Could the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team Leave with Less than Gold?

July 23rd, 2016

Another year has flown by and it’s time again for Michael Jordan’s Flight School, a basketball camp for kids from 5-18 years of age, held on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. It’s the 21st year of the camp which is composed of two, four-day sessions with about 850 youngsters per session. It’s my 13th or 14th year (I’ve lost count) of working as a commissioner of one of the nine leagues. This blog will be on hiatus until Friday, August 5 and if this year is like the others, there ought to be some great stories when I return.

Unlike in past years when the United States fielded the greatest NBA players in the game, many of those players will only be watching these upcoming Olympics from the comfort of . . . somewhere other than the court in Rio. While it’s understandable that so many of the “best of the best” have declined to participate – coming off an injury, threat of injury, desperate need of rest, fear of mosquitoes, “been there, done that,” whatever, it’s somewhat alarming the sense of loyalty to one’s country didn’t override the aforementioned reasons. The list of non-participants this year is daunting – LeBron, Steph, Kawhi, CP3, Russ, Blake, AD – guys with first or nick names only. Add to that group guys who might not make the first name only bunch – yet – LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, James Harden. Whew!

It’s possible that, because the country isn’t coming off an embarrassing bronze medal performance, that the sense of urgency just doesn’t exist. But should it? Should fans of the U.S. be worried? Any team can be beaten, but there is little to no chance of any country other than the USA heading home with the gold medal.

The reasons are, as they usually are, we still have the best players and the best coaching. The only issue would be if:

“The guys who decided not to play started their own country.”

Could Police Violence Be Thwarted?

July 22nd, 2016

As stated in yesterday’s post, most of what I comment on is limited to the sporting world. Maybe it’s my version of “staying in my lane.” However, after thinking about the police killing of minorities (mainly young black men) and, conversely, young black men killing policemen, I had an idea. After reading this, you may suggest I get back in my lane.

For my last ten years of my working life (full-time, anyway), I worked for, arguably, the greatest politically correct school district in the nation. It also is one of the only (the only?) school district without a teachers union (which, in my opinion, worked fine for us – give or take a few instances) but that’s another story. Prior to that decade of my life, I worked as director of basketball operations at Fresno State, the school that had to have set records for gender equality lawsuits. In fact, I was a member of the Gender Equity Monitoring (GEM) Committee. It was a real gem, too.

Therefore, my thinking has become guarded, whether deciding what to say, how to say it, what to do, whatever. In some ways it was a refreshing look at how to approach issues. Gone were the days of “good ol’ boy” thinking, e.g. the one that always tickled me, “What’s good for football is good for the university.” First of all, it was modeled after the saying, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” That statement came from, not surprisingly, the head of GM. The football take off on it came from, duh, the football coach. Off color jokes weren’t as welcome, or tolerated, as they were in the past century.

That’s more than enough of a introduction toward what struck me a couple days ago as a potentially good idea. One problem with hiring these days is none other than political correctness. When someone applies for a job, no longer can an employer require information regarding race, religious or sexual preference, or anything of that nature.

After the brutal slayings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, which occurred as retaliation to black men who were killed by policemen, a thought crossed my mind – which I initially dismissed as being “politically” impossible. Here’s my idea – and maybe some reader out there can tell me whether it’s possible or illegal.

Aspiring police officers have to go through the police academy. How about if part of the police academy agenda was a polygraph test, in which the officer-to-be had to answer blatant questions like, “Are you a racist?” and “Are you anti-gay (or other groups)?” and “Do you feel some women are to blame in domestic violence cases?” In a “normal” job interview, any such question would attract lawyers near and far but, when hiring a police officer?

With controversial (actually, a better word would be misunderstood) movements like Black Lives Matters, tension is high around the country. Although it occurred a while ago, let’s not forget about the Ray Rice situation and the controversial, OK misunderstood, comments by Stephen A. Smith. Any “incorrect” answer would disqualify, and justifiably so, the potential candidate. Can anyone imagine, if in any of the the instances when black men were struck down by policemen, that the officer had answered Yes to such a question – independent of how passionate the officer was toward the job? Supposedly, there are ways to beat polygraphs but this idea would certainly reveal something sinister in a candidate’s character.

