Posted on: August 6, 2010 11:37 am
Edited on: August 6, 2010 11:46 am
Posted by Matt Moore
Kevin Garnett is one of the most respected players in the NBA, with good reason. No one has shown more focus at both ends of the floor over the past decade than Kevin Garnett. Much of his trademarked intensity is show; the screaming, spitting, growling is revealed as little more than theatrics when you employ them as often as he has. But that doesn't change how he's constantly barking out defensive assignments, dressing down teammates, and blocking the ever-loving crap out of anyone that dares to challenge his authority (or dying trying). He's a 13-time All-Star, and has an MVP trophy, a Defensive Player of the Year trophy, and an NBA champion.
And with all that respect that he has earned comes a level of expectation, often unfair, mostly ridiculous, that he live up to what we believe is the model of a true NBA legend. Or at least, that's been the pattern for everyone except KG. And if you want proof of that, compare KG and LeBron James.
In 2010, LeBron James abandoned his team, the Cavaliers, and did it in a publicly humiliating and disgracefully opulent way on national television. Maybe you heard about it, here and there. Before we continue, let's be very clear on this point:
The primary reason for the backlash against James is the way in which he announced his decision ("The Decision"), the way he seemingly laughed and skipped out of town while the dreams he had given Cleveland fans burned to the ground. There is simply no way to defend or even deflect that criticism. You're not going to find anyone outside of South Beach who thinks this was in any way acceptable. KG has never behaved in such a way, nor did he embarrass Minnesota on the way out of town. The way the two left is simply not comparable. See, I put it in bold, just so we're all clear on this.
However, the secondary argument against James is that he has in some way compromised his legacy, lessened his greatness, by not being the sole elite player on his team. He is no longer considered able to reach the sport's summit because he has joined Dwyane Wade's team instead of building championship gold from the rubble he was drafted into. That by joining other elite players, he can no longer be considered elite.
Let's head on back to 2007.
Kevin Garnett has failed to reach the summit with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted him. Though there were a handful of very good teams, none of them even approached what you would call a "great" team. The Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell team rose and fell apart as fast as it came together, and Garnett has been losing consistently. It becomes known that he wants out, wants to be traded to a contender, does not want to waste his career any longer. He doesn't outright say he wants to be traded, after all, you're fined for such activity. But it's made pretty clear that his time with Minnesota is over. It's done. He winds up heading to Boston, joining Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the captain, to form the first modern Big 3 and first relative superteam since the Lakers' 2004 crime against nature.
(It should be noted that the Spurs' combination of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili definitely constituted enough talent as to be considered a superteam, but more perhaps more impressively, they did it organically. They came to have three superstars by developing the talent they drafted. Not by acquiring the gold when the market was high on it.)
But KG was and is the leader, right? Well, I don't know. Paul Pierce is the captain, right? And the guy taking the game winning shots, most often? The face of the team? It's heart and soul? Isn't Pierce the one most often relied upon to rally the team? While Garnett is undeniably a leader on the Celtics, is he really considered the leader?
Oddly, what led me down this line of thought was a quote from, of all people, Rasho Nesterovic.
In an interview with rtvslo.com , and translated and brought forth by Project Spurs , Nesterovic talks about the difference between Garnett and Duncan. He discusses how Duncan won with the team that drafted him, and how Garnett made the smart move, but it was one to turn to the Celtics, who already had a leader in Pierce. This all leads to Nesterovic saying Duncan was the greater power forward of his time.
Now, this is Rasho Nesterovic. We're not talking Bill Russell here. But the idea is one that deserves consideration. Did KG join the Celtics as a leader, or did he simply do the exact same thing that LeBron James did, only under better PR cover? The argument can certainly be made that James joined in free agency (which is apparently worse than bailing on your team while under contract with them), while Garnett was traded, so it wasn't really his decision. But if Garnett had told Minnesota management, "I don't want to be traded. I either win here, or I don't win at all," do you really think the Wolves would have said "No, no, Mr. Hall-of-Fame-Most-Beloved-Player-In
-Franchise-History, we want no part of you here"? Is that what you think would have occurred? Because I'm pretty sure Kevin McHale would have just gone back to figuring out ways to build the Wolves around KG (and failing miserably).
