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In the NBA, nothing is guaranteed.

Sure, right now, it seems like the Boston Celtics got the best possible outcome out of the LeBron James sweepstakes, as he's heading west and clearing a path for the Celtics to get to the finals just as the formerly rebuilding franchise morphs into a title contender.

With James in the East, the Celtics have struggled to advance since the last contending Boston team sent a baby LeBron packing a decade ago, so why would James heading to the hellscape that is the NBA's Western Conference potentially create any negative outcomes for the Celtics?

Well, the first response, while something of a cop-out, is that applying pressure to things sometimes creates diamonds - or, less poetically, that the stew of talent out west will probably wear on all of the other teams with a shot at winning a title next season and for the short-term - but it could also backfire.


It could also be the catalyst for an even deadlier, as-of-yet-unimagined enemy than the Golden State Warriors - it was, after all, created from a combination of blind luck, good planning, and a general sense of frustration at seeing LeBron himself in the NBA Finals every summer.

There is, however, a more concrete way this could go sideways for Boston. Or - perhaps sideways is a bit strong here, but there's a way it might not unfold to the Celtics liking in the postseason, should their peers in the Eastern Conference not surprise the world with a stronger-than-likely showing next October onwards.

There's potential this accelerates the elimination of conferences altogether.
Aesthetically speaking, it'd probably make for more interesting postseasons if teams were seeded across the entire league for postseason matchups, and if you throw in the possibility that teams could perhaps select which lower-seeded teams to face with identical records over the current tiebreaker system, it could get pretty compelling - sometimes tinkering with formats produces a better product.

Except, as a Celtics fan, I'm not sure it'd produce a better product for us. Sure, we've got the Los Angeles Lakers rivalry back with James out West, and that could mean running into the team in the postseason even if the Warriors hold onto their hegemony for a few more years, but part of me would feel dirty for playing those guys in a semifinals - or sooner.

I can't quite articulate why, it just feels...wrong. It should be finals, or nothing. I'm conditioned - I admit it - and I'm not sure that's a thing I can reprogram.
Perhaps even more importantly, such a change would also consign most of the Eastern Conference to the lottery (and one can make an argument that is where they belong), forcing the Celtics to face much-improved foes in the earlier rounds of the playoffs, and taking a much greater toll on the patience, will, and possibly even health of Boston in the short and long- term.

Change is inevitable, and most of the time, a good thing. We have a shot-clock and a three-point line because of it, and the regional drafts have gone the way of the dinosaur in a globalized NBA that is more concerned with finding talent in India than worrying about whether a guy who went to college in Pennsylvania will end up on the Philadelphia 76ers.

But change doesn't always turn out the way you expect, so enjoy the good where you can find it, and be ready to adapt to the bad, because there's always a little of both.

For more stories by Justin, click here.



Image: Elsa/Getty/Atlantic
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 7/02/2018 12:04:00 PM Edit
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