The NBA Bubble Preview: Pop Goes the Season

Bubble teams, new names, maybe some games

Games start tonight, which means I’m back with an even more half-assed NBA preview that’s way more focused on renaming all the teams and ignores on-court activity. Please share your team name suggestions in the comments; I’m sure you can do better than I did. (Also, I’m aware that hockey is doing some stuff too but under no circumstances am I doing even an sixteenth-assed NHL preview.)

Atlanta Hawks

In the bubble: No

Championship contender: Trae Young is fun, but no, they’re terrible.

New name: “Hawks” is fine in theory, but there are so many damn bird team names. We can do better. What’s the ATL known for? That’s right: Its strip clubs (and their wings). Our new team is the Atlanta Dollar Bills.

Boston Celtics

In the bubble: Yes

Championship contender: Very fringe-y. They’re good but they’re not quite that good.

New name: No way. “Celtics” was chosen as a memorial to the many unnamed red-headed slaves murdered in Boston’s notorious anti-Celtic pogroms. Those poor people died at the hands of white people JUST like the blacks which is why it’s not racist for me, as a PROUD half-Irish, to say that those lazy colored need to stop complaining because MY granddaddy Sheamus McFinnerty was ALSO a SLAVE and in fact had it WAY WORSE because there was NO WELFARE FOR MICKS and AFFIRMATIVE ACTION meant more beatings [continues for 25 more racist minutes]

Brooklyn Nets

In the bubble: Yes

Championship contender: If they had their full team, yes, but Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both hurt, thus rendering them harmless.

New name: Nah, this is fine… OK, unless you want to work in the “Gentrifers.”

Charlotte Hornets

In the bubble: No

Championship contender: Nah, they stink

New name: “Hornets” is kinda dumb but honestly it’s not like Charlotte has a lot of other notable things going for it. You’re not gonna call them the “Banks” are ya?

Chicago Bulls

In the bubble: No

Championship contender: Definitely not.

New name: Unless you’re gonna be real meta and name them the Cryin’ Jordans, “Bulls” works great.

Cleveland Cavaliers

In the bubble: No

Championship contender: God, no.

New name: Bonus points for alliteration, but “Cavaliers” makes zero sense for Cleveland. What do we know about Cleveland? Welp, they had a river catch on fire. They have the rock ’n’ roll hall of fame … the Cleveland Chris Cornells. Done.

Dallas Mavericks

In the bubble: Yep!

Championship contender: No, but they’re going in the right direction with Luke Doncic, a deeply unathletic-seeming Euro guard who is a fucking wizard.

New name: Until the Palin family buys an NBA team and makes it all-white and moves it to Anchorage, this works fine.

Denver Nuggets

In the bubble: Yes

Championship contender: A little bit

New name: Nuggets is supposed to imply gold mining, but it makes me either think of marijuana or poop. Perfect name, never change.

Detroit Pistons

In the bubble: Nah.

Championship contender: Deep nah.

New name: Totally works, don’t touch it.

Golden State Warriors

In the bubble: Nope.

Championship contender: Not this year!

New name: “Warriors” is deeply boring. They just moved to San Fran, why can’t they take in the culture a little bit by becoming the Golden State Corporate Policies or the Golden State Lack of Affordable Housing or the Golden State Pass Laws Against Poor People?

Houston Rockets

In the bubble: You know it.

Championship contender: A little bit!

New name: As much as I want to make a James Harden joke here, “Rockets” is good.

Indiana Pacers

In the bubble: Yessir.

Championship contender: Not quite, but they’re decent.

New name: Pacers is fine, but “Fightin’ Larry Birds” is, frankly, much better.

LA Clippers

In the bubble: Yes (except for Lou Williams)

Championship contender: Big time, they’re one of the top contenders this year (except for Lou Williams)

New name: “Clippers” comes from their time in San Diego. Incredibly stupid. But hold the thought for a second because …

LA Lakers

In the bubble: Very much so

Championship contender: Probably the top contender.

New name: “Clippers” is bad because it’s from San Diego; “Lakers” is deeply insane because it comes from Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes) and was ported to LA (land of not that many lakes). You have two LA teams with bad nicknames, which is why they’ll have to fight over the obvious new name: Stars. Yes, I’m aware Stars is taken by a hockey team, but the NBA should liberate it — hilariously, it’s another name taken from Minnesota and moved to a place where it makes less sense, Dallas. Anyway, Los Angeles Stars is perfect and probably should belong to the Lakers, a team that falls ass-backward into legendary players like 3 times a decade.

Memphis Grizzlies

In the bubble: Surprisingly so!

Championship contender: No, but they have some really exciting young talent and have been way better this season than most people would have guessed.

New name: The second-dumbest name in the league. Easy fix: Nuke St. Louis and call them the Memphis Blues. I guess you could also not nuke St. Louis and call them the Memphis Souls or Pit Masters or Gracelands, but honestly, let’s do any of those and still nuke St. Louis.

Miami Heat

In the bubble: Yep.

Championship contender: Not quite, but they’re good.

New name: When this was announced in the ‘90s, I thought it was the dumbest name. After a few decades, it’s grown on me a little bit. There are better options, but I’m OK with keeping Heat unless you have a good cocaine-related suggestion.

Milwaukee Bucks

In the bubble: Hell yes

Championship contender: Absolutely. They’re the best team in the Eastern Conference.

New name: Great name. Fear the deer!

Minnesota Timberwolves

In the bubble: Hell no.

Championship contender: [rolls eyes]

New name: This is fine?

