Dwight Howard is messing with my head. It seems improbable, I know, given that I've never met the man, and therefore, on account of his being completely unaware of my existence, he has absolutely zero motivation to do so.
And yet, notwithstanding that minor and wholly irrelevant detail, here we are.
As I flipped the telly to TNT on Thursday to watch The Man Who Didn't Want to Be a Laker Anymore play his first game against MY Lakers, my knee-jerk reaction was one of anger, something along the lines of, "Shove off, Dwight," but in more uncouth terms.
The more I watched, though, the more ambivalent I became, and not just because, as a pragmatic fellow, I set aside my personal distaste and drafted the man in my fantasy basketball league for his prowess in the categories of field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots.
As a fourth-round pick, he was a steal.
Anyway, seeing The Man Who Didn't Want to Be a Laker Anymore in action led my mind down a series of increasingly divergent digressions that ultimately culminated with the quasi-disturbing realization that, for this season at least, I'm inhabiting the same headspace as Jazz fans.
"How, exactly," you ask, "did you go from directing language at Dwight Howard that would embarrass George Carlin to empathizing with a group who, upon learning of your basketball loyalties, are prone to inundate you with the eloquent and pithy critique, 'Lakers suck'?"
Good question. Let's chart the tangential transition, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style:
1. Shove off, Dwight.
2. "Shove off, Dwight" is a pretty juvenile response from a supposedly grown man who theoretically is capable of more nuanced thoughts. I recognize the man was under no obligation to re-sign with L.A. and merely exercised his earned free agency.
3. That said, I still want the Lakers to destroy him, just to prove what a dumb decision he made. How's that for nuance?
4. Being perfectly honest, I'm ambivalent there's that word again on just how much I really want the Lakers to actually win the game. I know, as a fan, I should always want them to win. And yet, being realistic, and knowing the limitations of this year's roster, and knowing the supposed greatness of next year's draft class, I'll admit I'd rather tempt karma and see the team bottom out and get a potential superstar than wind up in late-lottery no-man's land.
5. Jazz fans must be facing a similar ethical quandary, having suspected this year's team would struggle, although perhaps not to the degree of being the last winless team in the NBA. I wonder if, at this point, they say, "bring on the losses." I also wonder if merely dreaming of Andrew Wiggins improbably bringing his No. 22 jersey to SLC next year is sufficient salve for a season of far more losses than would otherwise be comfortable.
6. I wonder the same thing about Wiggins in L.A.
But it's a long season. And there's much losing to be done before all that becomes a realistic consideration.
In the meantime, I have just the thing to distract me from all the unpleasantness to come â¦
"Shove off, Dwight."