I Hate to be the Bearer of Bad News, But Your Team Isn’t Winning an NBA Title This Year. Here’s Why

Illustration for article titled I Hate to be the Bearer of Bad News, But Your Team Isnt Winning an NBA Title This Year. Heres Why

Photo: Harry How (Getty Images)

You still upset about the headline?

You can bitch and moan all you want, but your team still ain’t winning shit. So once you’re done with your temper tantrum, I’ll happily explain why.

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You done?

Cool. Let’s go.

Boston Celtics

When last they left us: 43-21, 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? It’s amazing how much better your team becomes when it rids itself of a ball-hogging malcontent.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Did you not see Jayson Tatum ball out this season? Since graduating from Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters in 2017, the first-time All-Star has flashed the type of tantalizing potential that could elevate him into contention for MVP in the very near future. He’s that damn good. Add a seriously underrated Jaylen Brown, a revitalized Gordon Hayward and Kemba “Ballin’ Ass” Walker—minus the bum knee—and the Green Machine is primed to hurt some serious feelings in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because Paul Pierce said this: “Boston poses the best threat.” Anyone who follows the NBA knows that the Paul Pierce curse is real, so whoever he picks to win will inevitably take an L. That being said, I’d love to hear his predictions for the presidential election in November. Because if he’s leaning towards Trump emerging victorious, I already know I’ll be popping bottles that night.

Brooklyn Nets

When last they left us: 30-34, 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? By inexplicably overachieving. The Nets had every excuse on planet Earth to be the Cleveland Cavaliers, yet somehow flirted with a .500 record despite Kevin Durant never touching the court, Kyrie Irving refusing to ever pass the ball (in the grand total of 20 games he played), indecision at the center position and ballin’ ass Caris LeVert missing 25 games. Did I mention they fired their head coach too?

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because interim coach Jacque Vaughn is your brother-in-law? Because cocaine is a hell of a drug?

Why they won’t win a damn thing: “We have a job to do,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in early July. “We have to bring a team to Orlando. […] We will go down there and we will compete. That’s our jobs here.” If this sounds like someone who’s only showing up to class to present a group project that they had nothing to do with, you’d be correct. The primary reason the Nets aren’t winning jack shit this year, or any other year for that matter, is because they’re the Nets. But common sense aside, when’s the last time you saw a team win an NBA championship without five starters—Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler all opted out of attending the family reunion in Orlando—or its head coach? And Michael Beasley, who was plucked from whatever landfill his career was hiding before COVID-19 put him in a headlock, passed on joining the team too? Maaaaaaan, these niggas ain’t winning shit.

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Dallas Mavericks

When last they left us: 40-27, 7th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? By sounding the bells of war on offense. I mean, sure, they were stuck in neutral for a hot minute after Dwight Powell ruptured his Achilles, but when you have the most efficient offense in the history of ever, your season just kind of fixes itself.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because Luka Doncic is box office. Woody Harrelson already proved that white men can’t jump, but 21-year-old basketball prodigies from Ljubljana, Slovenia, can shoot from the parking lot, destroy their opponents with a robust repertoire of shifty moves and step-back jumpers and damn near average a triple-double. Kristaps Porzingis is finally returning to form after tearing his ACL in 2018 and Tim Hardaway Jr. has proven himself to be the perfect complimentary piece moving forward. He’s the ladle full of gravy to Doncic’s succulent oxtails.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because as long as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is on your roster, it’s the kiss of death. In eight NBA seasons, I’ve spent as many days on this Earth as a pregnant white woman as he’s won a playoff series. “Thou shalt not win as long as this bum ass nigga is on your squad.” It’s in the Bible somewhere. Go look.