My first thought was, bad idea, politically incorrect and probably illegal. Then again, why not? Whether we like it or not, being a police officer is something that needs serious scrutiny. My question to everyone out there is:

“Could it be that easy?”

Why Sports Beats Politics

July 21st, 2016

Nearly every one of the posts I put out there are about sports. After watching the Republican National Convention, it’s readily apparent why. In athletics, especially where team sports are concerned, the most important trait is teamwork. Whatever the outcome in November’s election is, what took place last night in Cleveland was . . . anything but teamwork (unless there was some type of slick psychology going on).

When coaching a team there are, basically, three types of situations: your team is the favorite, your team is the underdog or the game is relatively even. If you’re favored, your game plan is focused more on your play than anything else because your best is better than their best. John Wooden’s players have always said that the coach never mentioned their opponent (Bill Walton even claimed he had to tell a manager to get a program so he knew which team they were playing). UCLA was always favored. Focusing on the Bruins’ play was the wisest course of action because if they played up to their abilities, they’d come out on the winning end. Some may say that when Wooden first got to UCLA he might not have had the best players, yet I’ve never heard any of those guys interviewed.

If you happen to be dealing with either of the latter two events, playing to your team’s potential might not be enough to ensure victory. What also must happen is your guys need to force your foe into mistakes. i.e. you must make sure they don’t play to their potential. Scouting reports will explain the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary. Defensive game plans usually consist of forcing an opponent away from the their strengths and attacking their weakness(s). Of course, this isn’t done at the expense of trying to play as close to 100% of your effectiveness. The closer you can get to that number, the less you have to worry about your challenger. What must be avoided is spending so much time exposing the “enemy’s” deficiencies, you fail to fully employ your own skills.

Nowhere, though, in the strategical plan is there room for infighting. If a play is run for a certain member of the squad, or the leader decides to substitute one player for another, then that decision, however painful it is for one particular individual, is what the team must support. There can be discussion before and/or after the contest but the fact remains, whenever there is a case in which only one person can be selected, there must be support by everyone on the team. That’s the basic fabric of a team. No matter the situation, those on the same team who do not embrace the team’s philosophy should not be members of the team. There has always been, and there will always be, disagreement among the group’s members. It’s healthy in the proper setting. Once a course of action is determined, however, there has got to be a united effort among those “wearing the same uniform.”

The Democratic National Convention will probably learn from last night’s gaffe and it’s doubtful anything similar will be repeated. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect embarrassing moments. What’s at issue is that neither party is strong enough to win based solely on merit This is probably due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of society enjoy hearing more about people’s faults, missteps or character flaws – even if they’re not true – than they do about their triumphs. Maybe it’s because doing so makes people feel not as inferior, e.g. “maybe my life isn’t so great but at least I didn’t . . . like that schmuck did.”

Why I enjoy sports more than politics is that, in the political arena:

“We never know if either side’s best is good enough because everybody is so much more focused on others’ weaknesses.”

Competitive Balance vs. Super Teams

July 20th, 2016

Although great players have joined forces in the past, the signing of Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors has pushed the topic to the forefront and elicited more opinions than ever before. People are in different camps on this subject, with strong beliefs on both sides. As far as my feeling, I’m not really sure. Here’s the information I’ve gathered which probably is the reason I can’t make up my mind.

One reason for my indecision is that I’m starting out completely neutral, in that I have no team in particular that’s my favorite. I used to pull for players from the programs where I coached. Now, since they’re all retired, I root for coaches I know. My college coaching coaching began in 1972, ended in 2002. Many of the guys I “grew up with” in the business wound up in the NBA. I remain in touch with several of them and that’s where I get some pretty good insight into why teams make the decisions they do. Their take on the professional game, be it strategy, practices, trades or free agency enlightens me beyond my personal feelings.

