October brought back two of my favorite things: the NBA and Stranger Things. If you aren’t familiar with Stranger Things, let me give you a quick breakdown. Stranger Things is about the disappearance of a boy in a small town in Indiana. If you like supernatural creatures, the 80’s, or Winona Ryder, then you’ll love Stranger Things. While the NBA doesn’t feature any extraterrestrial creatures, (Kyrie Irving might disagree), there have been plenty of strange activities going on.
In Stranger Things, there is an alternate dimension called the "Upside Down." And while the NBA season might only be a few weeks old, it appears the NBA season started in the Upside Down.
The strangeness started on the very first day of the season, Oct. 17th. There were only two games scheduled for the day: the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors vs. the Houston Rockets. For NBA fans, the start of the season is like Christmas. For the most part, everyone was excited and couldn’t wait for the festivities to begin.
Chaos erupted, however, when news broke that Chicago Bulls forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis had a physical altercation during practice. This altercation led to Mirotic suffering a concussion and maxillary fractures, requiring him to be out indefinitely. It’s not unusual for teammates to get into minor altercations—it happens. The strange part is the severity and the aftermath. Mirotic is rightfully upset but has basically been M.I.A and hasn’t even been responding to teammates. Portis was suspended for 8 games but has already returned. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out in the future when Mirotic is set to return.
The madness in the NBA continued when the Phoenix Suns fired head coach Earl Watson after an 0-3 start. Watson’s firing came shortly after a strange “I Don’t wanna be here” tweet from point guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe went on to say that he tweeted that while at the hair salon, insinuating that his tweet had nothing to do with the Suns. Suns GM Ryan McDonough, however, stated that he did not believe that to be true. The Bledsoe saga finally came to an end on Tuesday when the Suns traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe and a first-round pick.
An Eastern Conference team that seems to be in the upside down is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have started the season 5-7, losing to not-so-great teams like the Nets, Magic, Knicks and the Hawks. While it is still very early in the season, the Cavaliers look like a mess. There was the benching of J.R. Smith for newly acquired Dwyane Wade. Then after a rough blowout loss to the Magic, Dwyane Wade requested to come off the bench.
The one bright spot so far for the Cavaliers this season has of course been LeBron James. After a 57-point game against the Washington Wizards, James showed that he is still the king. Unfortunately, that energy didn’t carry over into the next game. The Cavaliers lost to the Atlanta Hawks (2-9) on Sunday. What was most strange, however, was Dwyane Wade’s postgame comments. Wade called out the starters for performing poorly early on in games. Things are certainly weird in Cleveland right now. And while the Cavaliers are still missing a [small] big piece in Isaiah Thomas, it’s unclear how his addition will help with their defensive woes.
Perhaps the strangest thing going on right now in the NBA though is the Markelle Fultz saga. The Philadelphia 76ers have had weird luck with rookies and injuries in the last couple of years, but the Fultz situation has to top it all. Fultz started the season struggling with his shot. He had completely changed his shooting form and it was clear that something was wrong with him. It was eventually revealed that Fultz was suffering from a shoulder injury that required fluid to be drained.
The weirdest part in all of this though was the handling of the situation by the Sixers. Bryan Colangelo, the Sixers GM, tried to put the blame on Fultz, stating that it was his decision to change his shooting form. The Sixers coach Brett Brown insinuated the same thing. The Sixers eventually shut Fultz down indefinitely. All in all, strange things are definitely happening in Philly.
An honorable mention for strange things in the NBA is Andre Drummond. If you’ve ever watched Drummond, you’d know that he has been an abysmal free throw shooter. His career free throw percentage of 38 percent is one of the worst in NBA history. So naturally, in this strange state of the NBA that we’re in, Drummond has all of a sudden become a better free throw shooter. He’s shooting 75% from the line. For now, ‘Hack-a-Drummond’ is a thing of the past.
We’re still only a few weeks into the NBA season and we’ve seen fights, subtweets, and a head coach get fired. Things will eventually settle down, but you have to wonder just what more can go on in the crazy NBA universe.
Rodriguez is a senior editor and social media producer at the Hoops Inquirer. He covers national NBA news and WNBA news. He covers St. John's University's men's basketball for SB Nation's Rumble in the Garden. Rodriguez also covers New York City high school basketball for the Bronx Times, TimesLedger and Brooklyn Daily.