The argument could also be made that KG was on a "loser" while James was on a contending team. But there are two responses to that. 1. While this Cavs team was certainly better than any KG had, James has also been superior in terms of production (and playoff success if we're being honest) than anything KG had been. I'm simply pointing out that if you're going to say the Cavs were better, you also have to point out that James was better, and was a reason for the Cavs being better. And 2, is there really a difference between contender-but-not-champion and loser in our society? I don't subscribe to this. I think there are tons of brilliant players that simply were never fortunate enough to run into the blessed set of circumstances you need to win a championship (or play for LA). But if you're a results oriented person, KG and James had accomplished the same thing, and so to say that one needed to do what he needed in order to win a ring and the other needed to continue to struggle is a bit ridiculous.
We come to the crux of this, which is actually not that KG deserves more criticism or scorn for leaving Minnesota to fall into the void. Far from it. Garnett recognized that he needed to win a ring before his time was up, that it wasn't going to happen in Minny, and that Boston represented the best chance for him. He took it. He doesn't deserve to be slagged for that. Garnett has told other players not to let what happened to him in Minnesota happen to them. Now, that particular action is a little less likable. After all, there have been players that stayed "home" and eventually reached the promised land, and those championships are much more special to their small markets than the umpteenth championship for a storied franchise. This is nothing to do with the quality of the fans and just the simple fact that a lone championship means more than one of many.
But Garnett is simply passionate about being the best he can be. And for him, that meant joining a team with an established star, a veteran leader, along with another veteran leader, and winning a championship. That was his path. And it is not all that dissimilar from LeBron James' path (in terms of the end result; remember, the bold clause! The bold clause!). So if we're going to criticize James for not being "the man," we need to similarly disparage Garnett, Pau Gasol, and other players that did what they needed to in order to win a ring.
Garnett is no villain. He loved Minnesota. But in the end, he felt his best chance for achieving that ring was in Boston, alongside other stars. Those facts coincide with LeBron James' actions of the past three months. Even if you feel that Garnett was able to be a leader alongside Paul Pierce (the most rational and likely conclusion), you should at least recognize the same dynamic's likelihood in Miami. You don't have to like how James pulled off this career correction. No one does. But to question his legacy opens up a Pandora's Box that is linked throughout some of the greatest players in the history of the league.
Don't throw stones. The halls of NBA greatness are built of glass.
Posted on: August 3, 2010 4:21 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
As part of our continuing coverage of "the NBA can't keep a secret in any way, shape, or form..."
The NBA likes to save its most hyped games for Christmas. It's the first real holiday that it lays claims to each year. The last few years it has been Lakers-Celtics in the yuletide rumble. This year, the hype created by the LeBron James-Chris Bosh-Dwyane Wade trifecta has created a new mega-match. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers will host the Heat on December 25th, according to Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel .
There's no "proving it" to NBA television marketing executives like there is among other players in the league. Those people know that people want to see the Heat, even with as sick of the Heat's PR trainwreck as they are. One mistake though is that Winderman's article mentions that the Heat won't play on MLK day.
The league has been pushing MLK day as an NBA holiday the last few years, and it's one of the few times when they have a number of people off work with no competing sports or family interests. The work they've done in highlighting that day with sextuple headers has worked well for showcasing the league. Omitting the Heat that day seems to take the holiday down a notch. But maybe that will give them the rare opportunity to show off the smaller markets that are likely to be even more overlooked than usual this year with all the superteams forming.
But for Christmas, you can expect a healthy feast of hype when Kobe-Pau-Odom-Artest-Bynum meets Bosh-Wade-James-Chalmers . And really, what says Christmas like hype?
Posted on: August 3, 2010 10:13 am
Posted by Matt Moore
What logic does this make? What possible sense could this be built from? What line of thought would take him down this road?
LeBron James bought ad space in the Akron Journal to thank fans there and send a message that his heart is still there. It was a decent gesture that should have been made weeks ago. The day after "The Decision," actually. But what was missing from the letter is what was most relevant.
The word "Cleveland."
Andrew Sharp of SBNation.com weighs in on why this shouldn't be a big deal. And he's right. It shouldn't be a big deal. It shouldn't be a deal at all. It could have been a non-story, something marginal that takes even a half-pinch of sting off the mountain of anger and resentment from Cleveland towards a player attempting to become the most popular brand in NBA history (and failing miserably, but that's another issue). But it wasn't. And that's the question that needs to be asked.
