Our NBA Institutions Are Crumbling

Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Hornets / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

Small fires have grown to seemingly unmanageable disaster levels on both Coasts. In Brooklyn, where the Nets have dropped nine in a row, James Harden is reportedly too afraid to request a trade for fear of public backlash, which he's ironically now facing in droves. Kyrie Irving can only play half the time and has on occasion allowed the job of playing basketball to fall down his priority list. Kevin Durant, who seemingly exists to either play basketball or talk online about playing basketball, is tasked with picking up the pieces and creating something that can compete come playoff time. If the freefall stops in time to even qualify for the postseason.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers have dropped 11 of 16. LeBron James sounds like a broken man as his carefully constructed roster falls apart due to age, injury, and almost everything Russell Westbrook does. They too are in legitimate danger of missing the playoffs entirely if morale and production do not improve.

These situations are not entirely analogous. An overwhelming majority of observers believed the Lakers would fail. Brooklyn carried more hope because, come hell or high water, having three superstars of that quality can be the salve that soothes all wounds and dysfunction.

And that's where we are. Both hell and high water are surrounding these two lightning-rod franchises. On the heels of the Dallas Cowboys' disaster, it feels as though the script of sports is being written by sports-shouting producers with maximum viewership in mind. Perhaps there will be a true Infrastructure Week and the levies will hold and the flames will never touch the fortress.

But right now that seems highly unlikely. It feels like a foregone conclusion that both teams will fall unbelievably short of expectations in the worst ways possible. Observing the drama is like watching two Hinderburgs crash and burn in unison. Wiser NBA scholars than myself can opine about what this means for the era of the Superteam. Yet it feels like the end of something, if not a 96-point warning signal.

Assembling all the talent in the world means nothing if it can't be maximized. And the simple fact is that six of the league's best players are languishing in the prisons of their choosing. It is truly a remarkable turn of events to see best-laid plans on paper land in the wastebasket.

It may be hyperbole to suggest all involved legacies are crumbling. At the same time, championship windows close quickly and are often sticky when you try to re-open them. It feels like a time of great upheaval as the sturdiest of foundations are no match for shifting sand.

Some dust will settle after today's trade deadline. The landscape will look drastically different when it comes time to rebuild. One era is on its last legs. What comes next is anyone's guess.