Christmas marks the unofficial start to the NBA season, but we already have a good idea of where every team stands entering 2020. Here is a helpful list of what each team might like from Santa Claus this year.
Boston Celtics: One of those protective face masks that Rip Hamilton used to wear, except for Gordon Hayward’s entire body. Seriously, the guy broke his ankle six minutes into his Celtics career. He worked his way all the way back to All-Star form to begin this season, only to break his hand, and when he returned from that, he immediately took an uppercut to the nose.
Brooklyn Nets: A team-building trip to an escape room. This could improve communication between Kyrie Irving and the teammates who are playing inspired without him, so long as he is not trying to escape alone.
Charlotte Hornets: Relocation costs? That’d be unfair to the good people of Charlotte, again, but it is wild that the most competitive player in the history of the sport is now at the helm of one of its most helpless franchises. Maybe some new jeans is all Michael Jordan really needs for a fresh look at his organization.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A digital picture frame that just replays still pictures of the franchise’s 2016 championship run on a continuous loop, because it could be a long time before Northeast Ohio raises another generational talent who actually wants to play for the Cavaliers and make them relevant again.
Dallas Mavericks: A unicorn grooming kit. Luka Doncic has already established himself as a rare breed, but the Mavs need Kristaps Porzingis to be “a unicorn in this league” again if they want to be truly magical.
Denver Nuggets: The Hollywood 48-Hour Miracle Diet for Nikola Jokic. I know he can still drop 30 points without looking like he is lifting a finger, and he remains one of the greatest passing bigs in NBA history, but Jokic sure has looked more doughy and sluggish than usual. Here’s hoping he hasn’t raided his meat stash.
Detroit Pistons: A “Trust The Process” manual, courtesy of Sam Hinkie. If ever there were a franchise that needed a reset to restore its past glory, it’s the Pistons, who aren’t even trying to tank and still doing a decent job of it. (Credit where this idea is due, courtesy of Al Toby, our NFL editor and Detroit historian.)
Golden State Warriors: “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande. It has been an eventful year for the medical training staff of the erstwhile team of the decade. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles upon returning from a calf strain. Klay Thompson tore his ACL following a hamstring strain. Stephen Curry broke his hand. Draymond Green has been nursing finger and heel injuries. This is a good time for some reflection.
Indiana Pacers: Copies of Victor Oladipo’s R&B album. If the Pacers will not have Oladipo to inspire them on the court anytime soon, he can at least rock their souls with lyrics like, “You know I got that work, but sexin’ you my hobby,” and, “Your clothes were made in another place, but were meant to be on my floor.”
Los Angeles Clippers: A masseuse skilled in the art of Mr. Miyagi-style Reiki healing. The Bucks and Lakers may have gotten off to hotter starts this season, but I still think the Clippers will be the NBA’s toughest out come playoff time, so long as they can keep Kawhi Leonard’s thigh and Paul George’s shoulders healthy.
Los Angeles Lakers: A subscription to Hair Club For Men, because LeBron James and Alex Caruso lead the league in receding hairlines. (I’m also a client.) Or dinner with Joaquin Phoenix, because it is actually possible for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka to set up a night out with the “Joker” this time around.
Memphis Grizzlies: “The Sixth Man: A Memoir,” by Andre Iguodala. At least then the Grizzlies might finally get some leadership out of the Finals MVP, who has not yet been in Memphis since being traded there.
Miami Heat: The Workout Buddies app. Upon leaving Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia, Jimmy Butler has called out his former teammates for not working as hard as him toward a championship, despite never reaching a conference finals himself. Maybe he can finally find his training soulmate somewhere online.
Milwaukee Bucks: A Giannis Antetokounmpo extension, so the Bucks can actually breathe easy ahead of 2021 free agency, or an international fixed calendar, so Eric Bledsoe does not realize it is playoff time.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Mark Robinson, the Minnesota-based motivational speaker, magician, comedy juggler and standup comedian, which is apparently a real thing. Tom Thibodeau’s hard-edge coaching style failed to click with Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, so maybe a lighter approach will help keep them engaged on a nightly basis.
New Orleans Pelicans: A personal chef for Zion Williamson not named Emeril. The No. 1 pick entered the NBA weighing 285 pounds, the second-heaviest player behind only Boban Marjanovic, who has a full 10 inches on Williamson. The po’ boys and beignets in the Bayou can be a dangerous draw for someone who gained 100 pounds in two years of high school, so we need someone to keep the weight off those knees.
New York Knicks: A Jeff Bezos offer that Jim Dolan cannot refuse. Knicks fans do not seem to like Dolan, and Dolan does not seem to like Knicks fans. This is the best solution for everyone, one that gives Bezos the biggest NBA market among his billionaire friends, injects new hope into a desperate fanbase and grants J.D. and the Straight Shot an opportunity to tour the world unencumbered by the boos of Knicks faithful.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A subscription to Rivals.com. (Shameless promotion, I know.) Thunder GM Sam Presti now owns 15 first-round picks from now until 2026 after trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook over the summer, and he could add to that stash if he unloads more talent before the deadline. Might as well get a head start scouting that sixth-grade class right now.
Orlando Magic: A point guard. The Magic have turned to starting discarded former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz at the point, and here is hoping he is the gift that keeps on giving. Fultz certainly has made some strides after a disastrous first two seasons in the league, but there is still plenty of room for an upgrade on a depth chart that includes D.J. Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams and the immortal Josh Magette.
Philadelphia Sixers: Pop-A-Shot for Ben Simmons. No explanation necessary.
Phoenix Suns: “Reality Bites,” starring Winona Ryder. The past seven weeks have been a rude wakeup call after their 5-2 start, and the 1993 film might bring back memories of the franchise’s last Finals appearance.
Portland Trail Blazers: That Olympic Melo warmup gear. Overall, Carmelo Anthony has been a net positive since signing with the Blazers, but I think he could use a regular reminder that he is a cog in the offense, as he was on the international stage. A hyperbaric chamber for Jusuf Nurkic’s healing leg wouldn’t hurt, either.
San Antonio Spurs: More wine. And lots of it. Gregg Popovich might need an unlimited supply to get through this season.
Toronto Raptors: I assume coach Nick Nurse is just going to give everyone some gear with his personalized logo on it, but what everyone really needs is a parenting advice blog from Fred VanVleet. Since the birth of his son, Fred Jr., prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, VanVleet has transformed from a sometimes spark plug off the bench into an invaluable piece of a championship team and a borderline All-Star in the Eastern Conference. He will make his family a lot of money in 2020 free agency.
Utah Jazz: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” on vinyl. It is all the Jazz ever really want.
Washington Wizards: The amnesty clause. John Wall has not played since the day after Christmas 2018, and he is not expected to play until at least the start of the 2020-21 season, when he will be north of 30 years old and owed $133 million over the following three years. The District of Columbia deserves better.
– – – – – – –