The Couch Slouch

The NBA season is here, and it's the West's World

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Tip the world over on its side and everything will land in Los Angeles."

(Why not Sacramento?)

LeBron James landed last year, followed this year by Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

When you say "La La Land" now, one "La" is for the Lakers and the other "La" is for the Clippers.

Staples Center is no longer big enough for the two of them – the Clippers intend to move to the Lakers' old stomping grounds in Inglewood, with a new arena planned for 2024 down the street from the Great Western Forum.

The NBA traditionally is divided into the Western and Eastern Conferences. But in 2019-20, it is now divided into Los Angeles and Points East.

(By the way, if everything did land in Sacramento, I'd be able to get to In-N-Out Burger quicker.)

Anyhow, here's a not-quite-comprehensive look at the new NBA season:

* Let's get this nasty replay-as-an-officiating-tool business expanding again out of the way first. NBA coaches this season have the right to challenge one call per game (on limited situations), plus replay can now be triggered by the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., without the involvement of the game referees.

Here's a thought: One day the NBA Replay Center might also handle pass-interference disputes for NFL games being played at the same time as NBA games.

* Memo to the Brooklyn Nets: You are one short of a dynamic duo. Sure, everyone is excited by the arrival of Irving and Kevin Durant. Except Durant will miss the entire season; as a rule, I like my $164 million superstars to be ready to play within, oh, three months or so of joining the team. And when Durant does return in 2020-21, he might be a shadow of his former self. Take it from me: I've been a shadow of my former self since 1993, and it's not a pretty sight.

* The cheesesteak contingent says this is the year The Process leads to The Finals for the Philadelphia 76ers. Uh, no. Yes, Ben Simmons hit a three-point shot in preseason, another wacky and inexplicable effect of climate change. And, yes, the Toronto Raptors lost Leonard and the Boston Celtics lost Irving. But The Process remains an irrevocably corrupt, contaminated, contemptible entity, and it will never be rewarded.

* James Harden, you remember Russell. Russell Westbrook, you remember James. This could be the greatest pairing since Simon & Garfunkel. Or it could be the biggest flop since the AOL-Time Warner merger. Whether it's a tour de force or a train wreck, watching the Houston Rockets alone is the worth the price of NBA League Pass.

* If you are a disgruntled L.A. fan, you might want to latch onto the New Orleans Pelicans – they have ex-Lakers Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, plus ex-Clipper J.J. Redick (and the head coach is ex-Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry). And why stop there? Why not move to New Orleans? Less traffic, lower taxes, no Kardashians.

* The Golden State Warriors have moved into a new arena, but they forgot to bring most of their team. Gone: Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and, until he is healthy, Klay Thompson. Was it something Steve Kerr said? No – life happens. And as long as Stephen Curry is still in town, the Warriors are still happening.

* Let's be very, very honest about the Dallas Mavericks. The only reason to mildly root for the team the past 20-odd years was Dirk Nowitzki; the main reason to root against the Mavs was Mark Cuban. Nowitzki is gone, Cuban is not. Case closed.

* With column space at a premium these days, Couch Slouch cannot justify writing lengthy items on the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards. They always stink.

* A billion Chinese people can't be wrong, can they? In A Few Good Men, Col. Nathan Jessup shouted, "You [messed] with the wrong Marine!" Well, Adam Silver, you [messed] with the wrong regime!

Ask The Slouch

Q. Several years ago, you ran a question that said, "If Dan Snyder really loved the R*dsk*ns, wouldn't it make more sense for him to have bought the Cowboys and run that franchise into the ground?" If you print that one again, I will send you $1.25. (Doug Pratt; Kensington, Md.)

A. You really should send the buck-and-a-quarter to Jeff Brown of Arlington, Va., who submitted that gem.

Q. If replay review had been afforded to either of your first two wives at the ceremonies, would the "I do" have been reversed to "I don't"? (Jack Drury; Cumberland, Md.)

A. Actually, I believe one of them did try to back out on our wedding day without the benefit of replay.

Q. Is it true that the NCAA was fully supportive of the "pay to play" idea until they couldn't agree on how much the players should be charged? (Steve Cullen; Richmond, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Does the signature of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on player paychecks constitute written proof of attempting to fix NFL games? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay this wise soul, too.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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As is our annual tradition at the NBA all-star break, Couch Slouch looks ahead to the remainder of the season – laced with remarkable perspicacity* – at no additional cost to you, the reader.

