I wanted to give this more considered thought -- and I will -- and I especially hate putting up a post after 5, but this Vince Carter/Magic trade inspired me to get something out now, and it's something I've talked about before:
There are two NBAs.
In one NBA, there are teams playing for a championship THIS COMING SEASON. The list isn't very long. I count 9 teams that play in this NBA: Lakers, Spurs, Rockets, Mavs, Nuggets, Magic, Celtics, Cavs, Wizards.
In the other NBA, there is everyone else -- with basically zero interest in competing for a championship THIS coming season. Maybe a few years down the line. But not now. Right now, they couldn't care less whether they win 70 games or lose 70 games, make or miss the playoffs. That league has 21 teams in it.
For those teams, tonight is a big night, because it is the night they get to affirm that they are TRYING to get better -- but, please, don't have any real expectations just yet. Maybe a year from now. Maybe 5 years from now. But not next season. Patience.
I am not assigning a judgment to either: Frankly, the Knicks' biggest mistake all those years was thinking that their fans would actually mind a few rebuilding years in the service of the Long-Term. There is something oddly comforting about Rebuilding: It's hope.
Those 9 teams competing for a championship RIGHT NOW put a lot more on the line -- anything less than a title is a failure. That's some high-stakes action right there.
For the 21 teams playing intramurals, the title is an abstraction -- something they are, never fear, Building Towards. Wins, losses: These things don't really matter.
In trading for Shaq, the Cavs are trying to Win Now. In trading for Vince Carter, the Magic are trying to Win Now. In trading the 5th pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, the Wizards are trying to Win Now. In trading away their 1st-round pick for cash, the Lakers are trying to Win Now.
The gap between these two groups is far more stark than most people recognize. It is, literally, like there are two different leagues -- yet they intermingle, both sides with diametrically different motivations.
Big trades aside, tonight is about the Other NBA -- the one where competing in the upcoming season isn't in the Plan at all.
Enjoy the draft! I'll be pinging away on Twitter all night.