Another day, another NBA star demanding to run the show.
Today it is Jimmy Butler… again. A little over a year after presenting the Bulls with an ultimatum to either choose Butler or coach Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls did what they typically do and chose a bargain basement coach over an All-Star in his prime. But that was fine. The Bulls weren’t going anywhere with Jimmy Butler. Thanks to epic mismanagement, the team had turned into a steaming pile of hot garbage… and Jimmy Butler. Tanking was clearly the right move Sadly, they couldn’t even do that correctly.
But back to Butler joining the ranks of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Paul Milsap, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Deandre Jordan, and Gordon Hayward. Those are all 2017 all-stars who have chosen to switch teams over the past 18 months (some of them twice).
Back in my day…
Back in my day (I’m 47) it was very rare for a team’s superstar to leave. Larry, Magic, and Michael all played for one team (let’s just ignore MJs stint as a power forward with the Wizards). Malone and Stockton ran that pick and roll (and punched guys in the balls when no one was looking) for what seemed like forever. It is true that some stars switched teams after their prime in order to chase a ring, but those were usually mutual decisions between the team and the player after the player had given all he could for the team that drafted him.
Were people more loyal back in my day? Oh god no. It was money. Boatloads of money. During that era, if you wanted to keep your stars, you did what everyone does in a free market economy, you kept adding zeroes to their salary until they agreed to stay. Although there was a salary cap, it was not a “hard cap”. A team could go as far over the cap as they were willing to in order to keep their best assets… you know, kind of like all businesses are allowed to do in a free market. If the Bulls wanted to pay Michael Jordan the biggest contract in the history of sports, they could. And they did because they wanted to keep him (not as much as they wanted to keep Jerry Krause but that is a different story).
Unfortunately in the NBA today, there are “max contracts” and “super max contracts”. There is also a hard cap and many penalties for breaching the lower levels of the “soft cap”. In other words, a team is not allowed to spend what is required in order to keep its most valuable assets (Hence why LeBron James has ditched his home town team twice).
Although there are some advantages to re-signing your own free agents, these incentives clearly are not enough. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at that list of the 2017 free agents who have moved teams.
Therefore, for all intents and purposes, money is taken off the table. A team can no longer make up for the fact that they are… Cleveland… by offering its players the giant buckets of money required to make the player choose to live in Cleveland.
If any of us are considering leaving our current place of employment, we most likely look at several factors. I would imagine for most, it would start with money. If both jobs have similar salaries, we would need to start to look at other factors. I can only imagine what those factors would have been back in my mid 20s to mid 30s but I would guess it would be something like.
Winning is fun. Playing with your friends is fun. Making a ton of money off the court is fun. Living in a city with an awesome night life is fun. Being the star of a team is fun. Playing in front of a packed house every night is fun.
I think you get my point.
When you take away the cash incentive to live in Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, OKC, or Utah you are screwed. Although based on the fact that Westbrook and George have chosen to stay in OKC, I should actually check out that city before I die. Clearly there is something going on there that I don’t understand.
I know many people are completely sick and tired of NBA players running the show. Fans are angry at the players for jumping ship so quickly. However, this anger is misplaced. If you want to be angry, be angry at a bargaining agreement that handcuffs teams from offering the one thing they can control… money.
These players are simply doing what the vast majority of us would do when presented with two job opportunities. We would look at the jobs and determine which one had the better combination of money and quality of life.
Back in my day, owners could tip the scales using giant buckets of money… and we liked it!