The NBA Trading season is here again bringing almost as much excitement and news as the playoffs. Trade reports and rumors are abundant, some more speculative than others. And then there are the blockbuster trades that generate heaps of follow-up stories and comments and analysis of the impact.
Blockbuster trades so far
So far this year we have Chris Paul leaving the Clippers to join James Harden in Houston Rockets. And we have Paul George traded to OKC where he will play alongside new MVP Russel Westbrook. This also moved around a few other chess pieces to facilitate the trade. And there have been a few lesser known trades already where teams try to put themselves in a position to do what they want to do. Keep in mind that is not always winning. Some are trying to win now, bringing in the superstars or players just below that. Some are playing the long game and trade for future first round picks or younger players with potential. For some it is more about cap space and a few trade players that were leaving soon anyway just to get something in return. Paul George is an example of that. Either way a lot of players are moving around these days and it is hard to keep up. (Best way is the Free Agent tracker of NBA.com)
This is just the nature of the business and although exciting I can’t really say I enjoy it much and I think some aspects of it are hurting the game. I have friends that gave up on watching professional basketball as they felt players moved around too much and it was hard to be a fan of something that was always changing shape.
What about loyalty?
Ultimately it brings out the question of loyalty. Particularly for us not rooting for our home town. You have your favorite team with a bunch of players you grown to like and you know how they play and with whom they gel. And then your star player, despite all the posters on your wall, suddenly leaves to play for a contender. Is he still your favorite player (I assume he is still good, right?). Or are you loyal to the team and he is now your enemy?
The most radical example of these is of course that of LeBron James when he left his home town Cleveland to go to Miami to chase rings. He was the home grown superstar of Cleveland who was in desperate need for sports success. He almost made it with a half-bad team, but instead of sticking around and improve the team, he left for selfish reasons. And he did it in a clumsy way, I might add. So if you are a Cleveland fan and think LeBron is the man – how are you supposed to react?
Personally I hate it when my favorite player leaves my favorite team. And I have a hard time taking in the new players that used to be the opponent. Regardless of talent. There is a difference though between trades and free agency. Trades are normally facilitated by teams often without players’ involvement – such as the Iversen/Billups trade that both the players and the fans hated. You could tell AI was never happy in Detroit and Billups broke completely with Joe Dumars (who initiated the trade) at the time. It was all on the team. Then there is the LeBron change where it is all player driven and that is harder to forgive as a fan. It’s as you are being dumped by your star because he wants to be with someone else – or make more money but I don’t know if that makes you feel better.
My outmost respect goes to the players and teams that stick together for an entire career. These are in my mind the absolute superstars and it is what makes to likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson so much greater than the mercenaries of LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and others. It’s loyalty and it deserves our respect.