MTL Courtside is a new monthly column highlighting basketball news, culture and more — inside and outside of the NBA bubble and Raptors mania.
The NBA returns this week — Tuesday night, to be specific — for a shortened 72-game season. Coincidentally, it will have only been 72 days since the Los Angeles Lakers took their 17th championship title inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where the league finished the season in the much talked about “NBA Bubble” at Disney World. The league hopes to repeat the bubble’s success of zero reported COVID-19 cases, with just four teams allowing attendees in extremely limited capacity.
Let’s explore some highlights of the road ahead.
Vacation, all I ever wanted! With the Canadian Government banning the Toronto Raptors from playing on home turf due to coronavirus concerns, the team will be taking their talents to southern Florida and beginning their season in Tampa Bay.
Aside from these logistical challenges, our nation’s team also faces the struggle of finding their footing after losing star centres Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, respectively. This will mean an increased role for Montreal’s own Chris Boucher, who recently resigned with the Raps for a two-year, $13.5-million contract. Will he rise to the challenge of filling these big shoes? Will Drake’s next album be filled primarily with heartbreak songs about the team’s temporary move? Will Raptors exhibition legend Percy “Master P” Miller come back to save the franchise? All this and more on the next episode of “We the South.”
2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is staying put in Milwaukee. The Greek Freak has committed to small-market Bucks with a supermax extension worth $228-million. This comes as a surprise to many, as the team’s management failed to make any major plays in the offseason to secure some stronger players around Antetokounmpo, with the exception of 2020 Teammate of the Year Jrue Holiday. It is commendable to see the young star remaining with the Bucks, who are looking their strongest since the Ray Allen and Sam Cassell era of the early 2000s. And hey, $45.6-million a year probably doesn’t hurt as well!
Speaking of gigantic contracts, James Harden, the $44.3-million-dollar man wants out of Houston. Unhappy All-Stars shifting the trade pendulum is nothing new. From Wilt Chamberlain joining the Lakers in 1968 to Shaquille O’Neal leaving the Lakers in 2004, trading away once-in-a-generation talents tends to almost always be deeply unfavorable for a team. In other instances, players were denied trades and ended up powering through.
Remember when a frustrated Kobe Bryant almost went to Detroit in 2007? If such a trade had gone through, it is likely that he could have never won two more championships as he did with the Lakers, thus forever altering his legacy.
Sure, Harden is no Kobe but it’s hard to deny he is a Top 10 talent in the league. With both this and such an enormous contract, there are little to no trades that would make sense for Houston and any given team. With a new coach, new management and new superstar teammates surrounding him in H-Town, sticking to the city that has shown him nothing but love for the past eight seasons might be the Beard’s best bet.
In “Everybody get up it’s time to slam” news, a first-look teaser has been released for the LeBron James-led Space Jam 2. The promo features LBJ and newly redesigned Bugs Bunny discussing a contest in which fans can design a XBox tie-in game for the film. Toronto-born Eric Bauza adds fresh life to everyone’s favourite rabbit, replacing Billy West as Bugs’s voice. Here’s to hoping that the Tune Squad can conquer the Monstars once again and LeBron acts exponentially better than Michael Jordan. ■
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