The perpetual hint of optimism parses through each team during the offseason, or more accurately, with the fresh smells of training camp and striped orange spheres just kicking up. And to a micro-extent, every player, coach and their fans help coalesce these notions into some arbitrary set of goals, realizations and expectations for the upcoming season. Be it NBA Championship (Oklahoma City Thunder), NBA Finals (Los Angeles Clippers), any playoff spot (Cleveland Cavaliers), dignity (Los Angeles Lakers), or the 2014 NBA Draft first overall pick (Philadelphia 76ers); the verbiage and sentiment remain the same: anything is possible.
There will be the eternal pessimists: the ones who claim Greg Oden will never play another NBA game (plausible); that injuries will slay the Golden State Warriors in their promising season (very asshole-ish, but possible); that Kyrie Irving is injury-prone and can't stay healthy (you can also find these people at your local coffee shop chewing out the workers for adding too much sugar or soy to his frappucino). But what's the joy of forever etching the grains of depression and sadness into your sports cortex when there's the small glimpse of hope at the end of the proverbial tunnel. You know, the same tunnel that birthed Monta-ball, where Jimmy Butler put on 15 pounds of muscle (a number that my friend on five supplements and six needles a day can't even surpass), Larry Sanders calls out Brandon Jennings for not doing the one thing that he'll need to do on a team hosts a collection of All-Star talents on its frontline: pass. There's every reason to eschew the inevitable future for the sweet, innocent taste of the wonderful present. And that present is training camp; and as of this week, the season in its true infancy.
The gentle waft of optimism is symbolic of most teams but isn't restricted to any grandeur expectations. Dallas Mavericks fans understand the title window is closed but would happily cheer on Dirk Nowitzki's last couple years with a few postseason appearances and vintage right-shoulder shimmy into a one-legged high-arching fadeaway. And the preseason's preseason is an odd, yet perfect time and place for glossing over previous highs and lows, glory days and dark nights, while envisioning a season playing out exactly how you expect it to on 2K14.
And with all that being said, Andrew Bogut's apparent health, Harrison Barnes' dominance against All-Star new addition Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's All-Life shooting, and the energy and competitiveness of everyone else points this team upward, with the question marks merely a footnote. There are those that worry about expectations, whether this team can meet them, and taking a slow-your-roll approach to a team that's only just made the playoffs despite struggling to a .500 record in its last two months of the season. Perhaps the more important aspect is how fans and the players themselves react if and when those expectations and newfound projections aren't met.
Because though we won't admit it to ourselves, there's a lot more to lose with a team poised to take the proverbial next step towards a championship than one taking several back to the pinball machine.