09 December 2011
It seems like eons ago that Charles Barkley was traded to Phoenix. Barkley, for the most part, was a loyal player to Philadelphia. This was back when most NBA players only played 8-12 years, and everyone knew that Barkley was coming towards the end of his career. After playing eight seasons in Philadelphia, the last three seasons the Sixers had been bad. Barkley requested a trade to a contender, Philadelphia got back Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and some other bits and pieces, and Barkley ended in Phoenix. At the time, this was almost unheard of. Now, if a player that is the equivalent of Barkley’s talent is traded a team is lucky to receive a player even half as gifted as Hornacek. The NBA could have helped teams out during the lockout, but they did not. Now, thanks to LeBron James (who I’m just going to rechristen “The Cause”) the inmates are running the asylum.
Years ago, in 1996, Celtic captain Dee Brown wanted out of Boston. He told the local Boston media that he wanted to be traded to a contender. Celtic president Red Auerbach came out and said that he was going to ship Brown to a winner…in Minnesota. That was the last complaint we heard from Brown on the subject. That was a long time ago. Stars could not just force the hands of their teams. This is why Atlanta, Utah, and Detroit were all contenders. When Dominique Wilkins was traded, it was to the Los Angeles Clippers. Why? Because the Hawks could get back Danny Manning for him. Free Ageny is great, but recently players are working around and cheating that system.
When the Cause left Cleveland flailing in the wind, small market NBA owners --outside of Oklahoma City and San Antonio-- went into a panic. Even bigger market teams in Toronto and Philadelphia felt vulnerable to stars just leaving for nothing. Suddenly the superstars realized that they ran the NBA. Carmelo Anthony, having taken lessons from the Cause, knew where he wanted to play. Unlike the Cause, he was not patient. He wanted out. Suddenly he was in New York. The Cause left the Cavs for nothing; meanwhile, Carmelo left the Nuggets with next to nothing. Honestly, without the help of Google, can you name the player involved in the Carmelo to New York trade? At least when Utah lost Deron Williams, who didn’t get to pick his locale, they received back a one-time All-Star in Devin Harris. But the Williams trade was much like the Dee Brown and Dominique Wilkins trade, it was controlled by the team not the player.
Now the inmates are telling the doctors what kind of medicine they are willing to take. Chris Paul will go to New York, or --if the team must-- he'd be willing to go to Los Angeles. Dwight Howard? Well, he’ll be happy to play (for some strange reason) in New Jersey. And what are they doing when they don’t get what they want? Chris Paul had decided to “hold out” like a petulant child. He’s hoping he can sue. He’s going to get what he wants! And what he wants is the ruining of the Association.
Suddenly small market teams in Indiana, Orlando, New Orleans, Utah, Golden State, and Minnesota as well as bigger market teams in Houston and Philadelphia are looking like feeder clubs for the big teams in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Miami. Oklahoma City fans are lucky that Durrant has stayed --for now. Los Angeles Clippers fans wait with baited breath for news of Blake. Everyone in Minneapolis offers Kevin Love their jackets when he sneezes. Even Golden State worries about the future of Stephon Curry.
Last year, the Cause came out in favor of contraction. And as superstars are converging onto the biggest, or warmest, or tax-freeiest teams, contraction is looking like a real option. The New Orleans Dead Team Walking is almost assuredly gone in the next few seasons. We are already dealing with a league where a team like Dallas --who had always been the underachieving, over spenders until last year-- is the underdogs who the common man can get behind. Very few teams can realistically win. Maybe 5, possibly 6, teams are legit.
The owners put a stop to the joke of a Chris Paul trade, but what now? What will they do next? How long can they stop him before it’s considered collusion? We sat through a summer of NBA and NFL litigation, and we all thought that the owners won. We were wrong.
The lunatics have the key to the medicine cabinet, and the doctors only solution may be to shut down the hospital.
Abram Chamberlain blogs about Major League Soccer and the United States Men's National Team (amongst other things). He is the founder of the soccer blogsite VivaLaFutbol. Follow him on Twitter @AChamberlainSC.