My assessment of the Durant deal has many parts. A caller to one of the talk shows made the statement that when the Heat put together their super team, they didn’t exactly dominate, winning only two championships. Unless he was comparing Miami to Red Auberbach’s Celtics’ teams, I’m not sure he understands what dominance is. After all, the team played four years together and went to four NBA Finals. Would they have had to go 4-4 to be considered a super team? When one team goes to the Finals four straight years, that’s not competitive balance. As far as the current rosters of the NBA are concerned, competitive balance is nowhere to be found, unless we’re talking about the teams that come after the top 5-6. Sure, the “on any given day” theory still is true over an 82-game season but the only reason some of the bottom 2/3rds of the teams in the league will be in next year’s playoffs, is because 16 teams (out of 30) have to be.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the statement that he didn’t think the Durant signing was good for the league because the NBA needs competitive balance. Give credit to Silver, though, who, after an impromptu meeting with Durant’s mother and hearing what she had to say, came to the conclusion that KD’s decision was different. In fact, every situation is different, admitted the commish. The Durant-Warriors case is not at all like what LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh did forming the magnificent trio in Miami mainly because those three colluded for, supposedly, a year. KD is joining a team that has been put together through the draft. The pre-KD Dubs are a collection of first round draft picks, with the exception of Draymond Green – who obviously should have been one.

Does that now make the Warriors a “super team?” Of course it does. Silver said he hopes the new collective bargaining agreement will address competitive balance. Should OKC lose (or be forced to trade) Russell Westbrook, it will be highly unlikely a team in such a small market will ever recover. Indiana, Orlando, Milwaukee, Utah, Charlotte, Memphis and others fall into the same category. San Antonio has been the outlier.

One topic I’ve not yet heard (although I imagine it’s been discussed) is the fact that Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors (and the rest of his front office staff), did exactly what an owner is supposed to do. The signing of Kevin Durant was certainly in the best interest of the franchise and its fan base and he (and his people) should be applauded for their presentation and ultimate victory. Independent of what any owner says, any one of them would have made the same move given the opportunity.

Now, on to something that’s bothersome. While I do believe talk radio is over the top – and is intended to be that way – the comments of the Warriors being the team everyone (other than their faithful) will hate is a bit much. The word hate should be reserved for issues like cancer. Or rape. Or the killing of innocent people. But a basketball team? Sure, they will be villains, but hate?

“Leave the word hate for the political world.”

 

Smart Move by Varejao

July 19th, 2016

In a country that sometimes feels there are more contrarians than any other type – which would be impossible because if it were the case, the contrarians would then be the majority – I thought I found a situation that everyone would agree upon. Then I ran into a guy, a classic contrarian, I used to work with and tested out my theory. I told him about the Warriors’ Anderson Varejao turning down a championship ring from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He wasn’t quite up to speed on what I was talking about so I explained how Varejao had started the season with the Cavs before being waived and, subsequently, signing with the Warriors. According to NBA rules he was eligible for a ring if Cleveland won it all. He actually spent more time with Cleveland than Golden State. During the postseason, he averaged 5.5 minutes and 1.2 points a game for the Dubs.

Claiming a ring would send a real mixed message and it wasn’t about not being deserving of one – there are many guys who sport jewelry of a club with which they made no contribution. In this case, it wasn’t about not contributing to a Cavs postseason run as much as it was being a member of the losing team. If he had any second thoughts, Varejao cemented his decision when he decided to re-sign with the Warriors. Not sure wearing the ring in the locker room would have gone over too well with his teammates, the same ones he commiserated with after losing Game 7.

True to form, following the explanation of the Varejao situation, my former colleague went into “anti” mode. “The ring is what guys play for and if the rules allowed, he should certainly accept one. I would,” he stubbornly said. When I posed the inevitable question, how he would handle dealing with his teammates’ ire which, independent of what the rules were, he would definitely be feeling, he hemmed and hawed for a while, mumbling that he wasn’t doing anything outside the rules.

Finally, he realized that, although it was a fantasy, he really could feel the pressure that would come with such a foolish move. He recovered, saying, “Oh, I would auction it off for a charity.” I started to ask him if he really thought somebody would actually buy a championship ring from a player who played for the losing team before I realized there probably are hundreds, if not thousands, of such fans.

All I could think of was:

“It takes all kinds.”

