NBA Players… when arrogance rules supreme (part 2)

12 07 2007

Time for a rant (second part of a 2 part diatribe, part 1 found here)…

Waaah waaah waahAs the NBA off-season unfolds, I have become more & more dismayed at the attitude that many players are displaying recently. In a recent opinion I posted on Kobe, I used the term ‘divattitude’ as a pun on ‘diva’ & ‘attitude’… well with the way this trade season is unfurling, it’s becoming quite a common state of mind. What happened to playing for the love of the game? Yeah, I know – how naive of me! Still… with these guys getting so much money, you’d think they would be happy to play, that they’d want to do something to earn their bucks.

No such luck.

We have perhaps the most storied franchise in NBA history being told by not one, not two, but THREE players – “I don’t wanna play there” (Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, Jermaine O’Neal). We have stories floating around of Paul Pierce being close to demanding a trade… When did the mighty Green die and become the Vancouver Grizzlies? Yes, I know that Danny Ainge has really ridden the franchise into the ground, but c’mon: players under contract stipulating where they’re going to play (as far as I know, only Kobe has a ‘no-trade’ clause)? I realise that they can threaten to walk (after their contract is over), but it really pisses me off to see them do that… to unfairly affect trade destinations.

We have the best player in the League – Kobe – performing almost weekly backflips on his “I-wanna-be-traded” scenario. For those who can’t keep up, in a definite softening-of-stance, Kobe told the press the other day that “We’ll just have to see where it goes.”(as far as still demanding a trade). Still… given we’re talking Mr Bryant, that could be very literally yesterday’s news by tomorrow.

Two years ago, Zach Randolph declared “I don’t think my role of playing 13 or 15 minutes a game is acceptable. I deserve to play 25-plus minutes, but if they want me to play 12 minutes, then they can just put me on the inactive list. I mean, those are rookie minutes.” Yup. Have fun with your New York Minute Zach… especially while you get to watch Portland develop into one of the League’s best teams over the next few years.

To get rid of him, Portland took on one of the great lemon contracts of our time – Stevie “Franchise” Francis (would that be a McDonald’s franchise Steve?). And it’s testament to how well-loved he is that he’s not even required to show up. They paid him $30 million to not show. Scary that New York are ecstatic to get Randolph, given it means Francis is gone. I don’t know who this situation is a bigger indictment of: Francis or Randolph.

We have Marcus Camby – just prior to the NBA Dress-code being introduced declaring it would never work – “I don’t see it happening unless every NBA player is given a stipend to buy clothes.” Err… hello Mr Sprewell.

The Yi Jianlian saga continues to unfurl, with SI.com reporting that Milwaukee’s Larry Harris stating:

“We’re not trading him,” Harris told SI.com. “We like him and we think this is a great opportunity for him. He’ll get a chance to play a lot of minutes right away for a good team. What more could [he] want?”

What a mess this is. Milwaukee pick Yi with the 6th pick in the draft, and his ‘people’ tell Yi… Bucks be damned.them that they don’t want to play in Milwaukee, they want to play in a town a) that’s a bigger market, & b)where there’s a larger asian population. Then they (Yi’s management team) enter into ‘trade discussions’ with other teams… regardless of the Milwaukee Bucks. Yi’s Chinese agent Zhao Gang said in the China Daily that he was already in contact with teams who were showing an interest in Yi. Err… huh? Isn’t that supposed to be the role of the management of the Bucks??? And Yi is refusing to talk about any of it…

The thing I just don’t get, is that very few players seem grateful… now we even have guys entering straight from draft, complete with what used to be a 5-year-veteran sense of entitlement. Yi’s refusal to play in Milwaukee disgusts me. Zach Randolph – the Blazers are much better for having traded him. Francis? I hope he falls the way of Latrell Sprewell. Even despite being a Laker fan, Kobe makes my head spin… or maybe more truthfully because I’m a Laker fan. His puerile, petulant posings drive me to the point of nausea. The ‘you-know-if-you-send-me-there-I’ll-walk’ postulations of Marion, KG & Jermaine really disappoint me. I thought all three were better than that.Yay Fish! It’s almost enough to make me like the Spurs, if they weren’t so like porridge… filling, but oh-so-bland.

Give me players who play with the unabashed joy of the game… I’m sick of on-court-divas.

Thank god for Derek Fisher.

