21st, at about 1 am est., Jermaine O’Neal, a Keep Getting Dem Checks 1st ballot hall of famer, MADE. A. PLAY. In crunch time. His textbook “keep get dem checks guy routine” followed. First, the obligatory ‘stare into the crowd to make yourself look cool while not moving,’ look which died in popularity 10 years (O’Neal’s pre KGDC days). Then, knowing the camera will stay on him following Houston’s timeout, he walks out of the group huddle 5 seconds early and busts out ANOTHER ‘stare into the crowd while walking slowly to soak in the moment and look cool on TV’ look. This is the stuff of a KGDC legend! As a man with NBA ties, can you to get a copy of this video to Marcus Camby, Richard Jefferson, and all of the other KGDC guys so they know how to act the next time they make a play … (thinking) … IF they ever make a play?
—Eric M.

SG: You left out one part of the KGDC-made-a-play arsenal — teammates flocking to congratulate him with semi-surprised, semi-insulting “I can’t believe you just did that, we were just talking in the locker room yesterday about how little you give a shit!” looks on their faces. I always enjoy that part.

Speaking of Jermaine, there were four NBA certainties heading toward the 2014 trade deadline: (1) The Cavs would forget to deal Anderson Varejao before he got hurt (happened); (2) the Knicks would somehow make their fans deeply, profoundly unhappy (happened); (3) OKC would cheap out at the deadline, then pretend afterward that it tried to do something but it fell through (happened); and (4) the Warriors would pass on getting a backup big man because Jermaine O’Neal duped them into thinking they didn’t need one, only to watch him get injured within two weeks of the deadline passing (about to happen).

Q: Kevin Durant’s step back jumper has to be one of, if not the most unguardable move in NBA history. You just have to hope he misses. Can you think of anything more unstoppable? I tried for a solid hour with three friends and neither of us could come up with anything.
—John Lezzi, Richmond, Virginia

SG: Um …

Q: Here’s a quick list of the things that make me want to give Chris Grant a jab to the kidney:

1. Every Jarrett Jack contested two.
2. Every time Tristian Thompson gets an offensive rebound only to miss an easy bunny or get his shot blocked.
3. Every time Mike Brown is shown on the sideline.
4. Every time I get a SportsCenter alert notifying me that Anderson Vaejao will be sitting out today’s game.
5. Every time Luol Deng gets that look on his face like he’s seriously considering what wrong he committed to end up in Cleveland.
6. Every time Mike Brown is shown in the huddle.
7. Every time Alonzo Gee takes a shot.
8. Every time Anthony Bennett is shown wheezing with hands on hips.
9. Every time Mike Brown takes a timeout to draw up a play with 4 seconds left in a seven point game.
10. Every time that play drawn up takes 4 seconds and ends in a Jarrett Jack contested two.
—Jordan, Bradenton, Florida

SG: How did you leave out “Every 20-rebound game from Andre Drummond”? And where was “Every near-triple-double by Victor Oladipo”? By the way, you don’t need to give Grant a jab to the kidney — not after Adrian Wojnarowski removed his kidneys two weeks ago. How many times do you think Grant typed an angry email to Woj that included the lines, “How can you not mention that I fleeced the Clips for the pick that led to Kyrie Irving? WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST ME?” before deciding not to send it? Ten? Twenty? Thirty?

Q: I’m sure you heard that the Washington Professional Basketball Team put Miami Heat fans on a “Bandwagon Cam” at the game in DC tonight. I cannot tell you how happy this made me. My question is simple: Why doesn’t every other arena in the NBA do this???
—Clark Gerber, Provo, UT

SG: I’m demanding it. People running the video screens for the other 28 teams — let’s get this done. You see Heat fans or Thunder fans at your arena in good seats, you throw them on the Bandwagon Cam during a timeout. Just do it. It will be a bigger hit than the Kiss Cam. (Thinking.) Actually, nothing will ever be a bigger hit than the Kiss Cam. ABC should just stop launching new shows and broadcast the Kiss Cam in prime time for 10 hours a week. What would you rather watch — a new drama starring Christian Slater and Steve Zahn, or the Kiss Cam?