Apologies, Without a Change of Behavior, Are an Insult

July 18th, 2016

At halftime of one game during a season in which the Golden State Warriors only lost a record nine (9) times, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr had a back and forth shouting match. Who was right, who was wrong may never be known but, usually, it’s the player’s fault if for no reason than the coach is hired to coach, i.e. make decisions. Whether or not the decisions made are the right ones, the coach is paid to make them and the players are paid to execute them. Green seemed to agree with that assessment.

“You know, I made a mistake, I admitted my mistakes to my teammates, my coaching staff. I apologize to my teammates, my coaching staff, this organization. That wasn’t the right way to handle what needed to be handled. As a leader of this team, I can’t do that because it sets a bad precedent for how everything is ran (sic) around here, for how everything should be ran (sic), for how everything has been ran (sic), and how everything will be ran (probably attended the same English class at Michigan State that Magic did) going forward. It won’t happen again (italics mine).” During that profanity-laced tirade, he acknowledged his emotions “kind of got ahead of me.”

P.S. In that game the Warriors were down 11 at the half against the OKC Thunder but won the game on Steph Curry’s buzzer-beating bomb in overtime. The outburst was written off as “things that happen frequently in NBA locker rooms.”

Later in March, Green posted (and later deleted) a Snapchat video of him going 118 MPH on a freeway a few months back. When asked about it, he said, “Well obviously, poor judgment.”

Fast forward (pun intended) to the NBA Finals, as Warriors fans know all too well, the Dubs were about to go up 3-1 against the Cavs when the Draymond Green “ready, fire, aim” strategy once again went into action. Prior to the game Cleveland felt in control after easily defeating the defending champs in Game 3. The Warriors, though, kept their poise on the road, played as effectively as they normally did in clutch situations and, with a minute or so to go, were a game away from another NBA Championship. Then, LeBron James and Green got into it. James, frustrated that the game (and with it, the championship) were slipping away, showed Green what players call the ultimate disrespect by stepping over the fallen Warrior (yeah, pun again). Golden State’s (self-proclaimed) leader took offense and, instinctively, aka “ready, fire, aim,” took a swipe at James’ privates. Since he’d earlier kicked Steve Adams in his jewels, but 1) skated without ejection from the game and 2) somehow avoided being suspended for the next contest, this move forced the NBA big wigs’ hands. Green was suspended for Game 5.

P.S. His response to being questioned about the Adams’ incident had the “Green apology machine” in OT. “I didn’t intentionally kick him down there . . . I would definitely apologize, and I look forward to apologizing to him, if I see him.”

So, rather than being up 3-1 with two home games left and headed back to Oakland at full strength, Golden State found itself with a non-playmaker with the ball after their guards were blitzed in every pick and roll situation. Many people with high basketball IQs stated that, had Green played in that contest, it would have been back-to-back championships for the Bay Area bunch. When Green was interviewed, he did what he does best – even better than rebounding, passing, shooting and defending. He apologized, calling himself a “terrible teammate.” He continued, “I let my teammates down . . . I have strong belief that if I played Game 5 we win, but I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play.”

With this history, was anyone surprised at the recent story of Draymond Green slapping a (soon-to-be-ex-)Michigan State football player? Apparently, the football player and Green bumped into each other and the footballer felt Green should have apologized. Green was a little over the legal limit and took offense. So what does a slightly inebriated person, who makes big bank, is in his hometown and with a history of acting first, apologizing later, say when confronted? “I pay for n—as like you scholarships,” a reference to the generous donation (seven figures generous) the former MSU star made to the Spartan scholarship fund. Naturally, the situation escalated, ending with Green slapping the football player (who obviously had violated the long known street code, “don’t let mouth writing a check your body can’t cash”).

What’s not at all shocking is according to the police report, Green indicated to officers after the arrest “that he was sorry for slapping the subject and wanted to speak with him to make things right.”

Had Ralph Waldo Emerson come in contact with Draymond Green, he might have said:

“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Tark’s Communication Skills Left No Doubt

July 17th, 2016

Just returned from a semi-business trip to Las Vegas. While there, my wife and I always make our pilgrimage to Piero’s restaurant, owned by one of the most loyal and generous guys you’ll ever meet – as well as Jerry Tarkanian’s best friend – Freddie Glusman. The last time we were in Vegas (late January, 2015) Freddie told me I should visit Jerry because his health was really deteriorating. I did. Freddie was right. Two weeks later, the coach passed away. I couldn’t attend the Celebration of Life for him as our son was playing college basketball that day. Freddie told me what a wonderful event it was.

