Who’s a hater supposed to hate in the NBA now?

Ah, the annual burning of one’s own possessions. A tradition like none other. (Screenshot from Twitter/ @ShaiGSZN)

By MIKE HERNDON

Say this for the NBA: Its offseason isn’t boring. It may be more interesting than the season itself.

KD decided to break up the Warriors’ dynasty. Kyrie, who left the Cavaliers because he wanted to be the top offensive option, has now left the Celtics to become the second option again with KD in Brooklyn. Anthony Davis finally forced his way out of New Orleans to join LeBron in L.A. And Kawhi orchestrated a way to get Paul George to join him with the Clippers, setting the fuse to a Thunder rebuild that led to Russell Westbrook getting traded to Houston for Chris Paul and picks.

So who’s a hater supposed to hate now?

Just when you think the NBA’s getting boring, with the Warriors loaded to win every championship until Steph Curry retires, the most free and loose free agency in professional sports blows everything up and gives us an entirely new landscape. Whether all this yearly movement is a good thing for the sport probably depends on your perspective and which team you support. It will certainly keep bread on Adrian Wojnarowski’s table as long as he wants it.

It can make it difficult, however, for us to keep current on who we’re supposed to be angry with and whose jersey we’re supposed to be setting on fire.

So, in the interest of awful Twitter takes everywhere, here’s a handy guide of potential targets for your irrational ire:

  1. Kawhi Leonard – Just left a championship team, a place where he could probably have gotten elected mayor had he stayed, to go to a big market and try to create another superteam. Also, as ESPN and practically every other outlet like to remind us, a weird dude who likes apples and being aloof. Skip Bayless (who is in no sense of the word a Spurs homer, that’s preposterous, why would you even ask that?) won’t call him by name.
  2. Kyrie Irving – Left a championship team in 2017 because he wanted to be the show, but we were too busy hating KD to notice. Is either a flat-earther or bad at jokes.
  3. Kevin Durant – You’ve never forgiven him for the 2016-19 Warriors, and you never will.
  4. Anthony Davis – Inappropriate use of Merry Melodies catchphrases and a regrettable lack of appreciation for one of America’s great party towns. Also: Now a teammate of LeBron (See: No. 7).
  5. Russell Westbrook – Overly cocky, carries petty grudges, shoots too much and dresses better than you.
  6. Paul George – Infuriating penchant for joining teams that are just good enough to get excited about but not good enough to win anything.
  7. LeBron James –He’ll never be MJ. And don’t forget about The Decision. You remember The Decision, don’t you? Do you really need another reason?
  8. Whoever says they won’t go to the White House if they win a title.

You can always find an excuse to hate an athlete. There will always be a moment of frustration, or selfishness, or pettiness, a decision that makes no sense to you, a snarky response to a loaded question, an episode of putting himself ahead of the team.

Or, we could just accept that these are humans who are all, at the end of the day, looking out for their own best interests. Sometimes that best interest is winning a championship. Sometimes, it’s earning more money. Sometimes, it’s a fresh start. Sometimes, it’s living in a city that the player and his family enjoy or that will afford him business opportunities after his playing career ends.

Whatever they are, those issues don’t have anything to do with you.

Yes, if you’re an Oklahoma City fan it sucks that Paul George and Russell Westbrook are gone. But that team wasn’t getting out of the West anyway and the Thunder got a boatload of picks for those two guys. If Sam Presti uses them wisely, you may one day look back on this year as the beginning of a dynasty.

Yes, if you’re a Toronto fan it sucks that Kawhi left. But be happy that he came there in the first place and basically gave you a championship. (To be fair, this seems to be the prevailing sentiment of the relatively few people I come into contact with that would consider themselves Raptors fans.)

Yes, if you’re a Knicks fan it sucks that KD and Kyrie went to Brooklyn instead of coming to storied Madison Square Garden. Sorry, I’ve got nothing else. Your owner is James Dolan.

You can always look for an excuse to hate someone. Or you can turn off Twitter, turn off First Take and The Herd and Undisputed (if anyone actually watches it), and just watch the games and enjoy them for what they are – entertainment.

And if this offseason is any indication, the next few years should be quite entertaining in the NBA.



Categories: NBA

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