Tuesday, March 1, 2011


On July 8, 2010, the landscape of the NBA changed with this sentence.

"In this fall, I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

This is what LeBron James famously said during "The Decision" and the result is that more potential free agents are predetermining their moves before their contracts run out and it comes at the expense of the small market teams that have those players.

Carmelo Anthony spent all summer and half of the NBA season trying to force a trade to the New York Knicks and the trade finally went down between them and the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 21. Two days later, the New Jersey Nets redeemed themselves after losing in the Carmelo sweepstakes by acquiring Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz.

The message is now clearer than ever from the players' standpoint. "Build a good team around me, or I will play with other superstars somewhere else."

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors found out the hard way with James and Chris Bosh, respectively. Neither team could lure big free agents or swing trades for better pieces and good sidekicks to compliment them.

The result is that there are now two franchises that will take YEARS to shake off the effects, and no other team is willing to go down this road again without compensation.

Rather than losing their star players with nothing in return, Denver and Utah decided to pull the plug and act now, saving themselves months of headaches and speculation.

Some teams, however, may not be as lucky.

Chris Paul wanted to be traded this season, but stayed put as the New Orleans Hornets continued to handle their financial woes.

The NBA took control of the Hornets this season after former owner George Shinn failed to sell the franchise.

New Orleans might be forced to live with the fact that the face of its franchise might walk out in 2012, and there could be far worse effects than what Cleveland is suffering this year.

While the team struggles to find a local buyer and to lock up David West to a long-term deal, not signing and making Paul could be a crippling blow to basketball in the city of New Orleans, to the point that the Hornets could move.

While the city hopes that does not happen, there are some small market teams that are successful in keeping their high-profile stars.

The San Antonio Spurs have shown great stability in keeping Tim Duncan and building around him. The result is a team that has won at least 50 games in a full schedule every year during his tenure.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are getting the big picture as well. They signed Kevin Durant to a five-year deal this past offseason as he and Russell Westbrook are growing as MVP candidates. With Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder are continuing to grow into one of the elite NBA teams.

In the meanwhile, most small-market teams will continue to suffer this fate as they struggle to keep their star players happy. However, they have gotten wiser to try to at least get decent parts back in order to cushion the blow and move on quickly.

LeBron James' "Decision" has left the Cleveland Cavaliers with more
losses this year in the past two years combined.

Mirroring what Miami's Big Three assembled, New York hopes to return to glory with
Carmelo Anthony (left), Amar'e Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups.

Now the question is: Will Chris Paul (left) follow Carmelo, Amar'e, and LeBron in leaving his team?

1 comment:

  1. The scary thing is that you won't see too many guys like Reggie Miller and Tim Duncan anymore. Guys who stayed in a small market and had competitive teams most of their career which kept them there. LeBron's move is gonna be the start of a new era and honestly, you can't blame players for wanting to win because that's at the core of this. Not collusion or player power.

    What sucks is that the NBA could end up like MLB in 3 years - teams knowing that their season is dead before it starts and its the same teams competing. Hold out hope for OKC being the last of a dying breed