Hey, it's Rembert Browne, Hawks fan. I'm writing to you today because you just got traded to Brooklyn, and that makes me slightly happy. Actually, let's be real, I'm grinning from ear to ear. Sports-fan me hasn't been this thrilled since we got Michael Vick, so that's saying something, Joe.
Imagine if every year, your workplace went through layoffs and employee reviews the week before and after Christmas. That light at the end of the tunnel is in touching distance, it's all gift wrap and roasting chestnuts and holiday parties, and then, all of a sudden, your job is thrown into chaos because everyone is watching their backs and wondering what the future holds.
This pretty much describes the NBA right before the All-Star break. And this season's compressed schedule and back-to-back-to-back games have already taken a mental toll on the players. Now, right when most of them are supposed to get a few days off, here come the whispers.
And I love it. I love the NBA rumor culture. On the surface, it's just a fantastically entertaining component of the league. It fuels endless second-guessing and speculation and hope and terror. Then, beneath it all, for league obsessives, there's the whole shadow economy of the rumor industry: The "sources" giving anonymous quotes, the strongly slanted pieces outing players as locker-room pariahs or ball hogs to lower their value.
With all the enjoyment you can take from this game within a game, it's sometimes hard to think about any of it ever having consequences. Today, we learn that it does.
It gets dark at 3:30 p.m., it's either raining, or freezing, and sometimes it's doing both. Every day looks the same because every day looks like you just stepped out of your house and walked into The Road. It's seasonal affective disorder. And it's enough to make you fire up the Leonard Cohen and pull the covers over your head.
NBA players, despite their seemingly enchanted lives, are not immune to the emotional perils of winter. Compound the blues that go along with the first few months of the year with the fact that this highly compressed season is harder on their physical and mental stability than any other year in recent memory, and it's no surprise that we're seeing a few guys start to crack. Let's dip our heads into the waiting room and see which NBA players are waiting to see their shrinks.