Between my book, Life’s A Joke, and this blog space, I’ve shared numerous Jerry Tarkanian stories. He was a sensational coach (finally enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2013), loyal to a fault and quite the character. The stories are vintage Tark – for those readers who knew him – and somewhat hard to believe for those who didn’t. Rest assured that each is true. Here’s one that his son, Danny, told at the Celebration of Coach Tark’s Life last February.

One of Jerry’s strongest attributes was his ability to effectively communicate with his players. This story was during Danny’s first year at UNLV. Apparently, some of the players were complaining that the coach was showing favoritism toward a couple players, power forward Sidney Green and shooting guard Larry Anderson. The coach felt he needed to nip the problem in the bud.

After practice (he never would have addressed the issue before practice as practice time was sacred – Tark used to say, “The perfect season would be all practices, no games“), he brought the team together. According to Danny, the team’s starting point guard, his dad began the “meeting” by hitting the problem head on. “I heard some of you think I’m favoring Sid and Larry,” he started. “I want you to know, I am. Sid and Larry are carrying this team.”

By then, Tark certainly he had everyone’s attention. What came next  drove the point home, clearly stating what the message was. “If we were on a desert island and I had one canteen of water,” he continued, “”I would make sure Sid and Larry had enough to drink. If there was anything left over, I might share it with the rest of you.”

All Danny could think was:

“Even your own son, Dad?”

 

A Personal Larry Brown Story

July 11th, 2016

Another jaunt to meet some of the people who are looking after our basketball playing son, i.e. finding a team for Alex to play for in Australia. This time there’s a tourney in Las Vegas in which some Australian teams are competing. This blog will return Sunday, July 17.

Larry Brown has a history of taking jobs, succeeding and leaving with some kind drama. It seems as though everybody has an opinion of him – and while they might be divergent – they’re all strong, e.g. on a scale from 1-10 (10 high), either 1s and 2s or 9s and 10s.

Allow me to relate a personal story. In the spring of 1983 I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. We were recruiting a combo guard (a point who could also score) and had three of them lined up. For one reason or another, we came in second on all three. I mentioned this unfortunate turn of events in a conversation with a friend and former colleague at Western Carolina University. My buddy told me of a kid they had tried to sign early (the previous November) but the prospect told their staff he was going to wait because he thought he could play at a higher level – a gamble he was willing to take.

The youngster’s name: Tony White. It turned out Tony had a guy in town who was a big fan of his and was promoting him via letter and film (these were the VHS days) and he sent a copy of one to us. I also flew to Charlotte, Tony’s hometown, to watch him play in a pick-up game before heading to his house for an official home visit with him, his parents, siblings and his Uncle Henry (who I could tell was the decision-maker). Through his friend’s efforts, in addition to us, Tony, a player who had offers from only Western Carolina and its rival, Appalachian State, wound up with interest from Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia. Because the spring signing period had already begun, his visit to Tennessee was combined with one to Kansas (where Larry Brown was the head coach), meaning after his 48 hours on our campus, rather than flying back to Charlotte, we were to take him to the airport where he would catch a flight to Lawrence. Following his visit there, he’d fly home.

A real outgoing type, Tony hit it off with our players and, as was our tradition, we asked them what they thought of him as a potential teammate. They all loved him and we could tell he was duly impressed with our guys and UT. At this time, we were desperate for a guy who possessed the skills Tony had (in all honesty, we thought he was good but had no idea how good he really was). I assessed the situation and decided drastic measures were needed, i.e. there was no way we could allow him to make the “second half” of that visit. As good as Larry Brown – and his staff were (I knew each of his assistants well) – I knew if he got on that plane our chances of signing him would dramatically diminish. As in, we’d almost certainly lose him.

