Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eat $h*t And Die, Reilly

Not that I am particularly enamored of Carmelo Anthony the person or Carmelo Anthony the basketball player and not that I think his acquisition by the Knicks will make them a decidedly better basketball team...

...but I hate these sorts of whiny, populist, anti-free market bullshit articles.

Free agency is here. It's been here for several decades now. If you can't accept that people have a right to choose where they want to earn a paycheck then you should probably not follow sports or move to Thailand where slavery and indentured servitude is apparently still accepted.

We don't have to like the way professional athletes behave and we don't have to condone the methods they use to extricate themselves from situations they don't want to be in but, frankly, anyone that has ever left one job for another has performed some version of the same wiggly dance that Carmelo Anthony just performed.

My message to Rick Reilly is simple: you're a millionaire and you quit Sports Illustrated to work for ESPN. You're a motherfucking phony. Perhaps Sports Illustrated should've put a "franchise tag" on you? The reality is, however, that no one at SI misses you because you sucked.


Hitman said...

You're right, and yet I think you missed Reilly's point - which he didn't convey very well:

There is something that seems distasteful about the NBA's superstars banding together and picking the 6-8 teams they want to play for. It's perfectly within the players' rights to move teams, but it's got to suck for the fans of the spurned teams, and in the long run it probably isn't good for the league.

Now whether a "franchise tag" system is either appropriate or possible is not something I'm competent to comment on. But other sports do have ways in which teams that lose high-level free agents are compensated somehow. It would seem that such a mechanism would be appropriate in basketball as well - so that the stars could still depart for greener pastures, but their forlorn ex-teams would have something left to build on.

MJ said...

@Hitman: NBA teams receive compensation in the form of draft picks and trade exceptions whose worth is tied directly to the value of the contract they traded.

In the NBA, more than any other sport, a "superstar" is irreplaceable so there is literally no form of compensation that could fill the void left by Lebron James in Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony in Denver or Chris Bosh in Toronto. But that doesn't change the fact that (1) compensation does exist for those teams who lose their stars and (2) the franchise tag is an absurd mechanism that prevents player movement and gives teams the powers of the old "reserve clause" which was (thankfully) dispensed with upon the creation of free agency.

However distasteful it might be that NBA players appear to be banding together, the reality is that they had the power to do so for several decades but simply never did. And, frankly, when Clyde Drexler joined Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995 (or when Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen joined Hakeem Olajuwon in 1999) or when Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2004, was it really any different?

Whatever stages of decline those aforementioned players might've been in notwithstanding, the notion that players haven't been trying to latch onto winners is absurd. The reason Reilly is so upset about it now is because conventional wisdom and public opinion states that NBA players, in general, are less likable today than they were 15-20 years ago. And while I don't altogether disagree with that perception, I won't agree to be hypocritical about it either.

Mighty Mike said...

I agree with Hitman. It's really 2 seperate issues

1) Is Reilly a jerk and a bad writer - yes. I'm not sure if deserves to eat escrement (maybe get mailed some as a compromise?)

2) I don't think the argument is really about player free agency (does anyone complain about NFL free agency?) but about the general inequity of those teams on the receiving end and how the current rules affects overall league competitiveness. Previous examples of latching on to winners was when players were on the downslope of their career and its hard to argue that there's been an uptick in recent years. Which is a legitimate gripe (I'm uncertain what's populist or anti-capitalist to advocate for blocked exchanges)...hypocritical on the part of Reilly...yes but that doesn't change the underlying message which I think Hitman is right about....

MJ said...

Not following how current league rules negatively affect overall league competitiveness. These rules have been in place for at least the last 15 years.

While we might not like Leon Rose, "Worldwide" Wes Wesley and players that use their voice to get what they want, at the end of the day the league and the players union collectively bargained for the rules in place so it's completely disingenuous of Reilly to complain now that his home team felt the need to trade Anthony.

I don't know why, for example, Charles Barkley didn't force Philadelphia (or Phoenix) to trade him to Chicago so he could win titles with Jordan and Pippen but his right to do so existed back then so complaining that something has changed doesn't make much sense to me. McGrady and Hill joined forces in Orlando back in 2000 and did so on the expectation that Tim Duncan would join them (he never did). Why did no one complain in Detroit and Toronto that elite players wanted out and left behind weakened teams?