Yes, I will provide the acumen of subscription-based The Athletic and the access of pricey NBA League Pass…ALL FOR FREE.

Let's do it!

It used to be, "NBA Action, It's FANtastic." Now it's, "NBA Action, Bombs Away!" For much of NBA history, a basket was worth two points. In 1979, they decided that some baskets – from longer distances – would be three points. Then more recently, some analytic smart alecks figured out that three-point baskets were worth one more point than two-point baskets, so let's just make three-point baskets.

The game has changed.

The Milwaukee Bucks' 7-foot center, Brook Lopez, has taken more three-point shots this season (242) than two-point shots (234). The Dallas Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis, at 7-foot-3, is the tallest man on the floor, yet he has taken almost as many three-pointers (277) as two-pointers (362).

We have evolved from those Pistons'-Bad-Boys, Pat-Riley-with-the-Knicks 88-85 slugfests of the late 1980s and early '90s to the current-day 128-126 playground skirmishes. The games have gone from rugby matches to the Ice Capades.

The fast-break layup has morphed into the fast-break 23-footer.

There is feasibly a middle ground between 88-85 and 128-126; I don't know what that exact number would be, but I always vote for the middle ground.

Three cheers for Ben Simmons, the three-ball contrarian. The multi-skilled Philadelphia 76ers' point guard will not do what everyone wants him to do – take three-point shots. You know how some kids have a mental block about math? Simmons has a mental block about three-pointers.

In his first two NBA seasons, Simmons did not make a three-pointer, attempting only 17 of them. This season he is two-for-six from beyond the arc.

You be you, Ben, two points at a time.

I stand with Simmons: Years ago, newspaper editors insisted I write longer articles with bigger words. No way, I told them – I write short and I use one-syllable words. And I'm still here.

(* "Perspicacity" is a rare exception.)

If it were up to Gregg Popovich, no one would ever take a 25-foot shot. One of the NBA's greatest coaches ever and one of the most severe critics of three-ball, Popovich is in danger of having two remarkable streaks end: In 22 full seasons of helming the San Antonio Spurs, he has never had a losing record and never missed the postseason.

"I've hated the three for 20 years," Popovich said in 2018. At the moment the Spurs are 28th out of 30 NBA teams in three-point shots made and 29th in three-pointers attempted.

The Spurs are 23-31 – five games out of a playoff spot – and their best chance might be to petition the league for transfer into the Eastern Conference.

As usual, the Eastern Conference should be quarantined. The 19-38 Detroit Pistons have a better chance of making the East playoffs than the 33-22 Oklahoma Thunder and 33-22 Dallas Mavericks have of earning home-court advantage in the West playoffs.

Then again, the Pistons also have a better chance of making the playoffs than Ben Simmons does of ever making another three-point shot.

The Golden State Warriors have gone from penthouse to outhouse, three points at a time. Many folks – I am not among them – are delighted that the Warriors, after five straight NBA Finals appearances with consecutive seasons of 67-15, 73-9, 67-15, 58-24 and 57-25, currently have an NBA-worst 12-43 record.

Enjoy it while you can.

Next season, aside from a core of young talent and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the Warriors will also have all-star Draymond Green, plus the return of the NBA's greatest three-point-shooting back court ever, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Zion Williamson is the real deal. But he's only taking one three-pointer per game. DO THE MATH, son: 3 > 2.

Ask The Slouch - Special Houston Astros Edition (again)


Q. Is it true that Astros owner Jim Crane has hired Rudy Giuliani to visit Ukraine in search of proof that Hunter Biden was the mastermind behind the sign-stealing fiasco? (Rick LaDuca; Ashburn, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. If the Astros ever hire Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as manager and starting pitcher, respectively, will Rob Manfred preemptively suspend them as repeat cheaters? (Tom Walker; Colonie, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. When MLB adds trash cans to its merchandise list, will they only be available with the Astros logo or will they include all teams with former Astros players/coaches? (David Roberts; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. How much trouble is Carlos Beltran's grandmother in for not providing proper guidance? (Ron Anderson; Lynnwood, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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