What possible reason did LeBron James' camp have for not including the Cavs or Cleveland in this letter?
Sharp points out the myriad of reasons for James to slight Cleveland like this. Jerseys burned. Angry letters in Comic Sans. General hatred upon his departure after years of trying to make Cleveland into a winner. And those are all great reasons for someone to spite the city like that.
If that person is fourteen years old.
This is a business. That was the reason behind James' defection to Miami, behind "The Decision," behind all of this. This whole ordeal was meant to be the extension of James as a business entity in the world. And the business move here? The plain-clothed mention of gratitude to the state of Ohio, Cleveland, the Cavs, something that includes those people. Sharp's also right that it wouldn't have made anyone in Cleveland feel any better. But the point is that slighting them makes them feel worse. It makes James seem petty and small. It's not professional. Taking the high road isn't a noble cause, it's a protecting your Q Rating and shoring up your PR image. You don't do it to try and win back friends and make people love you. You win championships to win friends and make people love you. You take the high road to protect your interests and not make another blunder. And that's what James has done.
Maybe he's got a letter for the Plain Dealer and is just waiting to release it. But now if he does, it looks like a reaction to the scorn he's getting for ignoring Cleveland. This is not complex stuff. And it's yet another indication in a long stream of tiki torches that blaze a path to the same conclusion: LeBron James' management team, LRMR, is desperately out of its league and playing at a level it cannot compete at.
It's not that James was wrong for snubbing Cleveland. It's that it was just another bad business decision.
Posted on: August 3, 2010 8:27 am
Edited on: August 5, 2010 8:49 am
Posted by Matt Moore
The new NBA superpower in Miami will definitely have its hands full to start the season as the New Big 3 takes on the Old Big 3. Welcome to being the hunted, ring or no ring. The Boston Globe reports that the NBA season will kick off October 26th with the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics hosting the Miami Heat. If this report and the Orlando Sentinel report regarding the game against Orlando on the 28th are correct, it means two things.
One, Miami will immediately be under fire to produce wins. Starting the season off 0-2 would mean almost nothing in terms of their capacity as a team, but would result in a cataclysmic fire of negative press that would follow them until the notched several significant wins. Knocking off the Pacers on a Tuesday will not help things if they start off winless against the two best teams in the East outside of Miami, both of which have been to the Finals the past two seasons.
Two, the Heat will not open their own arena until at least Friday or Saturday, meaning it doesn't look like the NBA trusts the Miami market to create a particularly rowdy atmosphere, compared to what greets the Big 3 on opening night. Two road games against the two other top East teams? Baptism by fire, super-friends. Baptism by fire.
Meanwhile, the revelation that the season kicks off with Miami and Boston leads us to wonder what team the defending champion Lakers will face. Rampant speculation has suggested Oklahoma City, which would certainly bring the most high profile game for the Western second game of the expected doubleheader. Other possible options include the Suns, Nuggets, Spurs, and Mavericks.
We'll have more on the opening night matchups when the NBA officially releases its opening night, Christmas Day, and MLK day schedule tonight on NBATV.
Posted on: August 3, 2010 7:44 am
Edited on: August 3, 2010 10:15 am
Posted by Matt Moore
All the news that's fit to sprint... get it? Get it? Okay, I'll just get to the bullets now.
Posted on: July 31, 2010 1:29 am
Edited on: July 31, 2010 1:31 am
Posted by Royce Young
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement due to be negotiated next summer will likely have some significant changes. And as Ken Berger writes , the NBA might find some advantage in adopting a signing bonus or franchise tag type system that the NFL employs. What is a franchise tag you ask?
Basically it's a one-year contract at the maximum salary tagged on an unrestricted free agent that prevents him from negotiating with other teams. But there are two types in the NFL:
Exclusive: Player cannot negotiate with other teams and his salary is the greater of 1) 120% of previous year's salary or 2) average salary of the top 5 players playing the same position from the current year.Non-exclusive: Salary terms are the same except it's the average of the top 5 players from the previous year. Player can negotiate with other teams but current team reserves the right to match the offer. If it doesn't match the offer, it receives two first-round draft picks.
(It would work a little differently from the NFL because salaries don't vary between position in the NBA. There's often no difference between the value of a shooting guard and a center.)
