Expectations were high for the 2017-18 NBA season. From players, coaches and championship aspirations, last season was definitely a memorable one. However, memorable does not always mean normal. From time to time, memories are made from weirdness, and the NBA is no exception.
Here are some of the weirdest NBA storylines you forgot from last season.
The 34th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Shelvin Mack made himself relevant as a rotation piece for the Atlanta Hawks. Fortunately for him, a three-team trade saw him shipped to the Jazz, which where he played some of the best basketball of his career.
He averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game with the Jazz in 2016.
As a part of the 2017 Magic roster, he was weirdly congratulated via the team’s Twitter on being the season leader in assists with 3.9 per game. It was either just a brutal joke, or the Magic are underachieving so bad that they needed to celebrate something.
Marcus not so Smart
Being an NBA player is not as easy as it sounds. Careers can either make or break you. In addition to the physical, emotional, and the psychological toll it brings to a player, the distance between friends and family easily make it one of the stressful careers to be in.
Stress normally kicks in with emotion. Although all emotions are valid, the actions after are the ones that really matter. We make stupid actions with pent-up emotion, ask Celtic guard Marcus Smart.
He allegedly lacerated his hand on hitting some glass. The Celtics management hasn’t totally shed light on the matter, aside from Marcus Smart’s Twitter apology on the incident. He missed a handful of games after.
This would have been a different story if it hindered their playoff chances.
The Legend of Andre Ingram
One of the best feel-good stories of last season, his journey is a testament to never give up on your dreams.
After 11 grueling years of toiling in the G League, Andre Ingram finally lives his dream. He got a call-up from the Los Angeles Lakers for the final two games.
Despite the bright lights and the pressure of a packed Staples Center, the 32-year-old guard validated himself. He finished his first NBA game with an impressive 19 points on four three-pointers, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal.
Regrettably, good things do come to an end. The Lakers did not extend his contract once it was over. Ingram is now an unrestricted free agent and still hopes to continue his dream with a roster spot in the NBA.
Eric “Subliminal” Bledsoe
There was a time that the Suns were relevant in the West. They were one of the best teams out there. That intoxicating feeling of success makes you feel you will always belong at the top.
The Suns tried to hold on to that thought. Sadly, mediocre move after another, a backcourt logjam, and a visionless attempt to contend, it all fell apart. They went for a rebuild soon after. A fresh start is the last thing on your mind when you are in your prime like Eric Bledsoe. It takes an enormous amount of patience to stick it out with a rebuilding team, especially when you can significantly contribute.
Bledsoe was averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6 assists for five seasons with the Suns before he was traded to the Bucks.
One thing led to another, the string of losses and underachieving made Bledsoe coincidentally tweet a cryptic “I Don’t wanna be here” after a blowout loss to the Clippers.
Despite his best efforts to explain that he was referring to a hair salon, the management did not buy it.
He was soon shipped out to the Bucks for Greg Monroe and some draft picks.
Known to be fiery and intense; Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaching minds in the NBA. He made an up and coming Bulls team a playoff staple for years with their defensive tenacity and bench production.
As the head coach and the president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, he guides a young underwhelming Timberwolves team to reach a degree of success.
At that juncture, the surprise was not looking back on the past success, but the real surprise was running the nostalgia machine and forming a semblance of his old Bulls team with Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Derrick Rose.
This reunion yielded a significant postseason appearance, although the Timberwolves’ young talent may have a different perspective on it.
Nerlens “Half Time Hot dog” Noel
There was once a time that Nerlens Noel was touted as the top overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Though injuries have sidetracked his career, the physical gifts and the talent were there.
For this reason, the Mavericks took a swing at the talented big man. From being an afterthought in Philadelphia, it seemed like the future was bright for the former 6th pick in Dallas. Regrettably, it wasn’t as bright as he’d like it to be. Playtime, injuries, off-court issues, and contract negotiations seem to put a strain on the relationship between Noel and the Mavericks.
In a blowout win, Noel weirdly grabbed a hot dog at the media dining area during halftime. It caused a strange, but somewhat comical controversy, but it just reflected the pinnacle of their downhill marriage deep within.
As young as he is, he may still get a shot at redeeming himself. Nerlens Noel and the Thunder have agreed to terms this free agency.
Coach of the Year
NBA head coaches usually don’t get the credit they really deserve. In a superstar-driven league, when the team is doing great it will be attributed on how good the players are. On the other hand, a franchise failure will always be related to how the head coach steers the team.
Dwane Casey is a great coach. He managed to right the Toronto Raptor ship from mediocre to one of the best in the eastern conference, even managed to lead them to their best record in franchise history at 59-23.
With five consecutive playoff appearances since 2013, it is just sad he couldn’t get past a roadblock named LeBron James. As history repeats itself, Casey and his team got swept by a LeBron-led Cavalier squad last season. With the same result as the season prior, Dwane Casey got the short end of the stick and was finally fired.
In a weird twist of fate, Casey was confirmed to be on the shortlist with Quin Snyder and Brad Stevens for NBA Coach of the Year five days after the dismissal.
To top it all off, the Raptors sent an appropriate but awkward congratulatory tweet for their former head coach.
Markelle Fultz is a prospect brimming with talent. In fact, the 76ers traded up to have him join “the Process”.
However, a mysterious shoulder injury has affected his shooting mechanics. His broken form and injury woes were cause enough to keep him off the court for a couple of months.
With Fultz back last March, it seemed like a great time to break in the rookie for more action. A freak accident made him break more than just action. Joel Embiid’s face and Fultz’s head accidentally slammed into each other on a pick-and-roll hand-off, breaking the former’s face.
Talk about Fultz making an immediate impact in his team, Embiid’s injury nearly jeopardized the 76ers playoff match up the Heat.
The Rookie of the Year beef
Jazz Rookie Donovan Mitchell has transformed into their go-to scorer in such a short time. His regular season play and his playoff moments validated his rise and made him a viable Rookie of the Year selection.
Mitchell had a good case with his performance. Regrettably, a guy who redshirted a season ago, 76ers forward Ben Simmons is taking the league by storm with his talents. He was the leading candidate for ROTY with his stellar near triple-double average.
The rookie definition in the NBA will always be up for debate. Mitchell believed that Simmons was not really a rookie. He tried to make a statement by wearing a controversial sweatshirt that had a dictionary definition of the word rookie on it.
Weirdly, all the sweatshirt did was reinforce Ben Simmon’s case as a rookie. We may never know if that were intentional or not, but the sweatshirt sunk his case faster than it could build it.
LeBron “the Machine” James
Just like wine, LeBron seems to get better as he ages. Last season, people did not get to realize that a 33-year-old LeBron played the full season for the first time in his career. Moreover, he also led the league in minutes per game for the second consecutive season.
Although his move to Hollywood may break his playoff appearance streak of eight consecutive if the Lakers don’t get it together this season, I would not count him out so fast.
By the look of how things are going, James does not need a fountain of youth to play at a high level. If this indicates how he plays next season, we might even see a better version of LeBron James in the future.