Advocacy for blocked exchanges strikes me as absurd, especially in this case. What did Carmelo Anthony do here that other players haven't done before? Are you saying there shouldn't be free agency or that players shouldn't have a right to ask for a trade? If a "blocked exchange" means "some things that simply shouldn't be bought and sold at market" then are you saying you disagree with player movement via trade or simply that you object to players asking for a trade? If teams can trade players at will then players should have the equal right to demand a trade. After all, a team doesn't have to acquiesce. The Nuggets didn't HAVE to trade Carmelo, they simply chose to because it was the prudent thing to do.

Mighty Mike said...

Blocked exchanges (or things that are not allowed to be exchanged) is preposterously common in all markets (and well everywhere except Randian utopias and possibly Somalia) in the full economy we call them child labor laws or minimum wage laws. In the case of the NBA there's a host of rules that block exchanges from maximum/minimum on contracts to length of contracts to salary caps to asking for a trade. yes in the NBA it is not allowed for a player to ask for an exchange.

The current norms/rules/institutions have shifted such that for whatever reasons players are forcing trades to selective markets and David Stern selectively enforces NBA rules on such actions. Leaving aside the implications it's frankly absurd to argue otherwise.

Now if someone wants to argue that it's great that certain cities will have super teams that's their right. But I'm not sure why everyone should support that goal or gain equal enjoyment from that equilibrium. In reality people don't and the NBA should think long and hard about what kind of league it wants to be...

MJ said...

Please point to where it says that players are not allowed to ask for trades. I've never heard of such a thing.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

1) I can't believe I didn't notice this article yesterday. Shame on me.
2) Yes, players can choose in free agency where to go. I think the problem that a lot of fans have is that players are forcing their way, via trades, to form super-teams BEFORE they become free agents. The players are banding together and playing fantasy GM... which never really happened before. Grant Hill and T-Mac waited until free agency, then bolted, which is a bit different. I almost think it's preferable to know ahead of time that the player is leaving so that you can get something decent for the player (as opposed to 2nd round picks and a traded player exception).
2) In the end, I'm not sure how you exactly write new rules to prevent Carmelo from being unhappy and forcing a trade to be with Amare. I'm also not sure how you enforce "tampering" in these situations, when the players are banding together. In fact, the Knicks gave up every decent young player they had to get Carmelo, severely crippling them in this season, because I don't think a Billups-Amare-Carmelo team is enough to make much noise when the rest of the team is a bunch of spare parts. Anyways, there are lots of interesting points here, but the NBA could severely limit the formation of "super-teams" if teams only had a certain number of slots for players paid a certain amount of money. I just think the NBA enjoys have super-teams, so nothing will change probably.

MJ said...

@Mighty: I just scanned the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement and saw no restriction on players asking for, demanding or otherwise maneuvering for a trade.

I agree that blocked exchanges exist in the NBA in general (salary caps, maximum contract term length, rookie wage scale, etc.) but I do not agree that the concept of blocked exchanges exists here or is germane to Reilly's article or the Carmelo Anthony situation.

Anthony had every right to ask for a trade and that issue is separate and apart from how his exercising of that right might offend fans across the NBA.

As to the issue of NBA players trying to form super teams, I just don't see any way the NBA can stop it and I don't think trying to negotiate for a franchise tag is the right approach.

Hitman said...

There's clearly something else going on here. MJ asks why this phenomenon hasn't ever really happened before, using Barkley as an example. If indeed the rules in place today have generally been in place for 15 years...there must be something else at work.

Do we really think players today have different interests than those in the 90s? I don't believe so. I think these guys are all interested in the best combination of money and titles. Some lean more toward one than another, but in the end, I think all of these guys would want to be in a situation like Miami's Big Three, Boston's Three Amigos, etc...put yourself on a team with other stars, so that you can have the best shot at winning, and get paid handsomely at the same time.

I have no idea why Barkley and his generation of stars didn't do this, or at least, didn't push the issue as aggressively as today's crop seem to be doing. My only guess is that the rules AREN'T exactly the same, and that there's something about the current rules on salaries, player movement, salary caps, etc. that better facilitates what we're seeing today.

B. Hutchens said...

On a totally separate side note from the whole franchise player. I feel that Denver is a better place without the cancer that is Melo. The roads are safer from his drunk driving ass and I hope that his tumorous personality will not spread throughout NYC. At least he can get a taxi when he goes out to the clubs there.

B. Hutchens said...

I also think we should follow the uptick in the movement of the United States to get rid of unions and collective bargaining totally. I think that public employees, NBA players, nurses, trash collectors, longshoremen, and everyone else who is represented by a union should lose their union rights and just suck it up. Or at least that is what Glenn Beck told me yesterday afternoon after he apologized for calling Jews fundamentalist Jihadists.

