The Trailblazers should be a beacon of hope for the Suns

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns

There's something so much more satisfying about homemade versus store-bought, even if in the back of our minds, we can admit that the store does it better. And, they should. They have better equipment, more expertise and more resources. The only thing they don't have is soul.

The Trailblazers have it. The Lakers, meanwhile, are still trying to get the cellophane off. And while we can all admit the Lakers will win this series, there was something empowering about seeing Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum tear the soul out of LA's privileged child the last eight minutes of Tuesday's game.

Of the many ways LeBron James changed the NBA, perhaps most impactful was making it not just acceptable - but a right of passage - for stars to abandon their home teams in search of greener pastures, and better stars. Now, everybody's on the move.

Meanwhile, the NBA became the most elitist league in America, sticking its nose up at small-market teams and disenfranchising their fans along the way. In return, nearly half of its TV audience packed up and left.

Damian Lillard became known as a sucker for admitting he planned to play in Portland his whole career.

“I wanna be the one, the star that wants to be here." Lillard said in an interview with Complex last August. “I wanna be the one that embodies all of those things and then be a part of the rise from ‘we haven’t won since ’77, and now we won, and Dame’s everything to our city."

The NBA's conundrum harkens back to Wall Street's during the 2008 financial crisis. It didn't matter that Wall Street's practices were eroding the economy from the inside out, if you weren't cashing in on sub-prime mortgages, the joke was on you.

And, much like the offending banks and insurance companies of 2008, today's NBA stars will not ultimately be left holding the bag for the NBA's growing wealth gap, or audience collapse. When the NBA pays for those things in the form of a discounted TV contract, it's the middle class - guys like Jevon Carter - that will pay the biggest price.

Or, maybe, there doesn't have to be a crisis. Maybe free market economics will sort this all out. Maybe these pieced-together superteams will leave the NBA so devoid of culture that home-grown teams like the Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz and Raptors will keep having a real puncher's chance in the playoffs.

The Raptors won with chemistry and coaching in 2019, albeit with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. Now, the Blazers look like real threats to make their first-round matchup with the Lakers competitive. We may be witnessing the very beginnings of what the business world calls "disruption". Or, this may be a blip in the radar.

If it is disruption, the Suns will be the latest team to gnaw at the heels of the NBA's hedge fund managers with blue-collar workmanship. Monty Williams - or should I say, "Coach of the Bubble" - has Phoenix's young core in the palm of his hands. Devin Booker's totally bought in, and has been embraced by a cult Valley Boyz following. The culture is being built from the ground up. What used to be known as the "right way."

The Trailblazers, along with the Nuggest and Jazz, laid the blueprint first. Damian Lillard is showing Devin Booker loyalty can be rewarded. Perhaps the NBA's newfangled culture warriors can erode the gates the league's power brokers have hoisted up.

Those Wall Street rats are resilient, though.

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