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Sixers-Knicks Preview: Draft Referendums and Reactionary Culture

Nothing screams MLK Day quite like 7-foot-3 Latvian basketball players.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

If not for the reactionary nature of Philadelphia sports fans and the national media's thirst to declare winners and losers four months into NBA careers, maybe every Sixers-Knicks game wouldn't be a referendum on draft success. But come on, of course it is.

Every Sixers fan - Porzingis draftniks/superfans and xenophobes alike - watches Knicks games and winces with every Kristaps 25-footer. The vicious tip-slamming doesn't do any favors. But I'm here, as one of Okafor's more staunch critics among our Sixers Twitter commentators, to plead to end the reactionary way fans watch the Sixers this season.

This conversation started when the Eagles coaching search fiasco kicked off, but it's applicable to most things fans of any sports team in the Philadelphia area discuss. I have little to no doubt that the Okafor vs. Porzingis discussion will exist on both a national and local scale for several years, and that's warranted. Sam Hinkie's ability to evaluate talent should be under a microscope as long as he's making decisions, and nailing top-3 draft picks is essential to, you know, successfully rebuilding a basketball team. But every play, every tip-slam, every block, every three, every Latvian rap song becomes some sort of a public referendum on the draft. How about we just enjoy some basketball?

Kristaps Porzingis and Jahlil Okafor have played 40 or so NBA games apiece, with several more to be played ahead. If Sixers fans can't watch a Sixers-Knicks game without frustratedly declaring the team struck out and needs to move Okafor, the weakest link of the top-end of this past draft (and I'm guilty of this as well), we're going to fall into the never-ending loop this reactionary culture creates. Player development takes time, team-building (without shortcuts) takes time. I'm as low on Jahlil Okafor's ability to steward an NBA team for the next decade as the next guy (and he's playing really well lately!), but at some point, drawing long-term conclusions from every 19 year-old's missed defensive rotation and right jump-hook becomes a futile effort.

It's Monday afternoon. Enjoy some basketball for once without worrying about who whiffed in the draft. Basketball is supposed to be fun.

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