New Orleans Pelicans

In the bubble: Yep!

Championship contender: Not this year

New name: Now *obviously* the correct name for this team is “Jazz.” You know it. I know it. Barbara Bush knows it. And yet, I love “Pelicans.” It’s so great! Even though we will be liberating “Jazz” in a few paragraphs, I’m very OK with dipping my beak with the Pellies.

New York Knicks

In the bubble: hahahahahahahahahahahaha


New name: Who cares.

… yes, OK, fine, Spike Lee. Spike Lee cares. I was asking rhetorically.

Oklahoma City Thunder

In the bubble: Yes.

Championship contender: No, but another team that way outdid expectations.

New name: Thunder is decent. Tornadoes is better. “Seattle Sonics” is way, way, way better.

Orlando Magic

In the bubble: The bubble’s home team

Championship contender: Definitely not

New name: I get what they’re going for with “Magic” but it’s not great. Just call them the “Disneys” or the “Mouseketeers” if you want to go that way. Me, I say keep ripping off other names so “Gators” or “Predators” or “Senior Discounts”

Philadelphia 76ers

In the bubble: They are.

Championship contender: Maybe the toughest team to answer this for. Their record suggests not; their talent suggests … maybe? A first-round playoff exit and a title are kinda both in play.

New name: Don’t you DARE touch this one.

Phoenix Suns

In the bubble: Shockingly, yes!

Championship contender: No, they’re pretty poor.

New name: On the one hand “Suns” is boring; on the other, it’s 174 degrees in Phoenix right now so “Suns” seems apropos.

Portland Trail Blazers

In the bubble: Just barely.

Championship contender: Definitely not. They had some injuries and their wagon failed to ford the river, so they’re shorthanded.

New name: Oregon Trail is the OG gamer’s game, so how dare I even suggest a change?

Sacramento Kings

In the bubble: Bubblin’

Championship contender: Some young talent here, but they’re not close to being there yet.

New name: This is taken from a previous home of the team. Hard pass. Call them the “Surfers” even though nobody in their right mind would go to Sacto to go surfing.

San Antonio Spurs

In the bubble: They’re on the bubble’s bubble

Championship contender: It’s been about 25 years but finally I can say, nah

New name: Spurs is a nice nod to Texas’s belief that it’s the only place on Earth where people did rural stuff on horses in the past.

Toronto Raptors

In the bubble: Hell yeah

Championship contender: Our defending champions, they were supposed to take a big drop this year without Kawhi Leonard. Instead, they’re good!

New name: I’m not gonna pretend that “Raptors” isn’t an insane 90s product placement gone wrong. And yet: Raptors! That sounds cool! If you have to change it, go classic and make it the “Huskies” which was a team in the forerunner to the NBA.

Utah Jazz

In the bubble: In!

Championship contender: Not quite, but they’re pretty good.

New name: Finally we’ve reached the dumbest name in the league. Jazz is, of course, barred by Mormon doctrine along with fun, caffeine and black people, so this name is a total failure. Call them what they want to be: “Survivalists.” Or “Temples” or just flat out give in and go “Mormons.”

Washington Wizards

In the bubble: Yes, but I have no idea how.

Championship contender: No, they suuuuuuuuuuuuck.

New name: “Wizards” is alliteration gone horribly wrong. It’s so bad that even “Warriors” is better. Have they considered “The Washington Professional Basketball Team”?

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Vell, Clever Name Here just zis guy, you know? Sometimes funny. Often annoyed. Once I saw a blimp.


  1. If there’s one thing I don’t miss from Deadspin, it’s the endless stories about the fucking Knicks. No one gives a shit about the Knicks except for Spike Lee and white, liberal New Yorkers who haven’t already chosen to cheer for whatever team LeBron is on or crossed the bridge to watch Nets’ occasional fits of okay-ishness. Knicks “fans” are somehow worse than Washington Football fans, somehow have made worse coaching decisions than Washington, and somehow have an even more loathesome owner than Washington. 
    Fuck the Knicks, and fuck me for still reading about them when Defector launches.

    • It’s amazing that a team with zero titles in my lifetime — and I’m old enough — still has such a hold over the imagination of so many people … and then I remember that New York is also the capital of navel-gazing and I totally get it.

      I do believe that being in the Garden for a good Knicks game is such a life-altering experience that people mythologize it.

    • For me it was sprots torture porn.  Who doesn’t want to read about a shitty run team run by a shitty moron owner and tell themselves “Holy shit, I’m so happy to be a fan of MY team and whose shithead owner/management team isn’t as bad as THAT GUY!”?*

      Also NYC center of the world ism.*

      *same applies to the history of the Toronto Maple Loafs and Toronto who I am a very indifferent fan of and whose orbit I am stuck around.

  2. I give the Wizarda a pass on the team name because the previous owner realized “Bullets” was a problem when so many people were being shot in DC, and without making a stink about honoring the legacy of past victories or whatever, just went ahead and changed it.
    Even if he had changed the name to Washington Soy Products and Associated Derivative Byproducts, I think I’d be OK.

  3. Nuggets is supposed to imply gold mining, but it makes me either think of marijuana or poop.

    So, can we combine into Stinkweed?
    Also, thank you for not wasting time on the Knicks. Or the Kings.

      • Saw him play college some.  Then I got married.  I never really got into the NBA and my wife hates basketball, so no more March Madness, etc.  She did find Dennis Rodman highly entertaining, so we watched those Bulls teams in their playoff runs.

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