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Denver Nuggets

When last they left us: 43-22, 3rd seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? Basically by having one of the deepest rosters in the entire league. Nikola Jokic showed up to training camp looking like he ate Oliver Miller and Jamal Murray was underwhelming as hell (his transition into an NBA superstar is looking less and less likely), but neither mattered when you can trot out and an endless conveyor belt of contributors like Will Barton, Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr.—who might very well be the future of the franchise.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Bol Bol is looking like a cheat code and Jokic surprised the entire free world when he arrived at the NBA campus in the best shape of his career. If they can get their full roster back in the fold in time for the playoffs—have you seen their short-handed lineups during these scrimmages?—they’re a popular pick for an upset or two in the Western Conference playoffs.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Ummm…who all gon’ be there? The Nuggets have been short-handed since the bubble began and are running low on bodies. Thankfully, Gary Harris and Torrey Craig joined the team on Sunday and have undergone quarantine protocols, but where the hell are Monte Morris, P.J. Dozier and Michael Porter Jr.? And if and when Porter Jr. finally joins the team, can he stay healthy? And will there be enough minutes for him? Ehhh… doubt it.

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Houston Rockets

When last they left us: 40-24, 6th in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? By being unconventional. Not only did they throw caution to the wind by hitching their wagon to a pair of ball-dominant guards, but they banished Clint Capela to the NBA equivalent of Aftermath Records. (Sure, the roster looks great, but does anybody ever see the light of day?) In doing so, the team went from Godzilla to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, deploying a small-ball lineup that will either blister you with 87 three-pointers or rack up a four-game losing streak before remembering that they’re supposed to be a respectable ball club. This is the type of thing that happens when your starting center, P.J. Tucker, is 6-foot-5.

Why you think they can win the NBA title: With home-court advantage thrown out the window, the Rockets could be one of the biggest beneficiaries—since their tiny, undersized asses won’t have to go to war with higher seeds on the road. And while the Clippers and Lakers will be a bitch to slay, how confident are you in the Jazz, Nuggets or Thunder beating Russell Westbrook’s otherworldly motor or James Harden’s penchant for collecting cheap-ass fouls? Not very. The construction of this team is goofy as hell, but this is the type of smoke most teams want no parts of.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Did I mention their starting center is 6-foot-5? I did? Oh, aiight cool. Did I mention that their starting center is also 35 years old? I didn’t? Oh. Well, good luck with that. Especially against the likes of Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis in the West, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid waiting to feast on Tucker’s toddler-sized ass in the East. Oh, and Harden’s playoff struggles are well-documented—though they could finally be negated by a four-month breather—so there’s that.

Indiana Pacers

When last they left us: 39-26, 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? Who knew Malcolm Brogdon had elite potential as an NBA point guard? Who knew first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis would serve as the perfect pick-and-roll partner? Who knew Nate McMillian would turn bargain signings like TJ Warren and Doug McDermott into valued contributors? Small market teams don’t have it easy, but the Pacers created a blueprint for others to follow.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL what?

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Victor Olodipo looks like a shell of himself after returning from a gruesome quad injury and Sabonis is expected to miss the rest of the season with a “significant foot injury.” So unless the Wizard of Oz is feeling generous, the only thing the Pacers are about to win is another lottery pick. Congrats!

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Los Angeles Lakers

When last they left us: 49-14, 1st seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? My feelings about the Lakers can best be summed up by this meme. But to answer the question, it’s because LeBron James refuses to age—or ever get injured. I’ve spent years maiming, stabbing and otherwise butchering my LeBron James voodoo doll to no avail. I’ve hurled it off of the Empire State Building. I’ve tossed it in the blender. I’ve forced it to listen to Flo-Rida. And despite my best efforts to slow down his alien DNA, King James still puts up 25, eight and eight every damn year—even at 35-years-old. Add a surprisingly competent Frank Vogel, some savvy vets and Antonio Davis’ mythical unibrow to the equation and the Lakers finally ending their six-year playoff drought isn’t exactly a surprise. They can still go to hell though.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because you’ve been hanging from LeBron’s teet despite the fact that he’s caught six L’s in the Finals and bullied a lackluster Eastern Conference for an eternity. You also refuse to accept the fact that the Lakers will sorely miss Avery Bradley’s perimeter defense, Rajon Rondo anchoring the team’s second unit, and Magic Johnson’s impromptu press conferences. Bring back Magic, dammit!

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because the Clippers* are the superior team. Plus it’s only a matter of time before Dion Waters gets high on his own supply again. What? Too soon???