Q: Is Adam Silver the best commissioner in professional sports by default now?
—Ryan D., Westlake Village, California

SG: It might not even be by default. I have high hopes for the Silver era — huge basketball fan, smart thinker, not afraid to take chances, not afraid to think outside the box. The NBA definitely got a little stale these last few years. Adam won’t be afraid to innovate. (Don’t hold it against him that he went to Duke. I know it’s hard.) A good example: Mark Cuban’s gushing quote that “I think he’s taken some great steps on the officiating. There’s been more changes in 15 days, or whatever it is, than I saw in 14 years.” Praise from Mark Cuban! We’re in good hands here.

Q: Can you please explain why you place Todd Day as the least likeable Celtic of all time? Of all time? You’re telling me in nearly 70 years of history there’s no one easier to hate than Day? Just because Todd liked to shoot and was sure of himself and once participated in one of the weakest attempts at fighting ever during college, doesn’t mean he should be the least likeable Celtic of all time! Please explain!!
—Todd, Arkansas

SG: Could this be Todd writing the email???? I screwed up … I totally forgot that Rasheed Wallace was the least likable Celtic of all time, and that I wrote a whole column about this just four years ago. In my defense, I blocked that out of my mind because we had to play Rasheed 35 minutes in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals after Perkins went down. And this was at a point in Rasheed’s career when you wouldn’t have wanted to count on him to walk slowly on a sidewalk for 35 minutes, much less play 35 minutes in a do-or-die basketball game. If I ever wrote a running retro diary of this game, the last paragraph would be me hopping into my car, driving to Staples Center and ramming my car into the Kareem statue at 110 mph.

Anyway, Todd Day didn’t pass or play defense, he showed up teammates on the court, he’d gun for his own stats no matter what the situation was, and he made the mistake of tying Larry Legend’s “most points in a quarter” record in 1995. This was also post–Reggie Lewis, post–Big Three, post–Boston Garden, and after M.L. Carr had ruined our salary cap, when the Celts seemed screwed for the rest of the decade and Todd Day symbolized everything that was going to hell. So it wasn’t totally his fault. More bad timing than anything. My least favorite Celtics ever were Sheed, then Day, Vin Baker, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Fred Roberts, Mark Blount and Jermaine O’Neal in some order. Speaking of Sidney …

Q: In 2013’s NBA Trade Value column, you mentioned how Blake Griffin could be the next Sidney Wicks. However, I think the real candidate is Tyreke Evans, right? Halfway to reaching Wicks!

09-10 ppg: 20.1
10-11 ppg: 17.8
11-12 ppg: 16.5
12-13 ppg: 15.2
13-14 ppg: 12.2
—Andrew, Morgantown, West Virginia

SG: I’m worried that he dropped off too much this season. Wicks’s career was a thing of beauty — either a testament to somebody getting paid too much too soon, an indictment of someone literally losing the capacity to give a shit, a road map for how cocaine use steadily climbed in the 1970s, a perfectly designed algorithm for basketball decline, or all four of those things at once. It’s amazing.

71-72 ppg: 24.5
72-73 ppg: 23.8
73-74 ppg: 22.5
74-75 ppg: 21.7
75-76 ppg: 19.1
76-77 ppg: 15.1
77-78 ppg: 13.4
78-79 ppg: 9.8
79-80 ppg: 7.1
80-81 ppg: 6.7

Q: Fast-forward to the 34-second mark of this clip …

Who would have guessed that Footloose could have such a profound affect on the celebration in the NBA?
—Anders, Copenhagen, Denmark

SG: “What if I told you that one awkward dance moment with Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn’s brother would lead to an NBA revolution? ESPN Films presents, a 30 for 30 film, Chest to Chest — directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.”

