I Love This Game!

Illustration for article titled I Love This Game!
Photo: Harry How (Getty Images)

After spending over a year of my life trapped inside of my apartment alone—no kids, no dogs, no Wilson—I’m off that good Pfizer and fighting through the psychological toll of such a miserable, traumatic experience by slowly pushing myself to reintegrate back into society.

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That means dinners and hikes and hugs with friends who have undergone similar transformations, travels to my hometown of Tulsa, Okla. for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an extreme case of social anxiety with complimentary panic attacks, reacquainting myself with the gym, and my triumphant return to a place that once brought me both joy and refuge: the barbershop.

The rumors are true: For the first time in my adult life, I went well over a year without plopping my Black ass in a barber’s chair. I survived the experience by buying some clippers off of Amazon a few months into quarantine after I got sick and tired of looking like a werewolf. So for the sake of my self-esteem, and in turn my mental health, since I can’t cut hair for shit, I opted to abandon my signature Safaree-esque look entirely in favor of going bald—until I could reunite with my barber again.

Returning to the barbershop has been a bit overwhelming. I’m no longer accustomed to such a boisterous environment—let alone other living, breathing human beings—and lingering fears of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 to loved ones makes comfort elusive. But every time niggas argue about sports in there, I find myself reverting to my previous extroverted state: Especially when it involves the Lakers.

Because fuck them.

On one such day, I happened to be minding my Black-ass business when the subject of the Suns-Lakers playoff series came up. There’s always somebody who’s wrong and strong, and on this particular day, it happened to be another barber, who, for the sake of clarification, I’ll call “Kyle” (names have been changed to protect pride). With the Suns-Lakers series tied at one game apiece, Kyle was beating his chest, swearing up and down that the Lakers were about to win the series because they were the superior team.

At this age, I’m too old to be barking on anyone who isn’t disrespecting the mother of my child or threatening the health and safety of my son, so I calmly looked at him like he was fucking crazy and asserted that if Chris Paul (who nursed a shoulder contusion the entire series) didn’t get pulled from the game due to injury, the Suns would’ve won. (Duh, nigga!) This violent, eight-person Royal Rumble proceeded for the next 15-20 minutes before Kyle finally got fed up with my pushback.

“You talking big shit!” he sneered. “If you feel that confident about the Suns winning the series then put your bread up!”

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“How much we talking?” I replied.

The guilt was slowly beginning to trickle in because I knew I was about to rob another Black man blind. D-Nice and them tried to warn y’all about self-destruction.

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“$100,” he said, defiant. “You about that life or nah?”

After we shook on it, my barber, “Nicole,” leaned into my ear.

“Why would you take that bet?” she asked. “Didn’t you say Chris Paul’s shoulder was fucked up?”

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Fast forward to Thursday night.

Less than 48 hours after Deandre Ayton and them ran the Lakers out the building in Game 5 with a 115-85 good ol’ fashioned, passionate ass-whooping, I glanced at my TV screen and history was repeating itself.

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I don’t know what the fuck Devin Booker ate for breakfast, but he literally could not miss, going six-for-six from deep for a cool 22 points in the first quarter alone.

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His merciless onslaught would continue throughout the entire game, pushing the Suns’ lead to as many as 29 points and systematically dissecting LeBron and them with a nasty assortment of mid-range jumpers, soul-snatching treys, and complimentary trash talk.

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And when the dust cleared, Booker finished the first closeout game of his career by sending LeBron home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time ever. The two-time All-Star was even kind enough to generously donate 47 points and 11 boards to the cause.

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As much joy as I take in the Lakers losing—that glee is rivaled only by Jae Crowder—it brings even more delight to my heart knowing that the Lakers are fucked for the immediate future.

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Head coach Frank Vogel has made it explicitly clear that he would love nothing more than for rebounding machine Andre Drummond—who they snatched up midseason after he reached a buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers—to return to the team next season.

“We’re hopeful that [Drummond is] a Laker for a long time to come,” he told reporters, back before the 27-year-old center was rendered completely useless in the playoffs. “That’s what we’re envisioning, and we think he’s going to be a key piece for us both in the short term and in the long term.”

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Slight problem: the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

I’ll let Bleacher Report explain:

The veteran is limited by non-Bird rights to just a contract starting at $2.9 million for next season. Will he happily turn down what could be big money from other teams to stay in Los Angeles for less?

Can the Lakers find a way to keep Drummond but other key potential free agents like Schroder and Harrell as well?

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Y’all really think a dude who put up 15 points and 12 boards a game during the regular season is about to play for pocket lint? Sure, Los Angeles could close the gap by offering the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected at $5.9 million) or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.5 million), but that comes with consequences.

Again from Bleacher Report:

Should Drummond accept [the non-taxpayer mid-level exception], the Lakers would once again have a “hard cap,” which projects to be $143 million next season. With Drummond at $9.5 million, it becomes impossible for the Lakers to keep the entire team together. And that’s assuming Drummond is even willing to take a below-market contract to stay.

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There’s also the Dennis Schröder problem. Last we checked, homie already turned down a four-year, $84 million extension in February. So considering the pesky point guard will have plenty of suitors in the offseason, he’ll likely price himself out of re-signing with the Lakers.

Oh and there’s this, again courtesy of Bleacher Report:

Beyond Drummond, Harrell and Schroder, the Lakers will have several other free agents to negotiate with, including Alex Caruso, Horton-Tucker, Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Devontae Cacok (restricted) and Kostas Antetokounmpo (restricted). Alfonzo McKinnie is also under contract, but at $1.9 million in non-guaranteed salary.

Of the list, Caruso and Horton-Tucker could earn sizable raises. The Lakers have full rights to Caruso but only early Bird for Horton-Tucker. With just two years in the NBA, Horton-Tucker is subject to the Arenas Rule, limiting what other teams can offer the young guard.

While a competing franchise could give Horton-Tucker up to nearly $83 million over four years, his contract would start at $9.5 million for the 2021-22 season, with a massive jump in the third season. Los Angeles would have the right to match such an offer. While both Horton-Tucker and Caruso have fans throughout many of the league’s front offices, it’s unclear how big their offers will be this offseason (though all it takes is one or two willing teams to further complicate matters for the Lakers).

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So let me get this straight: LeBron will be one step closer to getting bitch slapped around by Father Time, Anthony Day-to-Davis’ contract will only get worse as he continues to stay more hurt than a Mary J. Blige album, and there’s about a 97 percent chance that the Lakers will have to sacrifice valuable complimentary pieces?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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I love this game!

Thankfully, misery loves company. So I expect the Clippers to join LeBron in Cancun shortly.

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Oh, and Kyle, I’ll be seeing you about my money, nigga.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.

DISCUSSION

spliffjohnson
Scott Swygard

All this glee and trash talking about the Lakers losing a playoff series only cements their legacy as the greatest franchise in NBA history. As Lakers fans we do not go around saying “Man it’s so awesome that we finally beat....”. For those that want to argue this point get back to me when you have 17 banners hanging in your building... or even one! And I know... Boston! But you have one title in the past 35 years.