Anthony Davis is coming back from a two-game absence due to an elbow injury to play in Oakland tonight. Jimmy Butler, who may be organizing a one-man work stoppage in Minnesota, is also planning to play against the Warriors Friday night.
And yet, we have one more way that the modern NBA is different than the traditional NBA. Now, apparently, playing the best team is an appointment not to be missed rather than an assignment to be ducked.
Now two similar developments in three days does not make a trend, even though you would never know that by reading the internet for more than five minutes.
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But Davis and Butler both had outs, although Butler's was more self-generated if the reports are to be believed. They could have gotten Warrior flu, or Golden State gout, or whatever else you want to call it. Instead, they are playing against a team that is transitioning from ball movement, 1-5 pick and rolls and three-point shooting to out-and-out carnival work, and ready to accept the judgment of a hyperjudgmental customer base.
This counts for something. What, we're not quite sure, but it's Game 9 of 82. Work with us here.
Now maybe its because they have a devotion to duty. Maybe they want to show their skills to the one team that can't possibly make room for them on their roster. Maybe they just want to experience the magic of Oaktown one more time before it becomes the less-characterful San Francisco.
All we know is, this ain't the way it used to be, at least not all the time. Amid all the players who wanted to be part of the show of a big game against a championship team, there were always a few weakwills in the work force who saw no benefit in embarrassment and would find reasons to avoid Russell's Celtics or Abdul-Jabbar's Lakers or Jordan's Bulls or O'Neal's Magic or Bryant's Lakers or James' Heat.
And against the Warriors, embarrassment can come in any of four positions.
But not for Davis, and not for Butler. The customers get at least one more look at two superior players, a subtle reminder that before the Renaissance, that was all the locals had to look forward to, entertainment-wise. For years, the favorite team in Oakland was Guest, because Home wasn't much to look at.
And with only 37 games (minimum) to 46 (if they match their record-setting playoff run of a year ago) to 53 (maximum, if the playoffs end up being a lot harder than they should be), there aren't that many opportunities left for any of us.
So when Davis and Butler take the court tonight and Friday, do be polite and even supportive. They're doing you a solid even though that isn't their intention, and hell, you never know when Joe Lacob wants to see how close to nuclear Armageddon he can take the league's competitive balance.