Q: I was encouraged by Zach Lowe’s progressiveness in combining the Jason Collins and Big Baby stories in one single article instead of making a big deal about it. I for one look forward to the day when a big fat guy playing in the NBA isn’t a big deal. I think this brings us a step closer.
—Adam Tomlinson, Toronto

SG: I see what you did there. By the way, I am hearing that the Knicks considered signing Collins for two solid weeks — even checking with some of their players for their thoughts — before backing off because they worried about Collins bringing an even bigger spotlight to their already-melting-under-the-spotlight team. As always, you can count on the Knicks to do the wrong thing.

Q: In your Worst Contracts column, how could you forgot one crucial point about the Knicks and their Billups amnesty? The point: Billups could have been a free agent and the Knicks could have either let him walk or signed him for less. Instead, they picked up his 1-year option and wasted their amnesty on him when the rule was practically created to use for Amare. Although this shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the team that didn’t use the Allan Houston rule on Allan Houston.
—Jason, Boston

SG: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. James Dolan!

Q: Is it just me, or could Jimmer do to New York what Jeremy Lin did? The Kings announced they are working on a buyout today, and this coincides perfectly with Raymond Felton’s arrest. Couldn’t you see the point guard hungry Knicks pick him up and Jimmer immediately put up 23 a night with 5 threes? We’ve been waiting for Jimmer’s chance in the NBA and this is it. He could light up MSG for 2 months, become a free agent, and then Dolan could let him walk because he doesn’t want to overpay the best thing that happened to happen to New York basketball in years. This almost makes too much sense.
—Adam C., Foxborough, Massachusetts

SG: Welcome to the Jimmer Bandwagon, Adam from Foxborough! Can I get you a doughnut or a soda? It’s just us two right now. I couldn’t agree more — Jimmer in MSG almost feels scripted. Look, I’ve been on the record for three years: At some point, Jimmer is going to find the right team, he’s going to be unleashed, and the rest will be history. It’s going to happen. Either he’ll become a quality Heat Check Guy off the bench for a contender, or he’ll be drop 23 a night for a lousy team à la Dana Barros on the ’94 Sixers. But he’s going to have a moment. We WILL have Jimmer Time. You wait.

Q: What are the Vegas odds that a Dolan crony planted the guns on Felton, then tipped off NYPD so the Knicks could get out of his $3.95M contract after they couldn’t trade him? Would you say it’s better than ‘Inside Job -145?’
—Michael, Seattle

SG: Are you kidding? The Knicks can’t even figure out how to use their amnesty! They’re going to suddenly be smart enough to frame a player to get him off the cap? I’d say the odds are 16-to-1. Hey, who wants to look at Ray Felton’s suddenly ironic 2013-14 shot chart with me?


Q: After porn star Ava Devine offered to have sex with every player on the Cavs team if they made the playoffs, they won 5 in a row before tailing off. How is this not a bigger story? How would you rank the current Cavs roster, in order from least likely to most likely, to follow-up on this offer should the Cavs make the playoffs? Anthony Bennett has to be most likely, right?
—Jim, Cleveland

SG: Since it’s the NBA, I’m going with “every player is the most likely.” But I’m glad you brought this up. Lord knows I’ve made enough “God Hates Cleveland” jokes, but if the Cavs are making a crazy playoff push during that final week, can you imagine First Take right before the 82nd game?

Stephen A: I don’t care what the girl said, I don’t care how well the Cleveland Cavaliers happen to be playing right now … YOU CANNOT PROMISE SEX ACTS AS COMPENSATION FOR AN ACCOMPLISHED DEED, that is absolutely ILLEGAL! That is prostitution, Skip! The Cleveland Cavaliers CANNOT CASH IN THAT OFFER! I do not CARE if she made it, I do not CARE if she wants to deliver it, I do not CARE if she wants to keep it DISCREET! That offer has to go by the wayside. Adam Silver CANNOT allow those shenanigans in the National Basketball Association.

Skip: I’m gonna go the other way, Stephen A.

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish!

Stephen: No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Skip: Lemme finish, please.

Stephen: Go ahead.

Skip: An offer was made. Terms were set. The Cavaliers are close to achieving those terms.

Stephen: No! NO, SKIP! NO!

Skip: Ava Devine is a consenting adult. The Cavaliers are consenting adults.

Stephen: Not Anthony Bennett!

