Thursday, February 24, 2011

How can it be Bad, if it’s so much Fun?

Two nights I got home from meal with my Uncle to find out that all of my favorite sports writers and radio personalities had been saved. There would be no more speculation talk on where Carmelo Anthony would be traded, no write-ups on what he said on Conan last night means where he is going, and no more asking him questions on the sideline at the All-Star game while Kobe ruins Sager’s interview*. This was all over; Carmelo Anthony would be headed to the New York Knicks in a 8 player trade; involving key players, Chauncey Billups from the Nuggets, and Raymond Felton, Willison Chandler and Danilo Gallinari from the Knicks.  From a basketball stand point this is a sure-fire win for both squads; the Knicks getting a top 10 scorer in Anthony and a proven leader in Billups who has been to 7 consecutive conference finals (a streak that broke last year after lasting from the 2003-2004 season) to pair up with a prolific scorer in Amare Stoudemire.  What the Nuggets get is not as exciting as the Knicks, what they get is hope. Not hope that they can bring home the O’Brien Trophy later this year, but hope that through this trade they can stay competitive for years to come.  As we saw through the Cleveland Cavilers and Toronto Raptors this season is that if you put all hope in your team at the reigns of your star player and not attempt to get any assets in return, your team will be in the sewages for many seasons to come. (As we have seen with the Cavs record breaking 26 game losing streak) Carmelo was not coming back next year; are Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler Carmelo Anthony; of course not, but paired together they will be a playoff team or make for good trade assets.

*Here’s why I would only last one day as a sideline reporter; When Carmelo agreed to be interview and I am there asking the questions that everybody wants to know and Kobe interrupts me, saying nobody wants to know about trade rumors I would look at him and say, “hey Kobe remember in 07 when you so badly wanted out of LA and took every opportunity to tell people that you wanted out? … yeah how’d that work out for you? Now how about you let me do the interview Melo already pre-agreed to while I asked him to questions everybody wants to know his answer to.”
Yeah your rights, I wouldn’t have the balls, but this is just one of those insistences were Kobe really needs to get his mouth out of things.

Two days after the Carmelo was traded I get out of bed I check my morning daily’s (espn and real clear sports) to find out that the Big Russian had finally done something with his millions; acquired Deron Williams in steal with only letting go shot -happy no-defense overrated Devin Harris and rookie Derrick Favors who scouts keep saying he has a ton of upside, but all I see is a above average rebounding Power Forward (he numbers could even be inflated by Brook Lopez giving up on trying to get rebounds anymore) with a difficulty scoring near the rim.  I could be wrong about Favors, but as he is right now he is not a franchise-changing player. 

Deron Williams is as of right know the second best point guard* (you could make the argument to put him ahead of Derek Rose and I wouldn’t call you crazy) in the league and someone who has the ability to make his teammates better, record 15 assist in one night while shooting terribly from the field, scoring no more than 6 points and still take the last shot to win the game. With just Deron’s acquisition the trade puts the Nets as a dynamic and scary match-up in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

*Funny how Deron was always behind Chris Paul and for the past 3 years considered the second best point guard, and now when Chris Paul has fallen off (at least for now, this could be a 2 year injury) Derek Rose has passed him as the best in the league. If the Bulls meet up in the playoffs in a 1-8 or 2-7 (don’t count it out) this would be a fantastic matchup.

Now with all this talk going around, it is sure to make any NBA fans excitement level jump from 2010 Dunk Contest to 1984 Finals.  These new players shifted to the East seem to balance out the power between the Conferences.  The overloaded West now seems possible for good, but not fantastic teams like the Grizzles and Warriors (and the Los Angeles Blakers in the future) know can appear to be competitive and have legitimate shots of making the playoffs.  And now in the East; excluding the Pacers (even though I thoroughly enjoy their style of play) each potential playoff team has a star/franchise player, making for the most anticipated playoffs I can ever remember. 
But these trends that have come up recently seem destructive.  What the league is portraying is that the stars of the league are in control.  If they want out of a certain team, they star will always get what they want. 

Since the begging of this season Carmelo made 3 unofficial demands;
1.     He wants out of Denver
2.     He wants to get paid max dollars
3.     He wants to be a New York Knicks

In most negotiations most players usually get 2 of these demands and some are only left with one. Carmelo could have gone to the Nets and got two of these demands in trade were the Nuggets would have gotten superior players for Carmelo than those they got in the recent trade.  Carmelo let it be known that he had to have all these demands. Leaving the Nuggets who saw the crumbles left of the Cavs didn’t want to let Carmelo go without getting anything in return. 
Deron Williams allegedly forced Jazz coach Jerry Sloan out of the team (again allegedly) telling the front office, “It’s either you or me.”  The Jazz canned their coach of 23 years in return keeping their best player.  A few weeks later he was traded after he publicly announced he was very angry with his teammates play.  Although nothing is confirmed it appears Deron asked for a trade, and he got exactly what he wanted.

But how can it be bad, if it’s so much fun?  These trades are fun; they make for a top-heavy competitive league.  But what is left with smaller market teams where no players want to be traded. If star players get all of there demands, why would someone choose Salt Lake City or Indianapolis over Miami or New York City.  Is it even worth for these teams to be competing*?  If a small market picks up a franchise-changing player, they know they can leave to go to New York if they want, because with the current status of the NBA a star gets anything they want.  We could have another Robert Nutting situation on our hands.  Robert Nutting the current owner of the Pittsburg Pirates took over in 2007.  Nutting saw no need for change for the Pirates in the win column in the future.  He put all of his assets at updating the park and made sure its was a great place for families to come. Nutting put no effort in making the team better, he spent the least he could on salary, knew the fans were loyal and at the end of the season had the 6th most profitable team, even though the had the 3rd worst record. 
*The Houston Rockets tried something different this season. After losing star players Yao and Tracy McGrady to injury (its not leaving on demands, but it has the outcome) they stacked there team with the some of the best role players in the league including Kevin Marin, Louis Scola, Aaron Brooks and Chase Buddinger.  Many thought this team with great role players would be a sure-thing playoff team and had a shot at the Western Conference Finals.  With no key injury’s to date the Rockets are 11th in the West with a 27-31 record.  The Rockets tried to win without stars and that is all they have to show for it.  This is apparently the best a small market can do without stars.

Owners of small franchises may start to wonder if this is the direction they should be going; don’t attempt to win games in a small market that will only backfire, just try to win money.  With the lockout approaching (not debatably there will be no NBA next season) these are the questions that will be answered, how can a small market become profitable, do we need to cut some franchises, how can we keep our star players.  These are questions that they will have a whole year to answer next year, so here’s to hoping they figure it out and for now lets focus on the fun aspect of my opening question and look forward what should be one of the best playoffs ever.

Thank you for those of you who read it all.

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