Memphis Grizzlies

When last they left us: 32-33, 8th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? I can’t even front. These kids are tantalizing. After ridding themselves of the holy trinity of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph throughout the years, the Grizz were supposed to be the Cleveland Cavaliers complete and utter garbage this season. They’re anything but. Ja Morant looks like the second coming of De’Aaron Westbrook—in case you missed the memo, D’Aaron Fox and Russell Westbrook are officially a single player now—Jaren Jackson Jr. is an inevitable All-Star, and Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clark can not only ball, but probably get confused for each other all the damn time by white people.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: *whistles TLC’s “Waterfalls” to myself*

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Experience trumps youth every time. These kids have the pieces to cause some serious problems in the near future, but the near future ain’t today sooooooooooo they’re just biding their time until they get obliterated by whoever wins the No. 1 seed in the West—which is more than likely the Lakers.

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Miami Heat

When last they left us: 41-24, 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? They play in the East and who are we kidding with the exception of Bucks, Raptors and Celtics, the fourth spot usually goes to whatever run of the mill team is having a pretty good run. Some years it’s the Wizards, some years it’s Pacers or 76ers and this year is just the Heat’s turn. They were born on third base, they didn’t hit a triple.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: They can’t. Well let me take that back because they have Jimmy Butler and everyone knows that Jimmy Butler is the only NBA player who will openly threaten his own players when they play like shit. So never underestimate the power of Jimmy Butler’s ability to threaten the fuck out of his teammates and threats can prove to be motivating.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: In the end, the Heat don’t have enough on an inside presence to dominate playoff basketball. While I like the combination of Butler, Tyler Herro , Goran Dargić, Iggy, and Jae Crowder, Bam Adebayo is still getting over a bout with the coronavirus and I don’t see a weakened Bam, with a perpetually weak Meyers Leonard being enough to get it done.

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Milwaukee Bucks

When last they left us: Does it even matter? This team was sent from the future to destroy the NBA.

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How did they get here? Giannis. Oh, and otherworldly defense. But for the most part, Giannis.

Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because when he’s not preoccupied with looking like he eats babies for breakfast, Giannis has been tormenting the league all season.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because it’s Kawhi o’clock. Sorry, bruh.

New Orleans Pelicans

When last they left us: 28-36, 10th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? Zion. If you are ever in New Orleans and you are asked anything the answer is Zion. The world loves Zion and it helps that he’s doing all the right things. Not only is he boy shaped he came out of whatever machine made Karl Malone but he really seems like a nice kid. The New Orleans Pelicans rookie covered the salaries of all Smoothie King Center workers for a month, the initial length of the NBA shut down for coronavirus.

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Doesn’t matter if he’s hurt. Doesn’t matter if he doesn’t start the rebooted season, the answer to all questions regarding the Pelicans is much like trying to figure out the hottest rapper from Making the Band: Zion, Zion, Zion.

Why do you think they can win an NBA title? This team is playing with house money. They are young and fun to watch. They are what the Philadelphia 76ers would be if they got a real point guard and stopped running that big ass light skinned kid at the one. They literally have nothing to lose. Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday are formidable back court, mixing that with the playmaking ability of forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion (3x) and the youth of center Jaxson Hayes and the shooting of JJ Redick (who will always be 22) and you have a youth movement that could make some noise.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While the team is going to be fun to watch that doesn’t mean they are going to win shit. It takes time for teams to gel and become a cohesive unit and unless you have a seasoned veteran like LeBron who can mold the team around what he does best (which is basically bully ball), the chances that this team gets past first round opponents Utah Jazz is possible, but anything beyond that ain’t happening.

Oklahoma City Thunder

When last they left us: 40-24, 5th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? They walked or they drove. Maybe they flew. See what I did there? I kid. If scrimmages mean anything (they usually don’t) then the Oklahoma Thunder were one of only 2 teams to end their three-game scrimmage unbeaten. The other team was the Pelicans. To that end, the Wizards and Blazers failed to win a game. They are led by veteran point guard and card-carrying AARP member Chris Paul, who along with Jerry West helped invent the pick and roll. They also have the team with most syllables, accents and hyphens in the their names with players like: André Roberson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schröder. They are also a team that lives and dies on Chris Paul’s brittle bones or as Jay has dubbed him “CP-3 to 6 weeks.”

