Friday, February 1, 2013

Not the Agreement We Collectively Bargained For

When the new CBA was introduced, we were all advised that it would take several years to really take effect. It is now officially really taking effect.

Is this a good thing?

I was under the impression that the higher luxury tax was supposed to break up the "super teams". This would give small market teams a chance to finally compete with the big dogs. Everything was going to change for the better. Nobody would have to burn Kyrie Irving's jersey in effigy; the blue chip players a team drafted would stay put. Teams with 3 Superstars would be a thing of the past and fans everywhere would rejoice at the parity. The Cleveland Cavaliers would play the Sacramento Kings in the 2015 NBA Finals!

The way I see it, here's what actually happened:
  1. The Heat got even better with the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis
  2. The Lakers are loaded with talent and were able to sign Antawn Jamison for about 75% less than what the Cavs were paying him.
  3. The Memphis Grizzlies had to get rid of Rudy Gay, whom they drafted.
  4. The Oklahoma City Thunder had to get rid of James Harden, whom they drafted.
That's not quite what they bargained for, is it? Two big market teams with deep pockets were able to stockpile Superstars while improving their bench. Two competitive, well-run teams in small markets were forced to trade away essential pieces of their roster.

James Harden was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. He was an elite talent that wanted to stay in Oklahoma City but because of the luxury tax, the Thunder could not afford to re-sign him. We all know that there is no way James Harden would have been traded for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb if money was not an issue. OKC's current success should not take away from how crummy this situation was for them. Let's face it, any team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is going to be competitive. One could make the case that the team is playing better without Harden but that doesn't change the fact that the move was made to save money, not win basketball games.

The Memphis Grizzlies were one of the best teams in the league. They have a good coach and the best tandem of big men in the league. They had chemistry and in Rudy Gay they had a very good swing man playing with a chip on his shoulder. Unfortunately, Rudy Gay also had a lot of money owed to him. Memphis is a team that has trouble scoring points and they traded their leading scorer halfway through the season. Two weeks prior, they traded one of their best three-point shooters. These moves were made while the Grizzlies were off to their best start in franchise history.

Memphis GM Chris Wallace said (in so many words) that the trades were made to improve the team. I think he also mentioned something about having a lightly used bridge to sell. We all know that this was about dollars and cents, not wins and losses. In fairness, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played. Tayshaun Prince is a solid player with championship experience and a change of scenery could jump start Austin Daye's underwhelming career. Who knows? The Grizzlies may flourish without Gay like the Thunder have without Harden.

It won't make me like seeing him in a Raptors uniform any more.