Tony and I were watching some film in our team room before he was to go to the airport. I said, “You know, Tony, if this was October or November, you’d be so thrilled, you’d jump at the chance of playing for Tennessee. Now, Kansas is a great school too (at that time, UT had gone to five straight NCAA Tournaments, making it to the Sweet Sixteen in ’81 while KU’s only tournament appearance during that time period was in ’81 when they also lost in the Sweet Sixteen) but you’re from Charlotte. I know your family is going to want to watch you play and it’s about a three-and-a-half hour drive from your house to here. There’s no way anybody’s driving from Charlotte to Lawrence. If you were from St. Louis or somewhere in the Midwest, it would make sense to pick Kansas over Tennessee. But, in this case, you’d only be confusing yourself to make that trip to Lawrence. Think about it and if you want, we can call KU now and tell them you’ve decided to sign with us.”

He thought about it for a while and, thankfully, realized it made sense. In recruiting kids are talked into making impulsive decisions all the time but, in this case, it truly was the best place for him and his family. So I called the Kansas basketball office and told a close friend of mine (although at that particular time, he didn’t feel such a kindred spirit) what was going on. Tony got on the phone, too, so they wouldn’t feel as though we sneaking one by them. The next time I saw the KU assistant, we actually joked about it, with him saying we were lucky he didn’t visit them first or he’d have pulled the same stunt. Furthermore, when I ran into Larry Brown a few months later during the summer recruiting period and began to explain what had happened that day, he said not to worry and congratulated us on signing Tony. Truthfully, at that time, no one really knew how good he was. He played significant minutes as a freshman and a sophomore. During both his junior and senior years, Tony White was the leading scorer in the SEC, was SEC Player of the Year in ’87 and wound up leaving Tennessee as its second leading all-time scorer (he’s now third).

Although I didn’t know him that well, I’d always admired Larry Brown as a great coach. What told me more about him as a person was what happened in the spring of 1984. Our secretary told me Larry Brown was on the phone. Since this was the first time he’d ever called me, I wondered what was up. After a brief exchange of greetings, he got to the point. “Tony Brown called me yesterday,” he began. “He said he wants to transfer from you to us. Jack, I’ve been in this business long enough to realize freshmen are seldom satisfied. I told him he was at the right place, with good people and he should stick it out – that he had a great future at Tennessee. I just wanted you to know.”

Naturally, I thanked him and, with there being little else to say, wished him luck, said I looked forward to seeing him on the summer circuit – and thanked him again.

Two decades later Larry Brown led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA Championship. I had completed my second year of high school coaching in California, and was working as a commissioner of one of the eight leagues at Michael Jordan’s summer basketball camp. Larry was the guest speaker at camp that day, his son a camper in my league. When he came to watch his boy play, I walked over to Larry to re-introduce myself. As I got there, he said, “I know who you are, Jack – and you don’t have to thank me again for Tony White – although if I knew how good he was going to turn out, . . . ” We both laughed at the memory – of something that happened 20 years before.

So, no matter what anybody says about Larry Brown:

“Put me down for a 10.”

 

 

Wade Departure Gives NBA a Soap Opera Feel

July 7th, 2016

A brief trip to Orange County to meet the Australian gentleman (who is traveling with some younger Australian teams playing in Irvine) who is kind enough to house and assist our younger son, Alex, as he pursues a career in professional basketball Down Under. The trip also gives us a chance to have dinner with older son, Andy, and his girlfriend. Barring anything unforeseen, this blog should return Monday, July 11.

NBA games are filled with drama. Well, at least a good many of them are. The current free agency period, however, trumps anything that happened during the season, maybe even including the playoffs which had more than its share of blowouts. The latest blowout came when one of the league’s most admired players decided to move his talents from South Beach.

Dwyane Wade is the most admired athlete in South Florida since Dan Marino. Neither his character nor work ethic were ever questioned. After LeBron James bolted, D-Wade came up with the idea of a Heat Lifer. The concept took off and apparel was created with the message, “Show your serious dedication to the Miami Heat and make a serious statement that you are a ‘Heat Lifer’ just like Dwyane Wade.” Sure it was a slam at James but no one at the time, including Wade, thought he would ever wear anything but a Miami Heat uniform.

