“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.
Akrotiri Thera Fresco, c. sixteenth century BCE
Likely dating back to the first interaction between civilizations of Homo sapiens from different geographic origins, the trade system is both as simple and complex as one wants it to be. An entity has something; another entity has another thing; each one wants what the other has, giving up as little as possible in order to gain it. With the exception of a few law-making scandals here and some ethical creativity there, that is all trade has ever been, whether it be Mycenaeans utilizing the Danube River, or your possibly drug-addled stockbroker gambling your retirement on the latest cryptocurrency.
Though the exchange of humans themselves largely, mercifully went out of fashion over the past two centuries, it remains a compelling means of business in the public arena of professional sports. We watch the games for a variety of reasons, but in the age of social media, reaction has become nearly as important as action. A team wins, and another loses. The former has to maintain its formula, while the latter has to figure out an antidote.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign was the coldest consolation prize for the first season since moving from Seattle spent without Kevin Durant. To paraphrase ESPN staff writer Royce Young, as eye-poppingly ostentatious as it was, for the Thunder to succeed with him, Westbrook’s 2016-’17 season can never happen again. The Monolith needed help, and on Tuesday, that help officially arrived.
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.
Tyler Lauletta and Brian Kraker are two dudes who love NBA free agency and Harry Potter. When J.K. Rowling released a new short story about “The Boy Who Lived” at the Quidditch World Cup, these two started emailing back and forth. The following are actual emails exchanged between two supposed adults.
Brian Kraker: Harry Potter is officially on the comeback trail! J.K. Rowling has gone full Michael Jordan and is coming out of retirement (because posting short stories online is the literary equivalent of playing for the Washington Wizards). The story is written from the perspective of notorious gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, who is reporting from the Quidditch World Cup. While the short story focuses more on the personal lives of Rowling’s heroes, I’m way more interested in the competition. Maybe I’m still just caught up in actual World Cup fervor or I’ve spent too much time traversing the wormhole of NBA rumors that are floating around the Twitterverse, but I’m more interested in the fictional competition than Harry Potter’s graying mane.