The following is a guest post from Mike Lucas (@mlukes14).
Let me start by saying this; I’m not a Lakers fan, but I wish I were.
It’s not fun to admit, but I’m a proud New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets fan. As I sit here writing this from my apartment in Tennessee, I can see my 2002-2003 Nets Eastern Conference Championship Banner and my Game 7 towel from Brooklyn’s 2014 season-ending loss to Toronto.
As the NBA draft recedes in our rearview mirror and the chaotic frenzy that is the first week of free agency cools down, it’s time to focus our attention on the upcoming season. As a Nets fan, there’s not much to get excited about.
I’m pleased with all the team’s offseason acquisitions. All their signings have been low-risk, high-reward deals at pretty good market value. However, I’d be a damn fool to think Brooklyn has any chance at even competing with the better teams in the Eastern Conference next year barring any major changes, and we’ll more likely than not finish near the bottom of the conference.
Losing is one thing, but losing without the benefit of a high draft pick is another. The Celtics own the right to swap draft positions with the Nets in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft, and Boston owns the Nets’ 2018 1st rounder. No matter how the team’s front office tries to spin the situation, the reality is there won’t be any superstar prospects coming through the Nets ranks anytime soon.
It’s boring to be a Nets fan these days, and that’s why I’m mad at my parents right now for not raising me on the West Coast.
Over the last two seasons, the Lakers have been just as bad as any team in the NBA (minus the 76ers but do they even count?). Watching Lakers Twitter react after every loss, every Bryon Scott press conference, and every big Kobe moment during that time span was been priceless. You can see a fan base starving to be competitive again but that can laugh at the lumps along the way.
Now, just two years after the rebuilding process began, Lakers’ fans have plenty to cheer about. Unlike the previous few seasons for my Nets, the Lakers’ atrocious seasons brought them D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr. and Brandon Ingram. From their head coach to the last player in their rotation, the Lakers are young, hungry and talented; and that’s something to get excited about moving forward.
Lakers fans are now immensely excited about the Las Vegas Summer League. Fans around the country are anxiously waiting to see how Ingram performs against bigger and stronger NBA defenders. They’re curious to see how Luke Walton handles his first gig as an NBA head coach and how the young pieces fit together, even if these are just meaningless exhibition games.
These are feelings I’m envious of.
The NBA is changing on a daily basis. With Kevin Durant shifting to Golden State, the Warriors are the heavy favorites to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year. Las Vegas thinks LeBron James and the reigning champs are the only team talented enough to seriously give the Dubs a run for their money. If you’re a fan of any of the other 28 teams in the Association, it’s time to start looking towards the future.
The light at the end of the tunnel for most of those 28 teams is dim at best. They’re not nearly talented enough to compete with the Warriors or the Cavs, yet they’re not bad enough to load up on elite prospects.
The Lakers are an exception, and along with Minnesota, have positioned themselves to make a serious catapult to the top of the Western Conference in the coming years.
That hope alone is enough to string fans along and keep them engaged, even if the results don’t come immediately.
The future is now Los Angeles, while it’s still four or five years away for other teams in the NBA, including my Nets.
Cherish the opportunity to watch a young team grow before your eyes and don’t be discouraged by early failure. There are about 28 other fan bases around the country that would love to be in your shoes right now.