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Kobe beef for Chicago Bulls? Hmmm… Nuh-uh… I still don’t think so

22 06 2007

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First & foremost, let’s get one thing straight: I’m a fan of both the Lakers, and of Kobe’s. Doesn’t stop me from having negative opinions about either tho’…

So trade rumors abound in regards to one Kobe Bryant.

Will he go to Chicago?

Will he go to Boston?

Will he go to Phoenix…

New York…

Washington…

blah blah blah

blah blah blah

blah blah blah.

It sounds as if most pundits out there ‘believe’ that Kobe is the power that decides if & when the Lakers trade him. Friends ‘n’ neighbors, he doesn’t. Sure, he can impact decisions made (and Kobe does wield a helluva lotta power – far more than the average superstar), but the when the sun sets, the man who’ll be making the decisions is Jerry Buss. And at the end of that day, Kobe remaining in Los Angeles is what’s best for the Los Angeles Lakers (for now), and – believe it or not – for Kobe Bryant. And I think he knows that. Still… at the end of the day, will he still be there? I don’t know… but I think so.

Let’s explore, shall we?

The LA Lakers are like very few (no other?) franchises in the NBA. Even during a ‘rebuilding phase’ (heaven forefend), the residents of LA LA land cannot afford to not have a player of superstar stature on the team. The bottom line for the purple ‘n’ gold is that there has to be someone that justifies the patrons shelling out thousands of dollars for those seats next to Jack, and sorry – but Ben Gordon Jamal Crawford just ain’t gonna do it. Kobe does. Like him or not (and probably no player in the NBA polarizes peope as much as Kobe does), he is probably the best player in the NBA. Any trade that gets done (for Kobe + junk) has to bring in bona fide hand-clappin’, dollar-pullin’ star quality… which cuts out about 99% of the league’s players, other than being fillers in the end deal.

Who would do it (as far as getting the high-priced bums-on-seats)? Lebron’d be of that caliber, so would D-Wade… but both are untouchable. Of all the names floating around as far as being places of interest for Kobe, only Chicago would be a logical trading partner for LA… and that’s not going to happen. Not if Jerry’s thinking straight and doesn’t sell Kobe for 75 cents on the dollar. And as long as Dr Buss’s running the show (and not the idiot-savant son, Jim), I hope pray believe think something will be done to assuage Kobe, at least for the next season.

The thing about trading Kobe for a cheap deal is that you devalue the LA franchise. You’re not going to get Lebron… you’re not going to get Dwayne Wade… you’re not going to get anywhere near what’s needed to get the value-for-money that the celebrity set are going to demand to see. And that’ll effect the income…

The thing about trading to GET Kobe is you’re probably going to have to put your franchise in hock to get him.

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So… the main protagonists thus far named in the rumor-mill: New York, Chicago, Phoenix… and recently, Washington.

  • New York simply doesn’t have the pieces to make this work, despite what Isiah might want. David Lee, Channing Frye and Jamal Crawford??? What are you smokin’ Mr Thomas???
  • Washington – despite it being highly unlikely that Kobe would want to go to Washington & play for the Wiz (and he does have that oh-so-annoying ‘no-trade clause’), it’s equally unlikely that Agent Zero would be a sought-after piece for the Lakers. Despite his quirkiness (and I really enjoy Hibachi!), on the court he’s simply ‘Kobe-lite’.
  • Phoenix – It’s highly unlikely that the Lakers would make a conference rival stronger (ignoring the fact that Kobe probably doesn’t really want to play in the West any way), let alone a divisional rival. No way in hell do they trade with the Suns.
  • Chicago… the most interesting of the suggested destinations. They DO have the pieces to pull this trade off, and Kobe DOES want to play there. But, they’d have to pretty much gut the franchise to do it (Deng & Gordon?), and Paxson’s notoriously conservative when it comes to pulling off trades with his ‘boys’. Won’t happen (unless Dr Buss gets drunk… uh-oh… nah, won’t happen anyway!).

From Kobe’s perspective on being traded, maybe he does want out – but whatever destination he ends up in could end up being WORSE off than the Lakers currently are, just by virtue of GETTING Kobe they’d have to sell most of the franchise. Kobe is (whether you like him or not) probably the best player in the League, and entering his prime now (and that’s some scary stuff there!). He won’t come cheap. The Lakers aren’t going to just give him away… and nor should they.

