Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
DeMarcus Cousins is not known for always being a level-headed human being. This is something that is considered to be common knowledge throughout the league and all that follow it. He has thrown elbows during games, drawn a whole lot of technicals for a rookie, and has fouled out of approximately 14 hobajillion games. The other thing he is considered to be is a very skilled big man and an amazing offensive rebounder especially. Many, including myself, believe he is likely to be a top 5 center in the league, possibly top 3 even.
So when the upper management of the Sacramento Kings chose to side with their petulant young star over their coach who hadn’t produced a significant playoff run since a certain ringless Weight Watchers spokesperson was still a Phoenix Sun, I was not necessarily surprised. There were always talk of Westphal not developing the young players well, and the record of the team the past few years reflected that.
Far more interesting, to me at least, is what this little event represents.
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s piece…
You may recall that this offseason seemed a tad longish. You may have found yourself watching the baseball playoffs, or the first few weeks of the NFL season, wondering where all the basketball news was. You may recall all of your favorite NBA insiders camped outside of New York hotels, or David Stern looking downtrodden and spouting phrases such as “nuclear winter.”
These things happened because there was a lockout. The lockout was, of course, because the NBA claimed that they were losing money, that bloated player salaries and a down economy and 48-inch flatscreens with surround sounds and space-aliens were making the business of running a professional basketball league unprofitable. Did I say aliens? I meant the WNBA, sorry.
The other, less well publicized issue was that the owners felt that the players had too much power in their ability to choose where they play, using shorter contracts and player options to make themselves free agents more often. They had just witnessed Lebron James and Chris Bosh taking their talents to South Beach to join up with their buddy Dwayne Wade. They watched as Carmelo Anthony held the Denver Nuggets hostage for half a season before management could finally get a suitable deal worked, all so he couldn’t leave them with nothing in free agency. Other teams looked at the longer contracts they had signed and the Mid-Level Exceptions they had given, and realized that they had essentially crushed their hopes of competing anytime soon with their own bad decisions.
Yes, the owners of 30….well, 29 franchises looked on all of this, and if we had been watching carefully enough, we likely could have seen all of the color start to drain from their faces.
And so the lockout trudged on. Small market owners argued (somewhat correctly) that it was almost impossible to keep a core of players good enough to win a title, and thus, draw fans and generate revenue, together when the player options and luxury-tax paying teams had their key guys fleeing for bright city lights elsewhere. The players countered (somewhat correctly) that the owners’ would likely have a better shot of keeping their players if they better spent their money, and pointed to the success of teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio as proof it could be done.
When the dust cleared, and Billy Hunter and David Stern finally started smiling again, the league basically got what it wanted money-wise. Players will lose between six and eight percent of all basketball related income by the time it is said and done, and players will have to prove their “star” status before signing for “star” money. And to be honest, the league even got some of what it wanted in restricting player movement. Star Players can be extended for the higher maximum in a shorter time span, helping to prevent situations like the formation of the Superfriends in South Beach.
What the league seemingly forgot, however, is that at the end of the day, the players are the only reason that this league exists at all.
Within moments of the end of the lockout, the internet exploded with essentially two questions: Where is Chris Paul going? Where is Dwight Howard going? The news cycle exploded with possibilities, rumors, and outright lies. The ugliness of the lockout itself was quickly matched by the gigantic backlash of the vetoed Chris Paul trade, with fans and players alike outraged and appalled at the fact that the league would dare step in and kill a trade bringing the NBA’s foremost point man to its largest market, “basketball reasons” or no. Fans of the Magic cringed when it was announced that the Magic would hold on to Howard for a while longer yet, creating a situation that smacks of the Melo-Drama.
As the old saying says, the more things change, the more things stay the same.
And now the situation with DeMarcus Cousins and Paul Westphal is shedding even more light on what we all already knew: This is a player’s league. No one ever bought a ticket to an NBA game because they love Dan Gilbert. At least I hope not. That would be weird.
We do not watch basketball because of any one wearing a suit on the bench, or in the pressbox. The owners may sign the checks. They may lease the arenas. The GM may decide who a team keeps or trades. The coach may decide what play is run, or who gets how many minutes.
We buy tickets, jerseys, Fatheads, and the like because we love the game of basketball. We love the poetry and ferocity with which it is played. We love to follow our teams through the thousands of little victories and defeats of a game, a season, an era. We love the characters the teams bring us, such as psycho-competitive Kobe, the hilarity of Shaq, or the essential Sheedness of Sheed. We love to watch as they succeed and fail, and bring us along for the journey.
This is why the essential truth of the situation will always remain. The owners may own the teams and the league.
But the players will always rule the basketball world.