Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do NBA Players Have All the Control?

In the current sports world, it seems more and more evident by the year that there is a power shift going on in the relationships between owners, GMs, and the players. This deformation of the accepted hierarchy seemed to start with players requesting publicly to be traded when they were unhappy (close to the situation the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony finds himself in right now), and has seemingly exploded recently with LeBron James, his personal "team" that has turned him into a national brand rather than just a player, and of course, James' overblown "Decision."

In a recent article from Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, he talks to Nick Van Exel, a retired player who requested a trade from the same Nuggets back in the 2001-2002 season.

“If I could do it again, I probably would have stuck it out,” said Van Exel, now a player development coach with the Atlanta Hawks. “I was an emotional player. I was so stubborn. I didn’t back away from it.

“I was hoping for a trade, but at the same time I felt like I let a lot of people down."

Van Exel vowed to keep playing hard, but that didn’t stop Nuggets fans from booing him every time he touched the ball.

“It had nothing to do with the city, my teammates,” Van Exel said. “It was all about winning and losing. I just felt like saying it. Players were being shipped out. It didn’t work out like I hoped it would.

Anthony has never said publicly he wants a trade, in part because the NBA now fines players who make such demands public. But he also has refused to sign the three-year, $64 million extension the Nuggets have offered, and his representatives, league sources said, have made clear to team officials he wants out.

“He’s doing it the right way,” Van Exel said. “It’s tough. He wants to compete for a championship. But he sees all the guys he came into the league with making moves, and he wants to win.”

Van Exel is just one example of the many players from his era who requested trades like this. When did this become acceptable? What if Dave Cowens decided he wanted to be traded from the Celtics in 1974? Would President Red Auerbach and coach Tommy Heinsohn have even considered caving into the players requests? No chance in Hell. One things for sure though, much like Van Exel did, and like Anthony appears to be doing now, Cowens would have continued to play hard.

Not all franchises can be so lucky to have guys who still go out and compete despite their unhappiness. When Vince Carter was traded from the Raptors to the Nets back in 2004, it was the culmination of friction building up between Carter and the Raptors for quite some time. After requesting a trade, Carter continued to play for the Raps, but not nearly at the same level as he had in his past season's with the team, and Carter even admitted after the fact that he was not competing to the best of his abilities. This forced the Raptors hand to trade him as soon as possible, and Toronto didn't get nearly as much as they should have in return.

Why is this being allowed to happen? Well, for one, the players have guaranteed contracts in the NBA, so they technically don't need to be leaving it all on the floor to get a paycheck. Players who wish to betray the organization that gave the so much like Carter did can just do it leaving the team in even more of a mess than it previously was. Can teams do anything to avoid this? Not every team can be good. Do they just avoid acquiring players who might dog it if they become unsatisfied? The NBA has installed a rule that prevents players for requesting trades publicly, but what stops them from doing what Carter did, or demanding the trade behind the scenes?

More needs to be done to keep players from having all of the control in the NBA, because without change the parity and fairness of the league will suffer (its already starting) and non-winning organizations could potentially go out of business because of it.

The 2010 free agent frenzy was not not controlled by the teams, their executives, or anyone in the organizations. The entire off-season was controlled by one man, LeBron James. He had all of the power. Teams made trades, shed salaries, cut players, they did anything they could for the mere chance of signing James, and he could go basically anywhere he wanted to. Thus, "The Decision" was born. James had the whole NBA world revolving around him. The Decision became an unstoppable force and the NBA and its owners were powerless against it. Before you knew it, three of the top five players in the NBA were suddenly on the same team, and it wasn't the Heat's plan or the Heat's decision. The whole ordeal was planned and executed by the players themselves. Is this the way it should be?

In order for the NBA to restore order some changes will need to be made. Personally, I don't think players should have as much control as they seem to these days, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is the new way the NBA will operate, because that's certainly where things are heading. Maybe the NBA needs to make a decision of their own.


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