A lot of decisions [will be based on] what other players are willing to do and what other guys want to do. So it’s not just a ‘me’ situation here. We all have to look and see what each other is thinking.
That’s a quote from Dwayne Wade in the Chicago Tribune. It’s paired with a story I’m sure you’ve already seen today that describes how Wade has been in contact with other free agents (Notably LeBron James and Joe Johnson) about their own intentions. This isn’t necessarily news to me. Ever since this mega-free agent class materialized there was a thought a couple of the big names could get themselves together and make it a package deal. Let’s go to (fill in the blank city) and win multiple championships together. For guys like Chris Bosh and James, who might already be searching for a title, despite their young age, it makes some sense. It’s also a great reminder of how much power the players have. Owners, of course, aren’t permitted this type of collusion.
I know the package deal exists elsewhere in sports. There’s the less talented sibling that gets the scholarship as long as their superstar brother or sister comes along. High school athletes help recruit their friends, there was the famous story of the AAU team with Erick Barkley, Ron Artest and a couple other guys that were all going to go to St. John’s, but then Elton Brand stiffed them for Duke. Baseball players call free agents to try to sell them on their city, all of this happens, and yet for some reason, the package deal in basketball just seems so flagrant. And while I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with it, it bothers me.
I hate the notion of players being closely tied to coaches. One of Kentucky’s recruits for the coming year said something along the lines that he had told Coach Cal in the 8th grade he’d come wherever he was coaching. We all remember Dejuan Wagner, Cal’s first big recruit to Memphis, and his father that came along for the ride. You hear outlandish rumors about a team hiring Coach K, who will then bring in free agents based on the relationships he built with the National Team. The rumors swirling around the Nets, Bulls and Cavs head coaching positions all appear to have some type of chain reaction in mind. We hire this coach so we can get this player, which will lead to the next player. I almost feel like it is a learned mentality in basketball.
I was joking with someone the other day that the NBA should disband its current structure. If the coaches and players have so much influence, go ahead and give them all the power. Have them organize themselves into teams, and then they can just sell themselves to whatever city wins the bidding for their services. So, it’s not the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s the Phil Jackson and Kobe Lakers, who happen to be playing this year in Los Angeles, but in a couple of years they might sell out for Brooklyn, who knows? Obviously I am blowing things out of proportion, but this is kind of the feeling I get watching the basketball business from afar.
These guys have every right to go where they want, it’s the essence of free agency, and I suppose if they can bring a coach along for the ride, more power to them, I guess it is just a little too mercenary for my taste. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up where, and if the packages stick together or if ego, greed and money get in the way. I don’t actually think Wade and LeBron could co-exist, but I could be wrong. It’s the NBA off-season, always more exciting than the actual games.