While the NBA Finals are in full swing, the 28 other teams and their fans are looking toward the offseason, which can sometimes be more interesting than the games themselves.
Case in point: We will never forget the summer of 2010, when LeBron James made his "Decision" to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I even remember the date: July 8. It is so ingrained in my memory that I do not even have to look it up.
Three years earlier, Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics, altering the entire landscape of the league. The Celtics would go on to win the title in Garnett's first season in Boston, pulling them out of the doldrums that were the '90s and early 2000s and returning the franchise to elite status.
These types of free-agent signings and trades are so colossal that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that these guys have to go out on the court and play. Instead, we become lost in the moment of them changing addresses.
When KG was dealt to the Celtics about a month after Ray Allen, many had already penciled the Celtics in for the title. How could anyone stop a Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce?
As fans of the game, we frequently become so invested in our teams' summer decisions that we feel as if we are the general manager, pondering whether or not to make a big move. When the draft is under way, we essentially place ourselves in the war room.
Even though we are months away from the official start of the season, we are able to keep ourselves busy. Very busy. Just like the GMs.
A friend of mine once said that the offseason is to front offices what the regular season is to players, and that is a good analogy. While general managers and their staff are certainly at work year round, the summer is the most active time for them.
The drama of the NBA does not cease when the last second of the finals expires. Those waning moments that tick off the clock serve as a precursor to a new beginning or, if you will, a different kind of season—one that involves steady and unrelenting preparation for the next "actual" season that is only a few months away.
Only one team can be left standing at the conclusion of the playoffs, meaning that the 29 other teams have work to do. As fans who may have seen our teams eliminated after a deep postseason run, we think, "They're only a couple of pieces away."
That's where things get interesting and exciting, and it's what makes every player in the NBA so important.
A team doesn't have to acquire a superstar to get to the next level. A team might be enthralled about a mid-level exception player. He could be the guy who puts (insert team name here) over the top.
We sometimes even rejoice over veteran's minimum deals—over signings of an 11th or 12th man who probably won't see more than five minutes a contest.
That's because, in the grand scheme of things, even he matters.
For example, what would have happened in Game 5 of the 2012 finals had Mike Miller not exploded? How about J.J. Barea in 2011? Leon Powe in 2008?
This is what makes the offseason so great—not just for fans but for everyone.
To quote an often-used phrase, the game is not played on paper. Therefore, nothing that happens from late June through September guarantees anything.
Remember the summer of 2003 when the Los Angeles Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to a roster that already included Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant? Most thought that the Lakers would waltz to the title, but instead they were thumped by the Detroit Pistons, a team full of former castoffs and late-bloomers that ended up being a powerhouse.
Things like that only add to the intrigue that is the NBA offseason. You never know which player will tip the scales in a certain franchise's favor. Meanwhile, a big-name star could end up being a bust. Who knows?
While the 82-game campaign and the playoffs may be most visible to us, what goes on behind closed doors ultimately decides the results of those events. As basketball fans, we all know that, too.
That's why you have to love the NBA offseason.
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