Albert Einstein famously said, “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” as a genius who thrived in a messy environment. He thrived in chaos.
The NBA has had plenty of chaos and messy desks all off of the court this year that have dominated the talks of every sports-related programming (and even some non-sports related in some instances). There have been countless circumstances where non-sport related drama and turmoil spreads into the locker room, derails a season, and plagues talented rosters that should be winning if everyone could simply get along and refrain from controversy by saying and doing the right things.
The drama this year hasn’t seemed to matter all that much. The talent has won out, and the stable organizations that have been able to still hold the line have kept it together.
The Boston Celtics were just coming off of a season where they made the Finals after first year head coach Ime Udoka turned their year around after Christmas, and they were heading into this year as the title favorites out of the East. The opening week of the season, they announced that Udoka would suddenly be suspended for the entirety of the season because he had a consensual relationship with a female staff member and Joe Mazzula would take over as interim head coach. The sudden loss of a coach who probably could have won Coach of the Year in 2021 at the start of the year and then replacing him with Mazzula, who had never coached before, on top of the potential division the Udoka situation could have created in the clubhouse could have caused the Celtics to crater.
Instead, they look unstoppable in the midst of the office-level awkwardness.
They’ve cruised with the best record in the NBA from end-to-end with an offensive efficiency that is historic: 1st in points per game, 1st in 3-pointers per game, 1st in free throw %, and 1st in true shooting %. All of these would literally be the best in NBA HISTORY. While Jayson Tatum is making another leap into superstardom at 31.6 PPG, it’s not a one-man show- six players are averaging over 10 points per game, and Mazzula’s system is so efficient that even the corpse of Blake Griffin can come in and start on some nights.
They’ve forgotten they have a messy desk at all.
The 1 seed in the other conference, the Suns, had some other “clutter” present, if you will. Owner Robert Sarver who was suspended for the entirety of the season for allegations of an incredibly “toxic and hostile workplace environment” announced he was selling the team, the Suns were coming off of blaming a COVID outbreak in their historic meltdown to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2021 Playoffs after being the 1 seed and once again giving Chris Paul the fuming stench of blowing in the postseason, Jae Crowder publicly has made a trade request and is holding out, and this offseason DeAndre Ayton, who was a no-show in the playoffs, reluctantly was retained after initially agreeing to an offer-sheet from the Indiana Pacers after the Suns thought he lacked maturity and was not worth the cash in their potential pursuit of Kevin Durant.
And they’re back and rolling still.
Devin Booker has continued to carry the team as an MVP-candidate as well, averaging 29.5 points, the Suns are top-10 in nearly every defensive metric and make the second-most field goals per game, a
nd they’re the 1 seed in the West.
Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole in a TMZ video of a practice before the season started and the Warriors look like they have momentum and righted the ship.
The Brooklyn Nets had a Kevin Durant trade request that put him at odds with the general manager, they fired Steve Nash, Ben Simmons is returning after having a back made of glass and potentially the yips, and Kyrie Irving was suspended and given a checklist of trainings and progress milestones he needed to educate himself upon after being linked to antisemitism.
They’re 13-11 and would make the postseason.
Talent has won out in the NBA, and that’s why the players hold so much power- even the players in situations that are as messy as possible can still show up and ball and give you a chance of winning on any given night. While this can be scary in that one would prefer players, teams, and organizations to prioritize selflessness and morals, the ability of these locker rooms to overcome adversity that could create division and derail seasons in non-sport-related fashions has been the impressive story of the season.