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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Buyouts Hurt the NBA

I recently blew off any major concerns about the so-called “super teams” in the NBA. I still think ESPN is far too quick to start planning parades for teams that acquire a “second superstar,” which apparently equates to anyone who can perform a windmill dunk for SportsCenter.

Yet, the latest move of players taking a buyout from their team to go play for a winner may have me changing my mind. Do I really care that Troy Murphy took a buyout from Golden State to go play for Boston? No. Quite frankly, I never heard of the guy. Mike Bibby leaving $6.2 million behind from Washington to play for Miami is a little more troublesome. Bibby doesn’t win anybody a championship, but role players are important in the playoffs.

The idea of what’s going on is the problem. Teams must have the ability to build a roster, and part of that roster needs to be good, solid players. The mentality that a team without some media ordained star isn’t worth playing for makes the league look like some high school popularity contest.

Tonight’s Sixers-Mavericks game has the sidelight, or lowlight, of Mark Cuban meeting with Philadelphia-based writer Buzz Bissinger over their Twitter spat because Bissinger claimed that white men can’t root for the NBA because it has predominantly black players.

The league owners should be a lot more concerned about the idea that players have decided that they can just go play with a winner instead of helping to build one. Creating a “clique” league where all the cool guys go play together is going to turn off a lot more people than the bogus notion that the league is suddenly suffering from a racial issue.

I recently heard one of the talking heads on ESPN wondering why people hate LeBron James all of a sudden. The man didn’t change races. He changed teams. And he did it to go play with other guys that could help make him a winner.

It’s a loser mentality that is apparently trickling down throughout the league. If people begin to believe that the NBA is nothing more than a few teams and a bunch of also-rans, they’re going to lose interest.

Again, I realize I’m making the argument I recently mocked. However, I am stopping short of a total flop.

I think the salary cap will keep the so-called “super teams” to a minimum, and the guys with the bigger contracts aren’t taking buyouts. In fact, I’ve heard the franchise tag that NFL uses to allow its teams to keep their very best players could be part of the NBA’s next collective bargaining agreement. The fact also remains that none of these “super teams” has won anything yet.

At the same time, the league can’t have guys simply walking away from their teams to go play with teams they like better. It’s supposed to be professional basketball, not sorority basketball.

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