This NBA offseason has been one of the craziest offseasons potentially in sports history. In sports, there are two sides. Owners and players have historically bickered and argued over collective bargaining agreements, rules, gameplay and more. Typically, the owners get what they want and walk away from the table with more than the players. In the NBA, that is quickly coming to an end. In 2014, the league signed one of the biggest television deals in sports history with Turner Sports and ESPN/ABC paying a combined $24 billion over the next nine years. The only sport that gets more from television deals? You guessed it, the NFL. A lot of the money has to be given to the players, some of the most talented athletes in the world. Now, also some of the most powerful.
This offseason has seen Kyrie and KD set up shop in Brooklyn. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are set to open the season in Staples Center as the leaders of the Clippers, across the building from LeBron and Anthony Davis and let’s not forget about Russell Westbrook going to Houston to team up with James Harden (Good luck Mike D’Antoni with those head cases). What do these moves have in common? The players organized these situations.
Starting in Los Angeles, LeBron in his everlasting effort to become Michael Jordan is set to star in Space Jam 2 and needed a co-star both on and off set and the court. Cue Anthony Davis who pouted and talked his way out of New Orleans in exchange for draft picks and 3 players. LeBron is the GM wherever he goes so that’s not a surprise. James and Davis share Rich Paul for an agent, so it was very easy for him to tell the Pelicans that AD isn’t signing an extension and he wants out. With one year left on Davis’ deal, no team in their right mind would trade for the “brow” except for the Lakers.
Staying in Hollywood, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George keep the NBA saga going this summer. Kawhi, much like AD made it publicly known he wasn’t signing a contract extension. Leonard, going out west was somewhat of a surprise after becoming the proverbial mayor of Toronto winning a championship, but he was a free agent which gave him the true power. As he got ready for his meeting with the Clippers, Kawhi talked to Paul George. PG-13 told ESPN, “For a quiet guy, he’s a hell of a recruiter.” While talking to Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and ownership, Leonard was talking with George on leaving Oklahoma City and eventually Thunder GM Sam Presti got the call and the deal was done. Once again, the players got what they wanted.
That trade shook Russell Westbrook who gave the indication that he didn’t trust his teammates. Can’t blame him after players like Durant, Harden and George all leave him in the dust. Instead of dealing with a potential disaster and moody Westbrook, Sam Presti was on the phone again this time with Houston. Russ out to H-Town and Chris Paul returning to Oklahoma City. (He played there when the New Orleans franchise was forced to move due to Hurricane Katrina) Interestingly, CP3 is the NBA Players Union President was used as a cog in this big wheel turning him into an afterthought basically this offseason.
If you watch or listen to Felger and Mazz on 98.5 the sports hub, you heard Michael Felger say that Kyrie and KD’s all star game meeting was the lasting image on Kyrie leaving Boston.(He said something about pants, but this phrasing probably looks better in a blog) I wanted him to be wrong, but Felger was right. Players joking with each other at an All-Star game and meeting up after the game has turned the NBA into an everyday board meeting. Moody Kyrie and the Celtics had as many ups and downs as a high school relationship with Irving eventually pulling the plug on the Celtics and not re-signing in Boston. Like Kawhi Leonard, Durant had an option and decided to opt-out of Golden State. You can’t blame him given how his injury was treated by the Warriors. For basketball fans and more importantly maybe, for Celtics and now Nets fans, the lasting image will be that backroom meeting after the All-Star game.
Is this the future of the league? Hopefully not. Players forming these super teams is detrimental for a league trying to continue its growth. If AD stayed in New Orleans with Zion Williamson, even for a year wouldn’t that be interesting to watch every night? If Kyrie stayed in Boston on a max deal, you would have to believe most of the headaches and questions would have stopped. Finally in OKC, with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson out most likely for the 2019-20 season, this could have been the thunder’s year with Westbrook and George. The salary cap in the NBA is soft, meaning teams can go over it and pay a tax. Make the cap a hard cap and players will think twice about leaving, and maybe superstars would be more spread out and viewership and attendance would climb
In case you were wondering, while the NBA’s salary cap is a soft $109.14 million, the NHL hard cap that nobody can go over…….$81.5 million.
-John Luck (@jluck_89)