Competition never stops in the National Basketball Association. For those locked in battle for the ultimate prize, the next challenge comes in the here and now. It’s why the Raptors managed to hog news headlines for all of one day before their status as champions became overshadowed by subsequent events. As they celebrated in Las Vegas, they found themselves alongside the supposedly woebegone Lakers, fresh off a tumultuous season and a still-hazy offseason and yet already installed as favorites for the 2020 title following a triumphant bid for all-world Anthony Davis.
Not that the Raptors’ ascent to the top was unmerited. On the contrary, it was borne of a solid strategy that underscored the benefits of prescient management, confident personnel, and no small measure of good fortune. Yet, it’s telling that the fates of Masai Ujiri, the architect behind the ambitious roster — and culture — dismantling, and Kawhi Leonard, the superstar that carved their status as the best of the best, remain huge question marks. Their achievements have made them understandable targets for poaching, and their pursuit of the next mountain to climb has them open to the possibility of bolting.
Certainly, confluences of events have helped shape fans’ never-ending clamor for adrenaline rushes. Who would have thought the Raptors’ speculative “load management” program would net an ultra-sharp playoff-version Leonard? Who would have figured the law of averages finally catching up with the Warriors? Who would have predicted the Lakers, victimized by otherwise-debilitating dysfunction, to be winners of the Davis sweepstakes? These and more have avid followers of the pro hoops scene awaiting developments — and, meanwhile, contributing to the chatter — with edge-of-seat interest.
Considering the heightened expectations, disappointment seems the most likely outcome. If nothing else, however, the NBA has shown an uncanny capacity to deliver the goods, and how. The increased mobility of marquee names has promoted unpredictability — which, from commissioner Adam Silver’s vantage point, means success. No wonder all and sundry have no choice but to tune in. With so much happening, there is need to keep up.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operation and Human Resources management, corporate communications and business development.