And yes that is total sarcasm, as my employment is under a collective bargaining agreement, which hopefully will remain in place.

MJ said...

@Hitman: The NBA salary cap has been in place since the start of the 1984 season. Since peaking in the early part of the past decade, there's been downward pressure on all NBA salaries as David Stern has tried to reign in costs and assert more management control on revenues. The effect of this has resulted in a slower annual growth of salaries and the salary cap. While the total numbers are higher today than they've ever been, they're still growing at a slower rate than they did 10 years ago.

I'm not sure I'm able to see how things have changed in the financial landscape to determine what, if any, correlation there is to NBA stars teaming up today vs. why they didn't do so a few years ago. If anything, as salary cap growth slows there would be less incentive to team up because the creation of "super-teams" would result in one of two compromises for players: either they have to all take a little less money to join forces (as was the case with Bosh and James going to Miami) or their desire to be well-paid will eat into a team's flexibility to manage the roster successfully (as the Knicks will surely find out with Anthony/Stoudemire chewing up 70% of the Knicks' cap space in the future) and the resulting lack of flexibility will negate the value of the "super-team."

Bill Simmons posits that the growth of basketball in the 80's and 90's led to more high-stakes amateur leagues cropping up as teams (both pros and college) were interested in finding prospects all over the country. As a result, all of the AAU teams and high school all-star teams created bonds between eventual NBA (and NCAA) stars which, today, means that Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire want to play together because they've been friends since they were both high school players nearly a decade ago.

I think there's some truth to that theory because it's pretty clear that all NBA players of this generation were teammates or acquianted with their competition on some level before they got to the NBA.

Mighty Mike said...

Nate Robinson was fined $25,000 for publicly asking for a trade

I'd also note that that Stephen Jackson and Rudy Fernandez were fined similiar amounts for similiar infractions.

In addition owners are fined for discussing trading for players publicly (Cuban was fined 100,000 for discussing trading for Lebron)

I couldn't point you towards the specific statutue but Stern does fine players for discussing trades.

MJ said...

@Mighty: First, as I said, I found nothing in the league CBA that specifically prohibits a player from asking for a trade. If such a prohibition exists, it may be part of the commissioner's broad "best interests" powers which may unofficially include this concept as a matter of precedent.

Second, from what I gather, Nate Robinson, Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest and Rudy Fernandez specifically asked for a trade. Although we know that Carmelo Anthony wanted to be traded, I don't see any evidence that he publically demanded to be traded. There could be a difference of overt vs. implied actions which would make it very difficult to fine Anthony for something we know he did but can't actually prove.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

I think the difference between today's players and the past players was asserted by either Jordan or Barkley last summer (and I can't remember who said it)... but those guys wanted to prove they could win the whole thing as the #1 banana. Today's generation would rather team up to win the championship. Granted, Boston, Miami, and even the Lakers creates pressure on other teams to also form superteams (i.e. its an arms race).

@Mighty - thank you for providing evidence of the fact that if Stern wanted... he could have more players fined for wanting to get traded.

MJ said...

@Gutsy: I don't think Mighty provided evidence that Stern could have fined players (such as Carmelo) since, again, there's ambiguity on whether Stern's fines were from his "best interests" powers or from enforcement of a clear violation of one of the CBA's provisions.

As I said, although we know that Anthony wanted to be traded, I'm not sure he ever said "I want to be traded!" which would make it harder for Stern to fine him for implied actions versus overt statements.

Hitman said...

@MJ: that's an interesting hypothesis...that it's not a change in the financial structure of the NBA that has led to this "teaming-up" trend, but a non-monetary desire to play with your buddies.

I'll play devil's advocate, then: why aren't we seeing this at the college level? The top high school players are so well-known when they're being recruited - and are probably running into each other at scouting tournaments, AAU, McDonald's ASG, etc. - that I'd think we'd see some of this same behavior as players weigh scholarship offers. Or is it that the studs know they're only staying for a year or two anyway, so why bother? Or perhaps at that level, nobody wants to share the limelight because being #2 could mean a huge difference in draft-day slotting?

Food for thought.

MJ said...

@Hitman: I think your last thought might be correct. If two friends from the AAU circuit decide to team up at a college program for one year, it could mean fame and attention (think John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins last year at Kentucky) or it could mean sharing touches and impacting their draft status, thus costing one (or both) millions of dollars.