So… the team that Kobe (should he be traded) ended up on would be so much weaker given they’d have to trade away most of their assets to get him. And I’m fairly sure that Kobe’s aware that if you’re going to be on a mediocre team, best to be in LA. Additionally, the owner they have in Jerry Buss is probably the most willing in the league to open the checkbook. Sure, he’s no Steinbrenner, but he’s probably one of the closest things the NBA has to it. If any owner in the league will throw money around to get a deal done, it’s Dr Jerry Buss.The amazing thing is that Kobe probably realizes ALL of this. So what’s with the ‘divattitude’?

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There are three main trains of thought:

1. Kobe is a petulant spoilt brat, who is basically saying the first thing that comes into his head. He’s angry, and wants out. He sees the East as a way to have success relatively easily (compare Kobe’s Lakers to Lebron’s Cavs… not much difference, and if there is, the Lakers are probably the better team!).

2. Kobe is playing Machiavellian games. He knows that the Lakers will be hard-pressed to trade him. He realizes that the dummy-spitting is tarnishing his image further, but feels there is no other avenue of recourse. He cannot come right out & say “sack Kupchak, and while you’re at it get rid of Jim Buss”… but he can make it so that Jerry Buss has to pretty much choose between the two (Kobe, or Kupchak/Buss Jr.).

3. A mix of the two… Kobe is being calculating, but he does want out. He sees the way Dwayne Wade & Lebron are winning with similar teams around them as he has around him (ie. CRAP) – difference is they’re in the East. And in the East, it’s a lot easier to win with a mediocre team.

 

I lean towards believing the second (tho’ daily that’s getting harder to stick with), but starting to lean towards number 3. Whichever it is – I’d love to know who’s counseling Kobe to behave like this, because their advice sucks.

It could’ve been handled so much better with Kobe avoiding the rants, and perhaps even talking to people first before shooting off at the mouth, and damaging his reputation even more (and he’d done so well rebuilding it post Colorado). Sure, let folks understand your position, and put pressure on the LA front office, but with just a tad more class and decorum.

Sad thing about this is that Kobe’s right. Yes, the Lakers have been badly mis-managed. Yes, Mitch Kupchak has really, really made what was the premier franchise in the league into an also-ran. But none of this absolves Kobe from the way he’s behaved over the last month.

Drop the petulant sulky crap, and return to what’s true: basketball.


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Finals? Bah… Bring on the Off-season!!!

6 06 2007

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Ok… I know the NBA finals are going to be exciting now. I get that. Lebron “Luke-the-force-is-with-you” James vs the San Antonio “Deathstar” Spurs (who really thinks the good guys are going to win this time?) – great viewing.

But the off-season this year is looking so… interesting! First, the draft. How karmic was it that Boston & Memphis did not get a top 3 choice after two of the most obvious tanking performances I’ve seen by a professional sports team?!! I heard that in the morning on my way to work, and could not stop smiling all day!

We got Portland getting the first pick – and are almost certain to take Greg Oden & take a big step in the turn-around of the franchise once known as the ‘Jail Blazers’. The only alumni left from that group is Zach Randolph, and trade rumours surround him galore. Sure, the rebuilding of Rip City started before now – and the addition of Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge last year was a coup – but with Greg Oden in the mix, the sights will be set much, much higher. And deservedly so. Exciting times ahead for Portland.

With the losses (all surprisedly so?) of Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix, we can expect at least some retooling to occur within those rosters.

With Flip Saunders expecting to stay with the Pistons , that will probably ensure that fairly significant changes will occur to the roster. Rasheed Wallace has probably received his last technical in a Detroit uniform, Chris Webber’s probably due to retire, and the changes that occur might mean that Chauncey Billups departs too – via free agency.

Even with Mark Cuban declaring unconditional support for Dirk, I’d expect changes in Dallas. Dirk’ll stay, but Jason Terry is destined for somewhere else, Devin Harris deserves to have the ball. The Warriors exposed the deficiencies the Mavericks have at close to the basket – Dirk is simply more touch than brawn, and Eric Dampier’s ever-growing-contract is an elephant for the team to carry. Jerry Stackhouse is a free agent, and it will depend on the offers he gets. But bottom line: Dallas need a big guy, who can provide muscle… and not just talk about it like Dampier.

Phoenix are interesting. But for a hit by Robert Horry…

then maybe the Spurs aren’t in the finals.

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