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The Thunder are right in the middle of the pack of a crowded Western Conference and are surprisingly good considering that despite having future hall-of-famer Paul running the show, they don’t have a lot of star power. I mean they have Danilo Gallinari but is he really moving the star-studded player chains? Methinks no.

Why you think they can win the NBA title: So the good thing about having a team of no-names is that they could play with a chip on their shoulder. I couldn’t tell you the last time André Roberson scored a point but he does all the white guy things (you know the coded language sports announcers use to hype up white players for being fundamentally sound; the intangibles). He makes the extra pass, takes the charge, plays hard-nosed defense. The whole team plays this way and well we see how that worked out for the San Antonio Spurs during those years where the whole team refused to get shapeups.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Putting a team on CP-3’s old ass back, no matter how well he’s been playing is not going anywhere. We all know this story and have seen it play out even with a more talented surrounding cast. This team will play tough and gritty and could squeak out a few close ones but they can’t beat a star-studded team no matter how gutsy they play.

Orlando Magic

When last they left us: 30-35, 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? Prayer. A lot of damn prayer. Oh, and bribery.

Why you think they can win the NBA title: Who told you that lie?

Why they won’t win a damn thing: If y’all really thought I would hop on Blue Ivy’s internet and disparage my beloved Mighty Mighty Orlando Magic you’re buggin’. That being said, we sure as hell ain’t winning jack shit ever in life until the Ghost of Nick Anderson says otherwise. That’s that on that.

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Philadelphia 76ers

When last they left us: 39-26, 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.

How did they get here? Try as they may to make it work, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid mesh about as well as Joe Biden and shutting the fuck up. In both instances, I’d love for it to work, but alas, that shit just ain’t happening, chief. Despite Embiid’s assertions that he and Simmons would love to frolic in the park and play together for the duration of their careers, unless Simmons decides to finally shoot the damn ball outside of like four feet, one of these dudes gotta kick rocks. And there’s a pretty good chance that whoever gets voted off the island will be taking Brett Brown with them. If Silkk the Shocker was a basketball team, he’d be the 76ers—because both are a damn mess.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Glaring chemistry issues aside, the 76ers still have two of the best players in the league in Simmons and Embiid—they just work about as well together as Al and Peggy Bundy. But should Simmons miraculously find his jumper—which a sports psychologist has reportedly been helping him with—the team might finally be able to capitalize off of Al Horford’s versatility and escape the Eastern Conference Finals.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because the 76ers were 29-2 at home this season and only 10-24 when away. So with home court advantage thrown out the window inside of the bubble, Philly can kiss even the smallest chance at a title au revoir. Sorry, kids.

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Phoenix Suns

When last they left us: 26-39, 13th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? The parallels between the Suns and just about every Ludacris album are uncanny. They start off great, then inevitably reality settles in and you’re stuck sitting there like, “Why did I waste my time with this bullshit?” That’s exactly what happened this season. After a promising start, injuries and the gaping holes around Devin Booker and Deandre “From Deep” Ayton capsized what could’ve been. It’s like in I Am Legend when…never mind. Let’s not revisit that bullshit.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because COVID-19 infiltrated the bubble and every other team contracted that shit. Otherwise, I refuse to believe anyone could be so stupid. Unless that person was Terry Crews.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because everybody hates Robert Sarver’s cheap ass. Not only is he one of the worst owners in professional sports, but he has his fingers, toes and ineptitude crossed that he’ll grow up to become James Dolan. Plus who wants to sit through a championship parade in 120-degree weather? No thanks.

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Portland Trail Blazers

When last they left us: 29-37, 9th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? Internal fortitude. While other teams used injuries or limited cap space as an excuse to swirl around the toilet bowl, the Trail Blazers snatched up pariahs like Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony in order to salvage their season. Oh, and Dame Lillard is pretty damn good too.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: This team is drastically different than the one that limped through a tumultuous season. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic being back in the fold completely changes the potency of this squad and some are calling the Trail Blazers “the most dangerous team in the league.”

