With free agency blowing up the normal state of affairs, fans have every right to be more engaged in the NBA right now than they were when competition was being played.
The defection of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors and Dwyane Wade’s return to Chicago was a big enough deal this month, then Tim Duncan announced his retirement.
The legendary Spurs title winner and face of the franchise hung up the boots this week, ending months of speculation about his future.
His waves to the AT&T Center crowd in the Playoffs suggested this could be the conclusion of an incredible ride, but the realisation that the journey is over is still something to digest.
In typical San Antonio fashion, Pau Gasol was acquired from the Bulls to fill that center/power forward role performed to perfection by Duncan over a decorated career.
At 40 years of age with 19 seasons under his belt and 5 championships, there was nothing left to prove.
Certainly a season off the bench playing 10-12 minutes a game was not beyond him, but there is more to life than basketball and the incentive to play for money is not a factor.
In any other July, this news would make enormous waves, albeit a revelation a lot of pundits would have seen coming.
With the amount of money being spent, courtesy of a new television deal reported to be in the vicinity of $24 billion struck by the NBA starting to come into effect, the new reality makes a mockery of what we thought a player is worth on the open market.
Gasol’s move to the Spurs alone cost the Texas outfit $30 million over two years – for a 36-year old no less!
The madness is just beginning.
Amid all this chaos it is difficult to remember an NBA off season, at least in living memory, where the basketball landscape shifted so much in the weeks after a championship.
Especially an inaugural championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers, won by a local hero who completed the most remarkable redemption story in the sport.
Everywhere you look, the narratives and storylines of the game’s biggest characters are evolving before our eyes.
Friends become enemies, enemies friends.
Kevin Durant to GSW
Social media and Stephen A. Smith blew up when Durant chucked in the towel at Oklahoma City Thunder, trading a potential Finals team for a heavyweight that ousted OKC in 7 games.
Smith described the switch as a “weak move,” sighting the fact OKC let slip a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals to go missing and fold under a Warriors side that got their mojo back.
There is some truth to this accusation, yet turning down the chance to be surrounded by Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson is a temptation too enticing for mere mortals.
If Durant stayed with the Thunder to win a championship with Westbrook, his legacy would be forever etched in Oklahoma.
Creating your own slice of history with a franchise is the ultimate for any player, starting from the bottom to build off the back of your blood, sweat and tears.
Now it would feel like riding the coattails of an organisation already at the top of their game, but what price do you put on a championship?
Will he really care about the context of winning, assuming that they do?
This decision puts Russell Westbrook firmly under the microscope.
The last remaining superstar in Oklahoma will in all likelihood play this coming season as the lone scorer, but will look to make the most of this free agency binge when he explores the market in 12 months time.
Franchises will be falling over themselves to secure his services, given the race to sign a top end talent.
Then again, with a big ego that now has the Thunder dressing room looking to him as the unchallenged leader, perhaps he sticks around.
Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls
If Durant’s seismic shift from OKC to the Bay Area was the move of the off season, then Dwyane Wade leaving his one-and-only NBA franchise in the Miami Heat to the Bulls was something else.
At 34, Wade is in the twilight of great career and still has something significant to offer a franchise.
His relationship with Heat owner Pat Riley disintegrated to the point where Riley didn’t publicly or reportedly, even privately, acknowledge and communicate with his star man.
The move is a puzzling one for the Chicago Bulls given their philosophy of signing young, quick players to support their gun Jimmy Butler.
Perhaps this is the smart old head with championship experience that propels the franchise back to the grand old days of the 1990s?
Knicks go big
The New York Knicks shook things up at Madison Square Garden, wanting to top up a Carmelo Anthony-led roster with the likes of Courtney Lee for $50m, Joakim Noah for $72m, Lance Thomas for $27m and former league MVP Derrick Rose from their Eastern Conference rivals in the Bulls.
President Phil Jackson is wasting no time trying to build a roster that can compete in the East where it counts, although many pundits are lamenting the franchise for investing so much in players past their peak.
The Washington Post was one of those public critics, stating that the Rose trade for the final year of Jose Calderon’s contract is another example of searching for a quick-fix to solve their problems.
Newly appointed coach Jeff Hornacek will have a healthy arsenal of scorers to pick from, the only issue will be striking a balance between the artists and the soldiers on the court.
The Garden can be an unforgiving environment if results start to go south and Hornacek will need to combine the talents of Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis all at once.
Huge moves for Australians
It is the biggest off season the NBA has seen and that applies for Down Under players as well.
Towering center Andrew Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks from the Warriors for cap space.
The former Bucks number one draft pick is in the Boomers squad right now under an injury cloud that could hamper his Rio 2016 hopes.
Matthew Dellavedova’s 4-year deal to the Milwaukee Bucks for $38.4m stunned many observers, not because of the move but the money on offer.
Delly will join number 10 pick Thon Maker in Wisconsin to make it two Aussies on the one roster, leaving behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best of circumstances.
Then there is the small matter of Ben Simmons lighting things up with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Summer League tournament at Las Vegas.
Much has been spoken about his passing game and the Philly faithful will be licking their lips in anticipation to see what the Melbourne boy can do when competition gets back underway in October.