Weird NBA Q&A is back! Welcome to an alley-oop of fantastical, out-of-bounds, bizarre questions aiming to spark some joy in the basketball-shaped hole in your hearts.
My first guest is Justin Huertas, a New York native I know from the comedy scene down here in New Orleans. My second guest is Mike Anguilano, a fellow writer here at DefPen. My name is Chris Trew, and I’ll be playing along as well, tossing my own questions off the backboard. If you want to play along, drop me a DM on Twitter or toss your answers on the timeline. Y’all ready?
We’ve already discussed how we’re not going to asterisk the results of the NBA season in 2020. But let’s say you’re tasked with creating a new trophy for this season only. Unlimited budget. What do you do?
Huertas: Go big or go home, right?! It’s got to be something gaudy, garish and uplifting at the same time. Since this season is (hopefully) one of a kind, the trophy should be fittingly commemorative of how uniquely bonkers this 2020 NBA season is (and where society is at as a whole).
A trophy the size of the Stanley Cup or height of Muggsy Bogues of the NBA logo – made of Swarovski crystals? I had the fleeting thought of the Jordan logo being the trophy; in honor of the cultural hold and quenching of basketball thirst that “The Last Dance” documentary served for me during the shutdown. Apparel companies and ’90s Knick fans would certainly riot, vomit or both.
Honestly, my trophy would be a statue that would tastefully incorporate the spirit/impact of Kobe Bryant, be a dedication to all those we lost to COVID-19 and be a nod to the positive racial movement taking place at the moment. That’s complex and asking for a lot. Whatever! I got a blank check to do it!
Anguilano: The Larry O’Brien trophy is one of the most recognizable in the sports world with the basketball on a pedestal in shimmering gold. Changing the trophy is tough, but thankfully, the world has given plenty of ideas on how to tweak the hardware to…better represent these times. Slapping a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on it would be the easy way out. But I think something involving COVID-19 would be more apt. Putting a mask on the ball? Change it entirely to a nurse or other first responder holding a basketball? I think there are some good options to accurately represent the environment the eventual champion won in.
Trew: I’m replacing the basketball on top with a bubble, and inside the bubble, I’m putting miniature replicas of the winning team. So it’s got a little Stanley Cup going for it, the base of the Larry O’Brien and, obviously, it represents the situation the players find themselves in. To win the Bubble Trophy, you must first enter the bubble. Those who prevail, in a way, never leave.
You’ve been given the chance to change or add one rule for the 2020 playoffs in the name of experimentation. What is it?
Huertas: Once again, if we are going to change something, let’s change something! Let’s combine two currently popular things in the basketball world that can serve as high “WTF” drama as it relates to basketball in the pandemic era – a potentially safer option for the players. If up to me and given the chance for the 2020 playoffs, the OT period would be half-court three-on-three matchup incorporating the Elam Ending that we saw in the 2020 All-Star Game. BOOM! A basketball purist’s nightmare! Let’s pour gas on this loco!
Three-on-three automatically takes two players off the court, which would minimize injury risk while also allowing players to naturally have more space between each other during gameplay. This would minimize injury and exposure risk during a truncated season taking place during the pandemic. In addition, the Elam Ending created palpable tension during the fourth quarter of the All-Star Game. It was electric to watch the best in the world compete under that format – for charity! Now imagine a playoff game or series being played under those conditions. Teams can’t hide their weaknesses, you can keep guys fresh by having the latitude to rotate more, and we get “socially distant basketball”! A LeBron James-Anthony Davis-Kyle Kuzma Lakers lineup against Kawhi Leonard-Paul George-Montrezl Harrell Clippers lineup, or even a Zion Williamson-Brandon Ingram-Lonzo Ball Pelicans lineup with a chance to move onto the next round of the playoffs … [stares into the horizon wistfully]… I’m sorry, I’m back now…
Anguilano: I think the rule change is a really interesting idea, especially considering there is no home-court advantage at the neutral site. The idea of increasing the foul limit for one player on each team, changing the shot clock or adding a 4-point line would add a neat twist. However, I am not one for drastic change, especially considering that the resumption of the season itself seems drastic. So, I will say that the NBA should adopt a rule that eliminates the jump ball and allows the “home team” to have the first possession regardless. There is no real way to replace the home-court advantage, but this is a small and simple rule that gives a very minimal advantage – but an advantage nonetheless.
Trew: The XFL didn’t get a full chance to resurrect itself as a result of COVID-19, so let’s inject some XFL into the bubble. Instead of a jump ball (mostly useless but looks cool) each half starts with the other team “kicking off” by heaving the basketball across the court toward their basket and the opposing team. If they score, they score, and the other team takes the ball out as usual. If they don’t score, the other team rebounds and takes possession.
I’ve just accidentally fallen in love with this idea.
You get to pick one person from your favorite team to see in the stands at every game in the bubble. Who do you pick and why?
Huertas: When I was a kid, the New York Knicks were consistently good. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to be a Knicks fan that had hope year after year. Their level of dysfunction over the past 20 years has caused me to be distant and apathetic only as a means of self-defense from embarrassing misery. I’ve sworn the Knicks away and adopted the Pelicans, but that is the equivalent of a jilted and traumatized lover claiming their rebound (pun not intended) is true love.
With that being said, I’m picking Knicks legend Charles Oakley. It’s symbolically petty shade and a sign of protest against Knicks owner James Dolan. That incident involving Oakley was a prime example of James Dolan having whatever the opposite of what the Midas touch is. Ok, so it’s as much trolling as it is a protest.
Also, Oakley is a straight BAMF, and he doesn’t need to carry a wallet that says so. He would be high comedy because he would have no problem giving an unfiltered reaction to the action. Oakley has no problem squaring up against anybody, so he wouldn’t care about what he says or does while in the bubble. Go ahead and YouTube his career highlights and his arrest at MSG. His reputation is deserved.
Anguilano: Had this been at the beginning of the season, the answer would have likely been Jordan Clarkson for the outfits alone. But sadly (for the purposes of this question), he will be playing in the bubble with the Utah Jazz. For my Cleveland Cavaliers, I will take Andre Drummond for the possibilities of Tik Toks and other social media shenanigans. Dylan Windler is a close second just because I forgot he was on the team after missing the entire season with a leg injury.
Trew: Jrue Holiday is as cool and calm off the court as he is disastrously effective against Damian Lillard on it. But if Jrue could “play defense” in the stands against teams that need to lose to improve Jrue’s chances of locking down LeBron (gulp) in the first round, that would be a godsend for New Orleans.
Want more weird basketball content? Check out “Behind The Bench: Stories from sitting behind the visitor’s bench at Pelicans games” written by Chris Trew.