You know that feeling at the end of a boozy night out when you see all your friends about to pick up – and the chance of you doing the same is eroding faster than Todd Carney’s career?
It starts in your gut. At first you think it’s the sugar from that last Red Bull and Vodka, but then you look around. Facing reality – that you are the Dumb Ugly Fat Friend [D.U.F.F.]; the ‘Mini-Van’ of your group – is a sobering event. The only thing more sobering is that moment in the morning when you roll over and see, through hazy eyes, who you shacked up with to avoid said reality.
NBA free agency – thanks to the lockout – is basketball’s version of that last call at the bar.
So what happens first? Think about it. Before you contemplate that you might have to hail a cab home by yourself – or even worse, waiting for the bus – you see everyone lining up for the one, maybe two, 10’s that are looking for a reason to dump their current flings. After all, the smart ones – Tyson Chandler – came to the bar knowing who they were going to leave with: the New York Knicks.
Maybe you should have played it safe tonight? Oh well, there’s no second-guessing at this point… better get busy. Perfect 10’s Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are both having one drink after another bought for them. Orlando, Dallas, the Nets and the L.A. teams are all making power moves and trying not to get left with the tab. Orlando thinks it’s got a shot, but doesn’t stand a chance. Dallas is flauntin’ some new jewelry and droppin’ fistfuls of Franklins on a host of wonderfully named cocktails. The L.A. teams are trying to one up each other because they shared a cab on the way to the bar – and neither wants to be the third wheel on the way home. The Nets are not the best option tonight, but once they move to Brooklyn they’ll be fishing with dynamite.
Throughout the night, Paul and Howard have ‘trimmed the fat’ – telling some to get stuffed; others are getting a coy second glance – maybe we’re in! First, Orlando falls flat on its face. Then Dallas pulls out, hoping to salvage the night with an easier option. And before you even get a chance, Paul is ready to choose between the Clippers and the Lakers, while Howard’s already bought a Russian phrase book and is calling Jay-Z for tips on places to eat.
What’s next? Those 7’s and 8’s that have been ignored all night become increasingly frantic. Realising that they too might go home alone, they throw themselves at the first offer. Shane Battier to Miami; David West to Indiana; Lamar Odom, Delonte West and Vince Carter to Dallas; J.J. Barea to Minnesota. Greg Oden resigns with Portland and Rip Hamilton heads to Chicago. ‘Big Baby’ Davis and Brandon Bass agree to switch partners: Davis now going with Orlando and Bass settling for Boston. And knowing that they’ll need a back-up plan if spurned by Paul, the Clippers give Chauncy Billups a smile and wink.
So what’s left after that free-for-all?
The lights come on. All your friends are gone. And you are left, staring eye-to-eye with the mistake you are about to make. Gilbert Arenas … Kwame Brown … Baron Davis. GULP.
By R.J. Karas