By Lenn Robbins
The NBA has a problem. Not just any problem, a multi, multimillion dollar problem. In fact, it has problems.
You know this is true when a player declines a two-year, $103 million extension, declines to be the first player in NBA history to earn $50 million per season because all of his goals have not been achieved.
James Harden has decided that forming that next super team, and hopefully filling the glaring void on his resume – NBA champion — is a greater priority than staying a Houston, where the Rockets twisted themselves into a hoops hybrid trying to surround the bearded one with the right pieces to win.
They embraced small ball the way American car owners once embraced gas guzzling V-8s. Both ran well for a while before their shortcomings were realized.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement (which needs a significant overhaul) this is Harden’s power, not necessarily his right. He reported has asked for/demanded a trade, which the Rockets don’t have to honor, but then they’re left with an unhappy star and not a lot of options in terms of return.
So that’s one Problem No.1: Superstar players have the power to make demands that break up competitive teams in the hopes of forming a championship one.
Which brings us to Problem No.2 – Super Teams. If it’s not the Celtics, it’s the Heat. If it’s not the Heat, it’s the Warriors. If it’s not the Warriors, it looks like it will be the Brooklyn Nets. The concept of team building is quaint and fading.
The Bucks, who just added Bogdan Bogdanovic and Jrue Holiday, are trying to do it. They would have a superstar in Giannis, who they drafted, and a very nice supporting cast. The Suns, who acquired Chris Paul to school Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, both of whom they drafted, will be fun to watch develop.
The Nets, should the Harden deal go through, would have three superstars (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant), none of whom they drafted. It would have been nice to see Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen continued to develop but they likely would be included in a deal to get Harden. We wish Allen luck trying to maintain his exceptional Afro in Houston’s humidity.
From a fan and team standpoint, the Super Team is a short-sighted path to glory. If it’s a franchise such as Brooklyn, which has never won an NBA title and plays second fiddle to the poorly tuned Knicks, a title grab is a must. Damn the future. Sell those championship hats now.
Who cares if the oft-injured Irving gets hurt again (NOT! Our wish), or that Harden’s game doesn’t thrive in the playoffs, or that Durant seems to need a change of scenery every few years. And will someone please explain how coach-by-committee hire Steve Nash will decide who to draw up the final shot for.
Is it fun to watch super stars player together? Sure. It’s called the All Star Game. It’s better to watch players grow together, pay their dues, and reach the top – like the Pistons, Bulls and Knicks, once upon a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth.
Now, one super star decides his personal goals are more important and his team and the league suffers. Small market teams – see Oklahoma City – suffer because they simply can’t compete with big market teams. It might be cool to see a championship parade in Milwaukee or Portland.
One of these days the worm just might turn. Fans will get turned off by stars who are not content with mammoth salaries most of us can’t fathom. The want their bank account and bling. Fans will get turned off by championship level teams that are created overnight only to be blown up in just a few years.
We’ve long had to decide whether to root for the name on the front of the jersey or the back. Now we may have to decide if it’s worth rooting for either.