5 Up, 5 Down: At this rate, we won’t have any All-Stars left to play the game


5 Up, 5 Down is a biweekly column featuring the best and worst from the NBA.

How do we even start this week? There’s too much to cover, and I got snubbed from the All-Star Game yet again. Expect to see me send out many crying laugh emojis over Twitter as my compatriots get picked before me as replacements.

It seems like we’ve been trudging along toward the trade deadline since I ran out of candy from my stocking. Winter is typically like this where I live in the Pacific Northwest, but the experience has been worsened by the fact we’ve had extreme highs and extreme lows atypical for this part of the NBA season. I assume this is because the regular season heard us talking about how the offseason in the NBA is so much better and decided to do something about it. So without further ado.

5 Up

Blake Griffin got traded to Detroit, of all places

This is like a trade that happens between two teams you don’t control in NBA 2k around six years into a MyGM mode career. It’s weird, and insane, and would totally never happen in real life. But here we are, and Griffin is now a member of the Detroit Pistons. There’s lots of early talk about how this could be a path to mediocrity for Detroit and that it’s probably better than the alternative. I’d be OK with that. I’d just like this to avoid the most likely scenario, where an aging Griffin doesn’t play more than 60 games each year and it becomes very sad.

LeBron James isn’t likely to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer. Perhaps the Pistons can shed some cap space and get LeBron to head to the Motor City? I’m just looking at all our options here in our new video game existence.

The Atlanta Hawks have Hot Sauce from And 1 Mixtape dropping fans

The Hawks have been doing this for some time and these videos just keep getting better and better. I know people like the Big 3 but maybe we should all just be getting back into And 1?

Joel Embiid: All-Star

Look, there was a time where it seemed likely that Embiid would never play enough games to give us a glimpse of what he could be. He was ripe to be another Greg Oden, so getting him into an All-Star Game was paramount. He’s now there, and he deserves to be. This is one of the best things to happen, even if Philadelphia fans are slowly becoming obnoxious after years of ineptitude.

Whatever happened with that Nikola Mirotic trade

So by last count, the Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans thing fell through because he smartly didn’t want to give up some guaranteed money via a player option. That’s the right move, but the fun part is understanding that if newsbreakers were tweeting that the deal was getting done, it must have been some kind of late-game shock to have Mirotic refuse. He’s been just sitting there as the most obvious candidate for a trade for months, and we got so close to seeing him switch jerseys. This league, man.

David Blatt’s troll backfiring

A bunch of people on Twitter and in comment sections didn’t quite seem to understand the circumstances when former Cavaliers coach David Blatt opened his mouth and served himself up on a platter for the basketball world to see. Cleveland had just let an opponent score 148 points, and so Blatt — coaching an all-star game — decided to say on TV that he hoped his own team did not let that happen to them. His opponent then scored 151. Blatt’s comment, meanwhile, was unprovoked. It was also at an All-Star game, so Blatt knew the chances of being hoist by his own petard.

“It was at an all-star game, it didn’t count!”

Exactly. That was why it was so funny.

5 Down

Everyone is injured

Hide your wife, hide your kids, they’re injuring everybody out here. Just since I started this column Kevin Love decided to up and break his hand. He’s going to miss the All-Star Game. John Wall is getting knee surgery. DeMarcus Cousins is done for the year. If you were an NBA GM right now you’d be considering what brand of packing tape to buy so you could bubble wrap your franchise star up until March. Someone pause the game, open the menu, and turn injuries to OFF.

We didn’t get to watch the All-Star Game draft

Look, it’s understandable from the NBPA’s part that they’d like to protect the reputations and feelings of their players. It’s just that from a basketball fan perspective, that’s undeniably wack. Save for Joel Embiid, each one of these NBA All-Stars is making huge money in team salary alone. That’s not even counting endorsements. Like that gif of Woody Harrelson wiping his tears with money from “Zombie Land” any player getting selected last for the All-Star Game should have his feelings assuaged by millions of dollars. This is also why I never pay attention to the “X player is a TOUGH GUY MURAGHH” talk. Ok, so are they tough guys or are they too sensitive to get picked last in gym for the first time since 5th grade?

Plus, if they aren’t going to televise it, why even have a draft? Nobody is asking for the teams to get mixed up between conferences. That’s not the way the All-Star Game becomes more competitive or interesting. Who told the NBA that? Here I am, all worked up over the worst event during All-Star Weekend. Do we have any self-destructive Cavaliers news to calm me down?

The Cavaliers want NBA players to give them money

Cleveland reportedly had a deal fall through for George Hill because Hill wouldn’t agree to a potential buyout should LeBron James leave this summer. Good for Hill. As Dan pointed out earlier, this has happened before. Ty Lawson did this very thing when he went from Denver to Houston, losing $12 million in the process. If Cleveland doesn’t want to pay the price, they don’t get the spoils. Asking players to straight up give them back money they owe under contract is ridiculous.

The whole Kawhi Leonard fiasco

I don’t even know what to think about this one. I don’t put a lot of credence into the back-and-forth about Leonard wanting out of San Antonio. The first guy to say he wants off the Spurs was LaMarcus Aldridgea notoriously finicky star — and even then Gregg Popovich could convince him to stay. Leonard wanting to leave the guy who turned him into an NBA Finals MVP is crazy. Injuries and pain can aggravate your emotional state, but I just don’t buy it. Not yet. More concerning is that Leonard’s injuries are racking up and that he’s still not playing. Again, I’m not concerned for his long-term health just yet, but the fact that San Antonio could squander a Top 4 seed in the West if they don’t get him back would be a major blow as the Spurs’ championship window begins to finally close.

The All-Star Game winners get more money now (but it doesn’t matter)

The NBA upped the money to the winners of the All-Star Game by $50,000, and cut the losing money in half. First of all, this isn’t that much money to top-level stars. Joel Embiid would probably dig $100,000 but that’s only 12 minutes of regular season play to LeBron James. This needs to either be a whole extra grip of cash, or there needs to be a catch to it. The NBPA stands in the way of most of the fun options — like having the losers pay money out of their own pockets right there on the floor after the game — but there are some left.

What about bonuses for each block? $15,000 per swipe ought to do it. Or statistical team bonuses for multiple key defensive indicators. Keeping true shooting percentage under a level equals $100,000 to each player, say, and they could stack. With all that sweet gambling money coming into the NBA in the future, the league could afford it.

All I know is you can’t give NBA players what amounts to student loan debt after taxes get taken out. NBA players have watches more expensive than that.