Over the years the NBA has seemingly become a cartoon of itself. The rulebook has been thrown out the window and anything can go in this league that remains as intriguing as a soap opera 365 days a year.
Superstars demanding trades out of cities they do not want to be in for fame, selfishness, lack of winning, or because their buddies are in a bigger city–these scenarios have been around for years.
Dr. Who, Vince McMahon, and Stan Lee have all been thrown in a pot to create this new-age philosophy of anything goes and whatever sounds the most fun, exciting, and enticing IS going to happen.
This summer was the ultimate example of how crazy fun the NBA has become as of late. Where will LeBron James go after leading his team to the NBA Finals four straight years? Home, of course to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Will the Houston Rockets play fast and loose with a young budding talent in Chandler Parsons for the off chance of landing a star. Of course, they tried to have their cake and eat it too, leading to no Parsons and no upgraded star to replace him.
Which of about 20 teams will land Kevin Love who has a contract and is taking the discourse of who in his eyes are his peers, Carmelo, Howard, and Williams, forcing a trade? Will Rajon Rondo get traded? What will the Los Angeles Lakers inevitable re-load look like?
Who will be the next coach to alienate a team, city, and franchise with their actions?
Depending on the day of the week the NBA is a player’s league, then it is a coach’s league, and then it becomes an owner’s league. The facts of the matter are simple; the NBA is an equity league. If a player or coach has the equity to put themselves over the team and a millionaire (or billionaire) owners to get what they want.
At times equity is not even is in the eye of the beholder as we have seen power coups happen behind the scenes where a player or a coach forces the issue to get what they want.
That is the world that we live in contrived of instant gratification, Twitter, and everyone feeling that they are owed something. All three of those things are one and play hand in hand with each other helping to create today’s NBA. Like one executive said earlier this season, “The NBA moves at the speed of Twitter.” About as accurate a description as you can find to encapsulate the world of the NBA right now.
Granted this did not start in 2010, stars and coaches have moved teams before this in dramatic ways, but this can all be attributed to July 8, 2010.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat a string of events were unleashed to create the NBA’s version of Fantasy Booking that is generally reserved for wrestling fans, science fiction enthusiasts, and other worlds that are, for lack of a better term, cartoon worlds.
They are choose-your-own-adventure worlds. They are worlds where the fans can live through them like a video game fantasy booking their way through with pipedreams that may never come true, but are half the fun of living vicariously through those worlds.
So how did a nuts and bolts league with “concrete” elements such as contracts and salary caps turn into the most fun real life fantasy booking world?
Players with equity like James and Bosh fell into a perfect storm where their contracts actually ran out. Everything they put together and orchestrated was child’s play compared to what has happened since.
In a mere three and a half years the wheels fell off the cart, it crashed into the air, and flew off into this world that we are all living in today.
Contracts mean nothing if you are in a place you no longer want to be. Look at Jason Kidd and Doc Rivers for example, as head coaches, leaders, and the stabilizing rocks for a franchise both decided they didn’t like where they were and wanted to go to “greener” pastures.
Rivers left the land of green with the Boston Celtics where he became one of the most respected figures in the NBA once it became clear that his foundational stars, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, would not be back in the mix. It was an aging team that was about to walk willingly into a rebuilding mode that Rivers was familiar with from previous stops.
He wavered on wanting to come back and a team on the west coast, the Los Angeles Clippers, came calling wanting his services with a roster that was being built to contend for the coming years. Some politics and a 2015 first-round pick later and the Clippers were able to pry away Rivers from the Celtics.
While Rivers is a sympathetic figure in some eyes then and now there is nothing endearing about the Machiavellian way that Kidd forced his way out of his post as the Brooklyn Nets head coaching duties.
As a player Kidd had equity. Plenty of it as an All-Star, Olympian, historical defender and distributor, and leader on the court. Some equity was established as a head coach in the final leg of the regular season, which was washed off abruptly in the playoffs, leading to a list of demands that the boldest ransom artist would not ask for no matter what chips they were holding.
Kidd had no chips and went to the table asking for the respect that less than a handful of coaches in this league have. So, why not ignore that contract thing and create a coup to leave the team that gave you a shot as a head coach. A team that you played for and retired your jersey. A team that stood behind you despite numerous displays of very questionable leadership.
Two second round picks later and Kidd is the new head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, pushing Larry Drew out the door. Again, those pesky contract things. It’s only the fourth time ever a head coach moved to a new team after just one year and just the first time in 33 years this has happened.
February 23, 2011: Carmelo Anthony gives the Denver Nuggets an ultimatum to trade him to New York or he won’t sign with them, or any other team they trade him to when his contract runs out.
February 24, 2011: the Utah Jazz react swiftly in the night to send their star Deron Williams to the then-New Jersey Nets before they fell into a Carmelo Dilemma.
August 11, 2012: Dwight Howard holds the Orlando Magic hostage with a list of teams that fit his demands.
Two (maybe three) players in a calendar year that were all current All-Stars, Olympians, and mega-stars with equity in this league all forced their way in the direction they wanted to go despite, you know, those pesky contract things.
Maybe even more evident of the fantasy booking world that we all now live in are the two coaches in less than two years that basically did the same thing.
Would it shock anyone in a few years if an owner called another owner and said, “I like what is going on over there… How’s about I give you $50 million cash and the keys to my offices for your team?” How about a general manager saying, “This group is great and all, but I want to run that team over there. Make it happen.”
This is the NBA now. A fantasy booker’s paradise.
We do not have to fantasize about the questions that are always fun passing through our heads causing people to spend hours on NBA 2K or ESPN’s Trade Machine to put together the teams that they would like to see. The players (and coaches) are doing that all themselves.