This is another in an endless stream of examples of how out of whack the NBA has come. There are two sides to every story and this one is no exception. Dwyane Wade was the face of the franchise. Two players whose bodies, games and egos are bigger than life, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James, both admitted in their time with the organization that the Heat were Wade’s team. He is far and away the franchise’s all-time statistical leader (points, assists & steals), plus the guy who led them to three titles. Yet, D-Wade was never the highest paid player on the team.

Unfortunately, as the players themselves are constantly explaining, “The NBA is a business.” The Heat had to do what’s best for the team and, as cold-hearted as that is, it means they didn’t want to pay Wade for what he’d done in the past. Undoubtedly, had he stayed, there would have been a front office job of some kind which would have paid him handsomely. It’s just that Wade has become an entrepreneur and probably wouldn’t want, nor have time for, such ceremonial type of employment. So the Heat drew a line in the sand. It definitely wasn’t the absolute absurd amount of dough that far lesser players have been raking in, e.g. the Heat’s own Tyler Johnson, a back up player with two years of NBA experience – and a guy the Heat would have loved to have kept – who signed a contract for 5 years, $50 million with the Nets after playing a total of 68 games and averaging 7.4 points. Still, 2 years, $40 million – for a player of Wade’s age and injury history – is not chicken scratch. Keep in mind that Florida has no state tax so the 2 years, $47 million offer he accepted with the Bulls is a difference of about $5 million.

Too bad such an, up til now, beautiful marriage between a beloved player and his first NBA club, had to come to such a nasty ending. It happens when stubbornness and egos get involved. The one thing Dwyane Wade didn’t do in Miami is what most people do there:

“Retire.”

Free Agency and International Hoops Makes It Impossible to Compare Eras

July 6th, 2016

As might be expected, the airwaves have been overloaded with talk of NBA free agency. Everybody seems to be up in arms about Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors who, along with the addition of KD have now acquired a new designation – The Evil Empire. Why Durant left the team he was on to join the team that beat his – especially after they were oh-so-close to knocking them off – is something only he and those closest to him truly know. Although that doesn’t keep fans, talk show nerds and the former players who partner up with them on the radio, current NBA players and anonymous front office people from expressing their opinions. Nor should it. The fact people care that much only illustrates how popular the sport is (and why the salaries keep getting higher – after all, it’s the consumer who eventually foots the bill).

Beyond the screaming and venting by these people, there was actually an interesting point made by Eddie Johnson on the NBA Sirius radio show he co-hosts with Justin Termine who, if not the most obnoxious guy on the airwaves is certainly in the finals for the award. A caller asked a question about the NBA guys and the international ball (through USA Basketball) they play together during the off season. Johnson, who had an outstanding NBA career (his best seasons were with the Kings (KC & Sacramento) and Suns but he also played for several other teams), remarked that the international basketball squads are giving guys an opportunity to play with great players from other franchises. What happens is guys get comfortable playing with guys they competed against but really didn’t know. Often, their games mesh.

After the game, these guys get to hang out with each other in social settings where they can be themselves, open up to each other – whom they only knew as competitors – and get to know guys as human beings as well as talented basketball players. They get to see each other as teammates – and maybe more importantly, as friends. They walk away with a genuine feeling of trust. Maybe . . . if free agency existed then as it does now, if the salaries were as high then as they are now (Jerry West’s highest salary was $90K – which adjusted would be $484,464.44 or less than the current NBA minimum for an undrafted rookie), just maybe he could have talked Oscar Robertson (the two were co-captains on the 1960 Olympic team) to join him on the Lakers (or the other way around- after all, West is from West Virginia, not far from Cincinnati). Oscar’s highest salary was less than $250K, adjusted to be approximately $1.2 million today, or about what the minimum salary is today for a 6-year veteran.

Had the same conditions occurred then as now, possibly one of those guys, or maybe other superstars from that day, would be jumping teams as frequently as players do today. “Oh no,” the old timers say. “The loyalty factor back then would never allow it. There was a different culture.” Yeah, easy to say when money like that was scarce. Make no mistake about it – money changes the equation more than any other issue can.

And if that actually were the case, what would be happening no radio today? You can bet:

“Fans and radio hosts would be bitching about some other topic. THAT will never change.”