So if the NBA adopted this type of rule, how would it have affected this summer's free agency apocalyse? Ken Berger points out how it could've forced LeBron to stay in Cleveland for (at least) one more year. So here are five teams that could've utilized a franchise tag to its benefit.
This is the best example of how the franchise tag rule would've benefitted a team. The Suns are running out of time in the Steve Nash era. And with Amar'e Stoudemire's contract up, Phoenix had to make a tough decision. Instead of extended Stoudemire out, the Suns were only willing to offer a three-year deal. So New York came in and swooped Amar'e up.
Now if Phoenix could've slapped that tag on Stoudemire, the Suns would've bought at least one more year with him. They'd get at least one more year of Nash teaming with him and maybe one last hurrah at making a deep Western Conference run. Instead, the Suns weren't willing to go long-term on Stoudemire because of injury concerns and therefore he walked.
Most agree, Rudy Gay was overpaid. Heck, even Rudy Gay agrees Rudy Gay was overpaid. But the Grizzlies were in a tight spot. If they didn't offer up max money for their 23-year-old star, someone else would. So Memphis tried to nip any other offers and lock up their man for multiple years. Did they jump the gun early? Probably. Gay might be a max player, but that's probably ot be determined. But their hand was forced.
So if Gay gets tagged a franchise player, he gets one year of max money, plus a chance to prove he's worth that. Memphis buys itself another year to figure out who to open its wallet to and potentially stops itself from overreacting based on what it thought the market would do.
The Hawks were in a similar situation to Memphis. They wanted to keep their star, but were they really ready to dump that kind of money on Joe Johnson. He flopped in the postseason and really had the look of a second banana rather than an alpha dog. Had Atlanta tagged Johnson with the franchise label, he gets another year to figure out if that's where he wants to be.
Plus Atlanta gets an idea if he's the player it needs. The Hawks didn't want to lose him while they have a competitive talented roster. But in four years, they may be really regretting the contract.
The Raptors are probably the first team that comes to most folks mind other than LeBron. But that would've been interesting. Bosh had soured on staying in Toronto. He wanted to go somewhere where the lights are bright. So had Toronto locked down Bosh to try and buy itself one more season to sell its plan and coax a good season out if it, it may not have ended well in the first place.
That's the drawback of the tag. In some cases, players want to leave. Bosh wanted to leave. Preventing him for that might've just made him mad and he likely would've demanded a trade.
San Antonio Spurs
Everyone was a little stunned when Richard Jefferson opted out of a deal in which he was owed $15 million for the next season. But he had a reason: He wanted a long-term contract. And while it worked out fine for the Spurs in the end, had they been able franchise Jefferson, they could've prevented giving him multiple years.
Jefferson was disappointing last season. He underpeformed in basically every category. Everyone knows he can play, but some worried if maybe he was washing up. San Antonio likely preferred not to give Jefferson four or five years, especially for a guy it can't be certain will return to form. If there were some sort of non-exclusive rule where Jefferson is paid no the max money but based on relative compensation, the Spurs could've franchised Jefferson, and let him earn a long-term deal this season. I don't think they would've picked that route of the one they got, but at least it would've been an option.
As you can tell, a franchise tag benefits the team and the owners moreso than the players. In a situation like Toronto, you'd have a lame duck season from Chris Bosh would be asking for a way out. It's a solution the NBA probably would never adopt in the exact same format as the NFL, but in some way, the league wants to keep players with their original teams. If anything else, this is an exercise in the "what if?" world of things.
Posted on: July 30, 2010 8:45 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Ken Berger's column today touches on the future of the league through the ever-narrowing window of the upcoming CBA talks. The column itself specifically touches on the viability and reception of an NFL-style franchise tag in the NBA. But a salient point might get lost in the column, one that belies another level of complexity in the talks that will occur over the next 12+ months.
From KB's piece :
“The league would love to have [a franchise tag] in place to maintain competitive balance,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University. “The small-market owners would love it, but the big-market owners wouldn’t. It’s not just a struggle between the owners and the players. It’s a struggle between the owners and the other owners.”
The point belies something lost in the offer-counter-offer-counter-counter
The league will first and foremost side with the owners. They have a responsibility to ownership to protect their interests. But the league is also torn on the interests of the big-market teams versus the small-market teams, who have competing interests within the owners contingent.