“If Portland is in this thing, Bill, to me, they’re the most dangerous team in this league,” NBA insider Chris Haynes said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “Nurkic is back. Zach Collins is back. Dame and CJ [McCollum], they have been ultra-motivated. I’m being dead serious, they are ultra-motivated. That’s the scariest team out there.”

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because they have to get past the Grizzlies, Kings and some guy named Zion Williamson to even make the playoffs—which ain’t happening. The upgrades are cute, but it’s too little too late at this point. But at least it will give Dame something to rap about.

Sacramento Kings

When last they left us: 28-36, 11th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? Because Christmas came early to the wrong damn team

Why you think they can win the NBA title: If a broke “billionaire” can leverage reality TV stardom into becoming the president of the most powerful nation in the world—despite having zero experience in politics or public office—is it really that far fetched to believe that Luke Walton will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy? Yes. Yes, it is actually.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present Exhibit A.

San Antonio Spurs

When last they left us: Who cares? They ain’t making the playoffs!

How did they get here? Gregg Popovich doesn’t deserve this shit, man.

Why you think they can win the NBA title: Nah, really. Pop doesn’t deserve this shit. This ain’t right.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Pop, you’ve served your penance. Call it a career and ride off into the sunset. DeMar DeRozan will continue to underwhelm just fine without you.

Toronto Raptors

When last they left us: 46-18, 2nd seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? By getting ditched at the altar by the best player in the league. When Eminem left D12 we knew it was a wrap for them niggas. Not the Raptors. Once Kawhi left for greener pastures, Pascal Siakam transformed into a serial killer, Kyle Lowry stumbled upon the fountain of youth and Fred VanVleet evolved into a dude who’s about to make a lot of damn money on his next contract. And after stinking it up in Orlando, Serge Ibaka is no joke, too. I don’t think it’s remotely fair to call them overachievers, but as they prepare to defend their title, this season has been a pleasant surprise. All praise due to Masai Ujiri.

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because they already did exactly that a year ago. Why wouldn’t they be able to do it again with a squad that’s arguably as formidable? I just need Ujiri to keep his hands to himself this time.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because Giannis Antetokounmpo says otherwise. He said what he said.

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Utah Jazz

When last they left us: 41-23, 4th seed in the Western Conference.

How did they get here? Because Rudy Gobert ruined the NBA season! OK, that’s not entirely fair. Inevitably the league would’ve been shut down anyway, but an argument could be made that Gobert’s recklessness expedited the process. Speaking of which, does Donovan Mitchell still hate his ass? And is Mike Conley still the most disappointing acquisition in recent memory? Oh, wait. What was the question again?

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Why you think they can win the NBA title: Because you snort Tide Pods.

Why they won’t win a damn thing: Apparently you missed the memo that Bojan Bogdanovic, the team’s second-leading scorer, is out for the year after having wrist surgery in May. No Bojan, no baskets. No baskets, no championship. And are we sure Mitchell doesn’t still hate Gobert’s ass?

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Washington Wizards

When last they left us: You really don’t want to know. It’s gruesome.

How did they get here? God. Seriously, how would you explain it? Fine, maybe Bradley Beal putting up 80 points a night, even in a losing effort and maybe the selection committee, because this year’s NBA season is basically a high level or low level version of the NCAA tournament, decided that they wanted to see Beal get busy.

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Me: Huh?

Jay: Beal and Davis Bertans aren’t playing bubble ball this season.

Me: Then WTF are the Wizards doing here?

Jay: That’s what I’m asking you!!

Why do you think they can win an NBA title? They can’t. They couldn’t even win an all-boys private school intramurals tournament.

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Why they won’t win a damn thing: Because they are the Wizards. It’s kind of their thing.


*And if you’re a Clippers fan and wondering why your team wasn’t included, that’s because they’re winning the NBA title. But you knew that already.

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