Posting a little later out of respect for the dearly departed.
To be sure, the NBA isn't MLB...yet. It seems like such a short time ago I was cursing Mitch Kupchak. Only the Lakers, I moaned, could steal Pau Gasol without buying Memphis dinner. With Lamar Odom re-signed, Ron Artest in for the MLE, Derek Fisher hanging around, that Kobe guy, Shannon Brown developing into a 6th man, and Andrew Bynum with fresh plaster on his glass knees, it just seemed to be an impossible job of team building. Well, the impossible is possible when the stars align for the biggest market teams, I muttered to myself. I was willing to ignore Boston and their Big 3 (4)...anything to beat the Lakers.
Of course, my above question is fairly sophomoric, because it's really already happened. Boston is the NBA version of 'Space Cowboys', a bunch of gritty older guys who will get the job done, and may just punch you in the nuts and take your wallet for good measure. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett will go into the sunset together, while Rajon Rondo, Big Baby, and Kendrick Perkins (maybe) head up the new generation.
Chicago probably scares me more than any other team in the future. Derrick Rose is coming into the full of his powers and will be there well into our own contending window. If Joakim Noah gets healthy, Carlos Boozer stays on the court, and Luol Deng is there to play 4th banana color me apprehensive. Or they could all take turns being injured while D-Rose wills his team to victory anyway, like most of this season. This is the East team done right. D-Rose is an intense competitor and I would be shocked to see him go elsewhere.
I don't want to talk about the Heat...so I won't. It goes without saying.
The Knicks aren't there yet. I know that's contradictory, given the title...but it's only a matter of time before Amar'e's knees have to be encased in carbonite, with all the minutes he's playing. As much as NY fan's are blasting the trade, it cost them an RFA, Michelle Trachtenberg's boyfriend, the man who ate Blake Griffin's armpit, and a PG not named Chris Paul. Keeping Landry Fields is nice, but the Knicks are paper thin. Walsh will have to build within some serious constraints, whether or not the Knicks have a reliable bench in the next two years will be the acid test for his legacy in New York.
A few thoughts outside the supercities after the jump.
Orlando is handcuffed in the bad way that started out as the good way. Like the crazy hot girl (since we all love that metaphor) who promptly informs you upon immobilization that you will be taking part in an involuntary organ donor program and they are fresh out of morphine. Fingers will point to Otis Smith if things go farther south, but when you have Dwight Howard, you can't afford to do anything but double down. You MUST win, because if you don't....will your star go to L.A.? New York? If and when the Magic's cap situation goes sour...well, I'm sure someone will be surprised.
If Orlando is handcuffed, imagine how things are in Atlanta. You just paid Joe Johnson more money than Lebron James and you still don't have a true Center. If they don't get good value for J-Smoov with holes at PG, SF, and C...write this team off for the next 5 years. I say Center because Al Horford will slide over to PF. Of course that's something Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams might take exception to, but they almost certainly won't have the chance to prove it in the second round.
The Western Conference has turned into a game of Jenga with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, so how did all of this come to be? Where's the competitive spirit that drove players to hate each other? Why is teaming up even an option?
Preachy as it sounds, this is the logical consequence of the NBA corporate culture. Like Jay-Z said, 'I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man.' Why should stars be loyal to these organizations? The players are viewed as commodities and treated accordingly. That's why Lebron James gets a personalized cartoon featuring all the inside jokes he and his teammates enjoyed, and James Singleton gets a one year minimum contract offer and plays in China.
Hey, it's just business, right? As Michael Scott will tell you, 'There's nothing more personal than business.' So why do we get upset when a franchise player jumps ship? As fans, we may think, but don't often say, 'That's our commodity.' Once it becomes obvious it's nearly impossible to get back full value for the outgoing level of talent, we feel betrayed. This is the inevitable result of effecting any theoretical system in the real world; imbalances happen and there's just no way to guarantee that things stay fair.
For myself, I say the Carmelo Anthony trade doesn't so much herald a lack of parity, as it's just one more reminder that when the Finals roll around there won't be any surprises.
Is there hope on the horizon, anything to challenge the mercenary attitude that seems poised to dominate the NBA landscape for the foreseeable future? I'd have to say the teams I've got my hopes pinned on are the Thunder and the Wizards (surprise).
Well, the who shouldn't shock anyone, but I want to pay lip service to the how. We say we're missing the mean, and that's true. Mean comes from a sense of identity, of us versus them. It's the 80's style nasty that a team will have to rock to stand up to the superteams. The subsuper market teams will have to run like a small business built on smarts, loyalty, and grit while dealing with the mind numbing paranoia that their star is eyeing greener pastures.
But until that happens, it's a pipe dream, capturing lightning in a bottle, San Antonio or bust. Nothing is going to change the formula, to get a new generation of rookies seriously looking at staying with their teams unless a group like OKC can follow the Spurs' example, break the glass ceiling and prove that you don't have to leave home to be great.