For example, a franchise tag as Berger outlines would have helped Cleveland keep LeBron for another year, buying time to make another run at a title, provided the Cavs targeted an “exclusive” tag for James. Even a non-exclusive tag would have prevented the Big 3 from forming by demanding two first round picks in exchange for James, making the sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh that much harder, especially if Toronto also oped for a franchise tag on Bosh.
And that's great for Toronto and Cleveland, but the teams that have led the labor negotiations have been the very teams that would hate a franchise tag, those teams that were in contention for LeBron this summer. New York. Chicago. New Jersey/Brooklyn. LA Clippers. And the Miami Heat. It's those owners, along with those in Boston and LA who have the most to lose from restructuring, that could prevent change at this level.
But the franchise tag is a concept. There's a very real battle that will be fought during these negotiations, one that could drive a wedge of confusion into the owners' obtuse fortress.
Revenue sharing is a players union issue. At least that's how the union sees it, and it has been pushing for changes to the revenue sharing system aggressively. David Stern said at the All-Star game that revenue sharing was a priority for the league, but also made it clear that it would be a separately negotiated process internally with the owners, not something the league would allow the players to negotiate during the CBA talks.
This is likely to be a major issue of contention, to the point where the union may have to employ labor law in order to force the issue onto the table. But the owners may not just be having to fend off this push from the union. Forces within the owners group may have a rising contingent of newer owners who are unhappy with the current model, which essentially gives the big market teams significant advantages at every turn, trapping small-market teams at the bottom in a rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer model. There are obvious exceptions in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Orlando, but both the Spurs and Magic have spent a considerable amount of money in order to overcome that gap, and the Magic have yet to claim a title while the Thunder are merely projected towards success.
As a few examples, in the NFL, which is clearly the most successful sports league in America, television revenue is split among all the teams while in the NBA, the home team negotiates its own television deal. The NFL home team splits the gate 60/40 with the away team, while the NBA home team keeps all its revenue.
An adjustment like this may seem indicative of a move towards welfare ownership that could lead to bad ownership allowing to float, but it's hard to argue that's a worse arrangement than the massive gap between the small market teams and the big markets. Newer ownership, though, has made noise about wanting to move away from the status quo.
Meanwhile, as the owners are trying to shore up their own front, they are likely to tailor their proposals to the union to benefit the non-superstar players while restricting the top percentage of players. Appealing to these players with concessions could help them with their overall goal of capping exorbitant spending (on non-Darko players, of course). This sets up a scenario of there being five separate entities in the CBA talks. The superstar players, the role players, the big-market owners and the small-market owners, with the league trying to keep tabs on everyone in the hopes of getting a resolution (that obviously favors their constituents, the owners).
Things are going to get a heck of a lot messier before they get better.
Posted on: July 30, 2010 6:20 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2010 6:39 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Typically, if you do your job really, really well, you get a promotion. Or you get a raise. Or at the very least, you get to keep your job.
But that didn't happen in Miami as the Heat fired its season ticket sales staff after the team sold out of season tickets. Ouch.
In a statement, the team confirmed the terminations Friday afternoon, saying that with an "exhausted'' inventory of season-tickets "we no longer require a season ticket sales team to sell tickets.''
Stephen Weber, vice president of sales, delivered the news to about 30 ticket sales people Friday morning, according to the story from the Miami Herald. Currently, the team's waiting list has more than 6,000 names on it. It's pretty evident that at this point, the Heat can sell tickets without even trying.
"They let us go because there was really nothing left to do anymore,'' a fired staffer told the Herald.
The statement also said: "While the decision to release part of our sales force was a difficult one, we greatly appreciate their contributions to the company. We have also hired a placement service to assist those individuals find new employment. Should any season tickets become available, they will be handled through our season ticket deposit program. We thank those employees for their time with the company and wish them success in their future endeavors.''
Obviously this seems like a major low blow. But as the staffer said, what were they really going to do? I wonder what places like Green Bay do with waiting lists that long. Still, firing a group of 30 after a job well done, has a funny taste to it. Or actually, is just downright mean.
Evidently, the Heat aren't worried about retaining the new season ticket holders. I guess LeBron, Wade and Bosh are supposed to take care of that.