The Search For Hatred

I want to dive into the NBA offseason real quick. First off, pretty much every TV analyst said this past draft could have been one of the craziest in NBA history (it wasn’t). However, it set the stage for a very lucrative beginning to free agency. Anyways, the fucking Lakers. I’m a Sixers fan, so you can assume I’ve hated the Lakers my whole life. Everyone does, but being a Sixers fan, history tell us to hate the Lakers. I was almost five years old during the 2001 finals and to be honest I remember very little of the Lakers demolishing the Sixers. Knowing about it should be enough to build that hatred, right? But dammit, I didn’t hate them (enough). There was always the “Oh, the Lakers? They get everything, so fuck them,” mindset. But for me there was never a concrete source of this hatred towards them. Enter the 2015 NBA draft and the following period of free agency.

The beginning of the draft was easy to predict. Karl Anthony-Towns was the consensus number one pick. His polished defensive game and potential on offense to go along with his high basketball IQ was too much to pass up for any team. And then there was Jah. Jahlil Okafor was the best prospect going into this past college season, and this kid was is a godddamn house. His post presence is unbelievable, he can move more the average giant, has great passing vision, and he had the second highest field goal percentage in the country last year, probably the biggest “sure-thing” of the draft. The Lakers need a big man, I mean their best center is Robert Sacre; boom, easy Jah to the Lakers at two. The Sixers get the playmaking guard that we need, put that with the Noel/Embiid combo, put some players around that, and eventually bring us to the Promised Land. That was how almost every mock draft was set up…until draft day. SPOILER ALERT: the Lakers don’t take the consensus #2 pick; they don’t take the franchise big man that they needed. The Lakers instead take the guard to play with (stand next to) Kobe and opted to gamble in free agency.

To be fair, it’s the Lakers, they can attract anyone in free agency right? They have one of the best players of all time, one of the most famous franchises in all of sports, a shitload of hardware and it’s L.A. With LaMarcus Aldridge most likely leaving Portland and Kevin Love opting out of his contract with the Cavs, there were two big name big men to help fill the Lakers hole and someone was destined to sign. First, Aldridge. LaMarcus is finally getting to the point where he realizes that Portland probably isn’t the place to win a championship. Yes Lillard is a stud and the two of them with the supporting cast they’ve assembled make up a consistent playoff roster. But Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are gone and it’s not the team to get through the current Western Division and win a title. So you’d think: L.A. has a need for a big man, L.A. needs a home, their initials are the same so sign the fucking paper. But no, Aldridge was underwhelmed by the Lakers presentation and ruled them out and eventually signed with the Spurs. While K. Love never actually met with the Lakers, there was some serious speculation about the possibility of a homecoming. I mean he’s from Santa Monica and played at UCLA. When Love re-signed with the Cavs you couldn’t be surprised. He said he wanted to win, and Cleveland, NOT LOS ANGELES, is the place to do that right now. (Funny right?) I need to point out that all of this secretly made me happy to see the Lakers squirming around free agency finally unable to attract who they need.

So through the most exciting and wild part of free agency, the Lakers are left without a big man. Greg Monroe went to the Bucks, Deandre went to Dallas and then back to the Clips, and a slew of other not as big name signings occurred. With Boogie Cousins so close over in Sacramento, and clearly not happy with his situation there, you’d think the Lakers would be able to make some kind of push for him (but it doesn’t seem like that’ll ever happen). To put it lightly, the Lakers struck out. They bet on themselves by drafting D’Angelo and trying to get a big man in free agency but their attempts at wooing the top big men prospects failed.

Roy Hibbert, encouraged by Larry Bird to enter free agency, decided to sign back with the Pacers and will cost them about $15.5 mil this year. Here come the (purple and) golden child of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers. When their pitch of “we play in L.A.” “we have 16 championships” “we have Kobe” no longer working on free agents as it has for their entire history, and when winning and rosters seem to be all the more important than traditions and location, it all but looked like the Lakers might finally be in for the long haul on the rebuilding train, waiting to get a franchise big man to fill in the hole they left wide open. Payback for not making the easy, obvious selection of Jahlil Okafor second overall, but instead stealing D’Ang right from under the city who desperately needs a basketball hero; Philadelphia. Nope, the two teams are finalizing talks that would send Hibbert to Los Angeles. You can’t really get mad (in a basketball sense) at the Pacers for this deal because they unload Hibbert’s contract and don’t have to deal with him anymore. Now, while Hibbert isn’t the dominating player he was when the Pacers made their run at the Heat, he’s still a 7-footer capable of taking up space and impacting a game. The fact that a team can make a risky draft pick, then strike out in free agency to prove it was probably the wrong pick, then get bailed out makes me upset. The fact that it was the Lakers makes me furious. It’s about time the Lakers suck.

The worst part about all of this is I think it has a chance to work. I love D’Ang. I went to the game up at State College when OSU came to town just to see him play. As I sat there watching him play, my buzz slowly but surely fading, I thought 2 things: 1. No way I’m staying past halftime, and 2. I want this kid on the Sixers. Luckily there were two surefire big man prospects and two teams that needed big men in front of us, so D’Angelo would surely fall to the Sixers, right? Nope. Sadly the Sixers got the number three overall pick, so once again it was out of our hands and we got fucked, something us Sixers fans have become all to accustomed to. Its brutal to think that D’Angelo should have fallen to us; not could have, should have. But he didn’t, and he is such a Los Angeles player. While I’m not quite sure what that means, he looks right at home in a Lakers uniform. L.A. was clearly the place that he wanted to end up, but shouldn’t have ended up. So, after being a Sixers fan my whole life, it has taken until now, but I finally have that source of my own personal Laker hatred. And I know, every time I see D’Angelo Russell in Lakers purple and gold I will think of what could’ve and should’ve been. One last thing, if that hate is inside you too, let it burn, and let it burn knowing that fans of every of NBA franchise are with you.

Finally, @Lakers, I fucking hate you.