The direct consequence of the NBA championship is an experiment in social chaos.
Suddenly, it seems that there are a million people who go through the backstage in the backstage of the stadium. The place reeks of champagne. Decorum falls apart. Players will talk – even hugs – every schmuck who will approach them.
For a moment the NBA becomes a classless society.
Some of us were in the middle of this confusion at the Oracle Arena on Thursday evening, after the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA crown, trying to be calm while everyone else did not. There was a particularly loud thud and hooting from behind the curtain leading to the Raptor locker room.
Ten heads turned to see who was doing all these inarticulate roars. Kawhi Leonard got out of the curtain.
"What uuuupp ???" Leonard shouted at anyone in particular. Everyone was staring.
Not because he wore ski goggles, he was completely soaked and clumsily burned a bottle of corn. But because Leonard spoke. Loud. Publicly. He is not bound by people.
It was new.
Leonard – usually so taciturn that he stood in your living room for five minutes, you mistook him for furniture – suddenly his personality grew in him. NBA title has strange things for a man.
During the ceremony, much of the mental energy was devoted to reading Leonardo's expressions. He was happy. Even smiling, who seemed a bit painful.
But he was lucky lucky? Was he happy for some time? Did she win the incentive that Leonard requires to re-sign a contract with the Raptors and transform one big campaign into another Ottoman Empire in the league?
When Leonard was (hastily) quoted as referring to the Raptors as "they" in his postgame & # 39; s remarks, instead of using "we", it was a versatile SIGN and PORTENT DOOM.
It's just that it is not. He did not say that. The future of the Raptors is now determined by the dispersion of random pronouns. It just happened to be stupid.
Anyone who says he knows what Leonard thinks is just guessing. Leonard never talked about his plans. He never revealed his plans. He does not have to tell anyone about his plans until the window of the free agency opens on July 1, and even then he can wait as long as he likes it before he makes his decision.
The Raptors' managers will tell you that they believe that they have an internal path to secure him, but none will go to record, or even look very confident while speaking in secret. They know how bad it will look if it fails.
After winning on Thursday, Leonard finally admitted that they all assumed – that he was not full of joy when he learned that he had been sold to Toronto.
"We all know where my destinations were," said Leonard.
Not really, not everyone. No one is sure where Leonard wanted to go. Because he does not tell anyone anything, never and under any circumstances. It's an effective deterrent system.
But according to Leonard, he gave up quickly. He wrote to Kyle & # 39; and Lowry & # 39; on the day after the transaction and said: "I know your best friend [DeMar DeRozan] left. I know you are crazy. But let's get it done. "
Everyone on the outside thinks that the CIA meets the underground bunker of Google & # 39; and the Illuminati. That there are plenty of minions around, manipulating events. They saw too much TV.
That's how sport works at the highest level – one stranger writes to another stranger and says: "So what do you think?" And then they win everything. Straight.
That's how the next piece will go.
Leonard will probably be in the place that is the easiest for him. A home in Los Angeles is one of the options, but Toronto must also seem quite easy. The raptors have kept him healthy, they have surrounded him with quality and they can offer him much more money – about 190 million dollars, give or take, for five years – than anyone else.
The person who will perform the offer is also a factor X. Almost simultaneously with Thursday's victory, Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN – God's voice in the NBA media – reported that the Washington Wizards are preparing to offer the President of Masai Ujiri Raptors as many as 10 million dollars a year to take over activity.
This is an unprecedented amount for this type of work. Whoever takes it will earn his salary. Wizards are a colossal, incurable mess.
Ujiri likes the challenge. His wife, Ramatu, comes from D.C. There are reasons to consider it a credible threat.
But Ujiri does it well in Toronto, where he is still under contract. He can do what he likes. He has no guardians. After Tim Leiweke left as general manager of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in 2015. And although he has no pure business experience, he was offered Leiweke's job.
This is the respect he was being held by his employers. We can safely assume that respect has increased exponentially since then.
This is despite the reports that Ujiri participated in the match with the deputy sheriff of Alameda County immediately after Thursday's game. This stupid incident – in which apparently Ujiri was denied access to the floor because he did not have a golden armband – emphasizes how stormy things appear after the final. This is doubly true for the NBA Finals, where there are no obstacles for the court.
What exactly did this officer think? That a 6-foot-man in a suit for $ 4,000, with a certificate in his right hand, stormed the floor? What exactly do you do?
The only violation here is the criminal lack of common sense.
In a reasonable world this would be solved by a silent word and mutual apologies. But we have an information cycle.
As for the departure of Ujiri, he would be a strange man who would spend five years building a dream house, leading the last nail, then saying, "I think I will go to the tin hut by the river now."
A more likely scenario is that Ujiri stays in Toronto and gets the mother of all conquer. It may depend on one small administrative task – signing Leonardo. If he succeeds, Ujiri becomes the biggest dog in the full alpha league.
Ujiri looks at several managers. The most important of them is R.C. Buford, rarely heard from Svengala for the unbelievable San Antonio Spurs dynasty.
If Ujiri signs Leonard, he is the new Buford. But the more so because Ujiri did not build his team through the randomness of the project. He did it by force of will.
When you're worried about what's going on, you can believe it. That everything up to this point – although it is not easy or predictable – makes sense. You can see where the pieces were to fall, in what logical order and why this happened.
Leonard wants stability. Toronto gave it to him. Ujiri wants control. Toronto gave it up. Ujiri needs Leonardo, and at some level, Leonard needs Ujiri. Their legacy is now twin.
If one man is successful, just like the other. There is no more mythical NBA history than that of student and teacher – Bill Russell and Red Auerbach; Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, etc.
Neither Leonard nor Ujiri work for money anymore. They work for history. They both did something special together. Now they can do something epochal.
Raptors stand on the border of the Boston Celtics territory. If they stick together, they can do something big.
This is a powerful incentive for elite athletes. Make your mark persistent in a field that by its nature is fleeting. You can not be the best forever or even very long. The best is always changing.
But the best era? The best what is said decades later? This distinction is achievable by very, very few.
Here's what the Raptors could do. They need only the cooperation of two men who this year demonstrated that they are the conditions on the basis of which they define themselves.