LeBron James

NBA Power Rankings - post-free agency edition

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NBA Power Rankings - post-free agency edition

Now, that the free agency dust has, for the most part, settled, it's time to take stock of the NBA.

Have the Los Angeles Clippers actually vaulted ahead of their cross-town rivals with their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and trade for Paul George?

What about the East? Are the Philadelphia 76ers now the team to beat after poaching Al Horford from the Celtics? Where did Kyrie Irving's relocation to Brooklyn move the Nets in the NBA hierarchy?  Will the reboot in Boston with Kemba and the Kids move the needle for the Celtics?

 

Kawhi's decision - not Zion's first game or an earthquake - rocked the NBA landscape

Kawhi's decision - not Zion's first game or an earthquake - rocked the NBA landscape

LAS VEGAS -- The earth moved in a way few anticipated at the Thomas & Mack Arena on Friday night. 

And it had nothing to do with Zion Williamson’s much-anticipated summer league debut with the New Orleans Pelicans against his former Duke teammate, New York Knicks guard R.J. Barrett. 

It wasn’t the aftershocks of a 7.1 earthquake in Southern California that was felt all the way to Las Vegas, either. 

The NBA landscape took a dramatic and unexpected turn late Friday night/Saturday morning when Kawhi Leonard hitched his lot to the Los Angeles Clippers and he’ll be joined by Paul George, who was acquired by the Clippers via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The particulars as to what the Thunder received for George, a top-five MVP candidate this past season, are irrelevant. 

More than anything else, Leonard's decision - and his ability to get the Clippers to go out and land Paul George - is an impressive power move by the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

And it certainly is a jab at LeBron James, who was hopeful that Leonard would pick the Lakers over the Clippers and Toronto Raptors, who Leonard led to the franchise's first NBA title last month.

For the second time in the past three years, LeBron James was LeBron James’d by another player. 

Kyrie Irving’s decision to demand a trade out of Cleveland unexpectedly a couple of years ago was very much a LeBron James-like move. 

And Leonard indicating to the Clippers that he would reportedly come only if they traded for Paul George - which they did successfully -  was very much the kind of power move we’ve seen James execute in the past. 

Just when it seemed the Lakers were one Kawhi commitment away from being the best team in the NBA, now, they’re not even the best team in their building. 

And this is why the NBA is the best league in America. 

Because on a night when a transcendent player of Zion Williamson’s caliber plays his first game and has quite a few highlight-worthy plays, it becomes such a minor footnote because Leonard’s decision provided the kind of NBA fireworks we’ve come to expect. 

The aftershocks postponed the New Orleans vs New York game that eventually was won by the Pelicans, the outcome really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. 

Because on this night, Kawhi's long-awaited decision was what really rocked the NBA landscape, delivering aftershocks that will be felt for quite some time. 

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This map shows how far Kyrie Irving has fallen among fans in New England

This map shows how far Kyrie Irving has fallen among fans in New England

Has there ever been a Boston athlete who has fallen out of favor more quickly than Kyrie Irving?

Red Sox all-time wins leader (with Cy Young) Roger Clemens when he signed with the Yankees after leaving Toronto in 1999?

2004 postseason hero Johnny Damon when he jumped to the Yankees from the Red Sox?

Nomar Garciaparra after his trade from the Sox in '04?

Perhaps. In about a month-and-a-half, Irving has gone from key cog on a Celtics playoff team to the most hated player in the NBA in New England.

You want proof?

Check out this map from sportsinsider.com that analyzed more than 100,000 tweets geotagged from locations in the United States in the past two weeks since the end of the NBA Finals. It looked at tweets that mentioned "hating" or "disliking" a player. 

LeBron James still leads the way with his image looming over 25 states, but look at New England where anti-Kyrie sentiment reigns in five of the six states in the region. Here's the full breakdown: 

James - 25 states
Kevin Durant - 17 states
Irving - five states
Anthony Davis - two states
James Harden - one state

With Kyrie's impending departure from the Celtics imminent after free agency begins (where will he land? Brooklyn? With LeBron in Los Angeles? The Knicks?), look for the map, at least our little corner of it, to remain unchanged no matter where he winds up. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.