As the new NBA season kicks off on Tuesday, October 22 (from 2 am French time), the North American basketball league is recovering from two earthquakes: a first, expected, in the transfer market; the second, unforeseen, in connection with his relations with China.
Until two weeks ago, the NBA was considered the most successful company in the Middle Kingdom. The one whose example was taught to understand better than anyone the functioning of the country, where basketball is established since the late nineteenth century.
A tweet will have been enough to crack this facade. Quickly erased from the social network by its author, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey's message of support to the Hong Kong protesters sparked the ire of the Chinese. And tripped the NBA and many players, caught between business and human rights.
Happened by China, and while the financial repercussions of a possible boycott of Chinese broadcasters and sponsors remain to be measured, players and leaders aspire to return to a more controlled terrain: the floor.
Los Angeles, new center of the NBA
"I will not talk about it again. We're trying to win the title, that's why we're here. We are not politicians, but it is a huge political affair. But we are leaders and we can sometimes intervene "confessed LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers player, whose image suffered from his lukewarm talks.
Nevertheless, several spectators of the derby angeleno, between the Lakers and the Clippers, Tuesday (4:30, Wednesday, French time) plan to show their support for Hong Kong protesters. The others are just planning to watch the fight between two teams that have undergone a major overhaul in the offseason.
The summer of 2019 has reshuffled the cards and should leave lasting traces in the NBA. He confirmed a trend: the best players in the world take their destiny in hand, even to shock the supporters of loyalty to a jersey.
If, to justify their departure, the players do not invoke the "Family to feed" – like Latrell Sprewell in 2004, to refuse an extension that he did not consider very advantageous – the NBA stars aspire to play with those with whom they have affinities. And so much to do, in a "Big market", that is to say a large city, such as New York or Los Angeles, can also increase their attractiveness to sponsors.
The epicenter of the NBA has moved. If he stays in California, he no longer deals with San Francisco Bay, where the Warrior dynasty may have ended by losing the final against Toronto, but Los Angeles.
A year after the arrival of superstar LeBron James in Hollywood, the Lakers have turned up their staff to add the All-Star Anthony Davis. As for the Clippers, a poor relative of the City of Angels, they convinced Kawhi Leonard, who had just won a title in Toronto, to return to his hometown. And added Paul George to form a team with outstanding defensive potential.
Duos of leading players
NBA season, millet 2019-2020 is now that of the duos of flagship players in most franchises. "When you can surround yourself with other great talents, you know that you do not have to inflict so much stress on your body, physically and mentally, every night", justified LeBron James.
In addition to Los Angeles franchises, Houston has added former Oklahoma Thunder leader Russell Westbrook to star James Harden. Two former MVPs (best players of the season) with unmatched statistics, but only one ball to share.
"If two superstars want to play together, they will make it work. The role of the coach, then, is only to maximize their talents », their trainer, Mike d'Antoni, anticipated in early July.
On the East Coast, if New York was once again yearning to recruit good-looking people, the temperature rose on the other side of the East River. In the mercato of the stars, the Knicks saw the Brooklyn Nets sign two of the biggest names on the market: Kevin Durant – who should miss the entire season due to an injury – and Kyrie Irving.
Proof that things are going fast in the NBA. Worse record of the North American basketball league three years ago, and sealed by the consequences of what remains considered the worst transfer in history, the Nets had bottomed. But the New York team has rebounded well and is now among the candidates for the title.
Delivered from the Golden State Warriors (three titles and two finals lost in five years) due to Durant's departure, the North American League begins an open season, where many teams position themselves to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the season.
This great upheaval would almost make the defending champions forget. Sacred in June after overthrowing the Warriors – certainly amputated by injuries – the Toronto Raptors open the ball of the season on Tuesday night against New Orleans (at 2 am French time).
Deprived of their star, the unassuming Kawhi Leonard, who left a year after his transfer to Canada leaving Ontario with the memory of a title, the Raptors are entering the new season determined to defend their crown.