“Rover, Red Rover” – Arthur Leipzig
Free agency in professional sports, in its ideal form, is the best and most prominent example of the free market at work that exists in this country. A worker earns their keep; their employer either decides that they are or are not worth the trouble, and then there are suitors everywhere lining up to give that person their just deserts. It’s deceptively simple.
Yet – and that word does a percentage of the salary cap’s worth of lifting here – it is much more deceptive than simple. The salary cap itself is one measure of inequality-via-equality; were LeBron James ever paid as much as he deserved in his career, he would likely be rivaling Gaius Appuleius Diocles at this point. Alas, at least in salary-capped leagues, the reality is thus: make what you can of what you have, and be judicious with your forecasts. A tornado doesn’t have to spring up to be destructive; if it gets you to move, it’s done enough of its job.
I found myself in a rather unfamiliar position on Monday night, one with which eggs the world over are, or at least affect being, familiar. I was laughing at the absurdity of something I’d read on the internet and should’ve been upset about, not my preferred state by any means but a go-to coping mechanism for the daily nuisances-cum-societal atrocities which inhabit most of our lives. All this during a mostly delightful World Cup, no less.
After a whirlwind first two days of NBA free agency, the dust seemed to have settled for the night when, like a child inadvertently popping your balloon, Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania, the next-gen Adrian Wojnarowski, broke the news that broke the camel’s back: free agent center DeMarcus Cousins, a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player late of the New Orleans Pelicans and currently undergoing rehab for a torn Achilles tendon, had signed with the Golden State Warriors for one year at the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.3 million. All hell hasn’t broken loose; it’s ripped the door off and is eating it out of amusement.
The final battle between Bhima & Duryodhana
For a moment, I beg of you to try and envision yourself as Kyrie Irving, in several stages of his life. You’ve got perhaps the best handles in the history of basketball, routinely curling camels through needles’ eyes for fun as you lampoon your beguiled opponent before an adoring crowd, which screams at you to end the procession and join your only true love, the basket, in eternal harmony. They recognize you from Sprite commercials; you recognize them from the hordes of people shielding their eyes, but peeking through, as you did this in your youth to many nameless foes in the neighborhood, on schoolyard courts and in parks near and far.
One minute, it’s 2016, and you’ve hit The Shot™, solidifying your immortality, both in the annals of professional basketball and to Clevelanders everywhere. The next minute, it’s 2017, and you’re requesting a trade out of the city that drafted you, that crafted you, that created a media megalith despite its decidedly Middle America setting. If the preceding period is any indication, twelve months is enough to change anything, least of all the presumption that a team owns an entire conference because of one man. You are not that man, but you strive to be. And now, you need to be.
Yes, yes, yes: Russell HUSTLE BUSTLE Westbrook hails from a different dimension. But there will be more on him later. The age of the Brow is upon us, but you already knew. To have 39 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a game but be overshadowed is a travesty which can only exist in today’s NBA given the embarrassment of talent in the league. Elsewhere, Wesley Matthews is out for the season, and Ray Allen says he won’t play this season but will re-assess his options over the summer.
Do me a favor and not make a team decision before I post this, okay?
I guess The Decision wasn’t fun enough, because LeBron James has the NBA (and pretty much the overall) sports pulse by the throat as he “decides” which team he will sign with. Now, since he is, in fact, a free agent, all of the things that have happened thus far (the alleged agent meetings, the face to face with Pat Riley) are definitely things that he can do.
But who cares about that? He has to go back to Cleveland! He can’t bolt from Miami after being challenged by Riles, can he? I’ve seen a LOT of opinions on what/how/why/when/if this or that will happen. I think I’ve nailed down eight different thoughts on LeBron, and this NBA offseason as a whole.
Any observer who doesn’t immerse himself in the intricacies of baseball’s free agency and player development structures should flip on his TV to quickly get up to speed. There’s a well-known expert on the choices that GMs face, and he can be seen daily if you know where to look. While MLB Network frequently has knowledgeable contributors from Baseball Prospectus, and even ESPN can trot out a great mind here or there, the fastest way is to find Howie Mandel prodding hapless Joe and Jane Game Show Contestant to throw away their guaranteed returns in hopes of hitting it big.
The current state of the free agent market, especially with regard to mid-tier, mid-career or older starting pitchers, presents largely the same choice a Deal or No Deal contestant would face. If you’re excited by the idea of securing the decline years of a never-was-great hurler for the annual price of what the Rays will pay David Price this year, you are probably a local radio show caller or an out-of-work GM. Barring that, you are understandably intrigued by the possibility of the unknown riches which lay in the cases that have yet to be opened during today’s episode of the hot stove game show.