Skip: He’s 20!


Skip: He’s 20, and if he wants to have sex with Ava Devine, you can’t stop him and neither can I!


Q: Watching your B.S. Report with KD the other day, it occurred to me that he’s basically become mid ’90s Eddie Vedder. He got too popular and now he’s pushing back against the notoriety by being distant and trying to give himself the horribly faux humble nickname “The Servant.” Therefore, while he goes through this “uncomfortable in his own skin” phase, the only appropriate nickname for him is “Vitalogy”. Ah if only he was still in Seattle.
—Matt, Westminster, Colorado

SG: I’m gonna defend KD on this one — we caught him at 9:30 a.m., right after he had played a late-night game against the Lakers (and dropped 43 points), then flew a red-eye and slept for less than two hours. He was just grumpy. It happens. Normally he’s a fun interview. With that said, if we wanted to extend Matt’s analogy just for shits and giggles, then Durant’s Sonics year was definitely Mother Love Bone, the first OKC year was Mookie Blaylock, the second OKC year was the name change to Pearl Jam (when the band finally knew what it was), Year 4 was the Ten album (when everything took off), Year 5 was the NBA Finals/Time magazine cover, Year 6 was Vs. (great follow-up album, some tension/discord/injuries), and now we’re slowly morphing into Vitalogy (greatness crossed with weariness and a general longing just to do great work without all the other bullshit that comes with it). Oh, and never forget.

Q: You may not want to admit to it because of how strongly you criticized the Harden trade, but it’s starting to become lite version of 2008’s Gasol trade. Trading a star for parts seemed completely one sided at the beginning, but not as bad as guys start to develop. Mainly, I think you completely undervalued what the Thunder got and their vision as an organization.
—Tyler, Madison, Wisconsin

SG: We’ll be back on Living in Denial after these brief messages!

(Dammit! I lost the dare! Oh well, might as well keep going now.)

I gotta say — I love Thunder fans. And they spend money on their team — according to Forbes, Oklahoma City has the league’s most expensive ticket right now — which makes it even sadder when OKC cheaps out and its loyal fans just accept it. That they continue to defend the indefensible Harden trade and email me every time Jeremy Lamb or Steven Adams looks good while overlooking things like “We could have just waited a year and traded Harden last summer” or “We cheaped out at the 2014 trade deadline as always and three days later we had 39-year-old Derek Fisher trying to defend a red-hot Jamal Crawford in crunch time on national TV” makes them genuinely endearing. At least for me. I hope my kids will always love me as unconditionally as much as Thunder fans love the Thunder.

Here’s a fun game: “How One-Sided Would the Trade Have to Be for a Thunder Fan to Turn on Their Team?”

For instance, let’s say they lost the 2014 Finals and traded Durant to Phoenix for the Morris twins, Channing Frye and three first-round picks, then told their fans, “This will make us better and deeper long-term” … would the Thunder fans get mad?

What if you removed all three first-round picks and it was just Durant for the Morris twins and Frye, along with $3 million cash and 40 second-round picks through 2055? Would that push them over the edge and piss them off?

What about just Durant straight up for Channing Frye? They’d definitely get mad at that, right? I’d love to know where the line is. Because it’s clearly not “We broke up a possible dynasty and replaced the best 2-guard in basketball with a backup shooting guard, an energy guy off the bench, a non-lottery pick and one year of Kevin Martin.”

Q: I was at a bar last night with my girl friends from high school. On Tuesdays they play trivia and if you win, they cover your tab (obviously one of my friends is sleeping with the bartender, so we drink for free, anyway). All of the other team names have been something along the lines of “just the tip,” “this microphone is a dick,” “show us your tits,” and some other names that sound like someone who is wearing way too much Axe body spray came up with them. We make ours “Plz don’t ask sports questions.” One of the rounds is “doctors” – we are the ONLY TEAM to correctly answer a question about Dr. Julius Erving. Should I pretend to know less? I think that I’ve officially become undateable.
—Rachel Z, New York

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

(By the way, I’m about 200 words over. I need to work on this whole word-count thing.)

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Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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