Plenty of fireworks during opening days of NBA free agency

Hopefully everyone made it through another Fourth of July without any mishaps and you were able to pick up this morning’s paper with all 10 digits still intact. I was hoping to be bringing some good news about the Ballito Pro, but there aren’t many results to speak of. Ezekiel Lau made the deepest run of any Hawaii surfer, reaching the Round of 16 for an equal ninth-place finish. That should propel Lau further up the Qualifying Series rankings as he continues his best season to date.

Just one of the eight quarterfinalists is an American, so it seems only fitting on this nationalistic weekend to turn our sights away from South Africa and a little bit closer to home. The NBA free agency period began on July 1 and it opened with quite a flurry. It seems like many of the signings are occurring earlier and earlier, but I can’t remember anything like this signing period. Within 24 hours of teams being able to ink their new players, many had already gotten big names to come to town.

Except for the Lakers.

The days before players were allowed to sign, rumors flew about how the Lakers were going to be getting just about everyone. Somehow L.A. was on its way to courting Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo, maybe even trading for DeMarcus Cousins if some of those options fell through.

Well, here we are five days later and the well has pretty much dried up. Love quickly re-signed with Cleveland, Wade signed a one-year deal to stay in Miami, Rondo saw his options diminish and signed a one-year deal with Sacramento and Aldridge took his time but ended up where he always should have, signing a max deal in San Antonio.

It’d be a bit dishonest if I were to say I take no pleasure in seeing the Lakers strike out the way they have. It’s a little fun. Maybe more than a little.

But they did pick up Roy Hibbert on Saturday and while there certainly are ways to make fun of that move as their big offseason acquisition, they badly needed a rim protector. Hibbert is definitely that and has been an elite defender during much of his Pacer career.

So instead of picking up the big names to put the Lakers back into win now mode, they remain in this sort of limbo with the final days of Kobe and the start of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell’s careers. It’s a weird spot to be in and their free agent activity, or lack thereof, hasn’t done much to make the Lakers much better now or in the future.

The biggest winners to this point have been the Spurs, who picked up the most sought after defector in Aldridge. The former Portland big man can pair with and eventually step in for Tim Duncan, giving San Antonio the league’s most formidable front court. In addition to re-signing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the move was so substantial that oddsmakers immediately made the Spurs the favorite to reach next year’s NBA Finals, jumping ahead of defending champion Golden State. If they also bring in David West, who seems to be choosing between the Spurs, Cavaliers and Wizards, San Antonio will have had a monster offseason.

The Lakers weren’t the only L.A. team to come up short. The Clippers missed their biggest target, which was re-signing DeAndre Jordan. Losing the big man knocks the Clippers down a few rungs in the West. Jordan is the league’s best rebounder and one of its best shot blockers. Even after adding Paul Pierce to the rest of their talent, it’s a tall order to ask the Clippers to replicate their success without him.

Jordan spurned L.A. for conference rival Dallas. The Mavs also signed Wes Matthews and could possibly be a landing spot for Jeremy Lin. If they get that done, I’ll love their prospects heading into next year with those three, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons as a solid starting unit.

One major lesson from this offseason is that players no longer view big markets as necessary. Greg Monroe chose Milwaukee, Marc Gasol’s staying in Memphis and each had suitors on both coasts. With the Lakers, Clippers and Knicks having to settle for second-tier options and never in the mix for the premier talent, it’s signaling a new era in the NBA. Those of us who happen to be fans of those teams better get used to it.

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‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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