NBA Free Agency and allegedly wanting to win

By Bart D.
FWAA Member
On Twitter @Bart_CFN


Ah, NBA Free Agency cometh soon, the sports equivalent of Saturday at the bar at Any Old Night Club, USA. You can count on several guarantees, the biggest one being lies about what people want and what people ACTUALLY want.

Just as everyone at the bar is straight faced lying come closing time about wanting any amalgam of relationships, stability, long term commitment, financial security in the next relationship, etc., NBA players will bold faced lie and it’ll be about one thing in general:

“All I care about is winning. I just want to win.”

“Winning” is the relationship in this case, and every year, every big name on the market talks effusively about how important it is. Expect to hear it from this year’s free agent darling, Carmelo Anthony. No one will want to win more than him, you’ll hear. That’s why he opted out of a dreckish New York Knicks outfit, right?

But alas, Anthony had that shot when he was with the Denver Nuggets and went to the playoffs every year he was there. He loved winning so much he demanded those Nuggets trade him to one place and one place only, and it was a place that had about 1 playoff appearance in a decade.

Now, obviously the Melo lover will say, “this is crap. You’re banging on him for leaving a terrible team but not wanting to win enough?”

The truth is, guys in the NBA do want to win, but only at a fixed cost. This isn’t the NFL, where if the best place to get that winning fix is Green Bay or New York … you’re going. It’s why Denver’s football team can load up on free agents at will and Denver’s basketball team can’t keep their franchise player from demanding to be traded to a terribly run organization. Winning, and all.

So yes, Melo wants to win … and probably growing mold in NYC while the Knicks endlessly scuffle with the sins of GM’s past and James Dolan’s present has made him realize that even more … but Melo isn’t going to a place where the winning is guaranteed. It’ll be somewhere that enhances his brand first and wins second. After all, if it was all about winning, he’d be a Nugget still. That truth is as cold as those Coors Light’s they keep ice mining for under the bar in those commercials, even though I’ve never seen ice caps preserving beer under a counter in my life, so maybe that doesn’t happen?

You’ll probably hear it from Lance Stephenson too, who’s best bet is to stick at any cost with an organization who helped shield him as he made mistakes coming into the league and has done a reasonable job cultivating him as a breakout star rather than chase money but no security of winning.

Undoubtedly you’ll hear a bunch of positive, growth, winning stuff from Rudy Gay too, who is hemmoraging cap money to the tune of $19.3 million to languish away in mediocre hell in Sacramento. Rudy Gay takes about $8 to $10 million of a pay cut to go to a team with a lead pipe lock on a playoff spot, then you’ll know he wants to win.

You’ll eventually hear it … in some form … from King I want to Win of them all, Lebron James. James wanted to win badly … even though he was winning … so he tried to team up to not only win, but make it near impossible to lose four years ago. For a guy that guaranteed what … 7 or 8 titles and is only 4 years in with 2 titles, asking him if he’s going to come back shouldn’t even be done. The job hasn’t been finished.

But alas … “I want to win.”

You imagine that wanting to win is about 30 percent of the equation, marketability/brand building 40 percent, with an ancillary 30 percent spread around family desire, personal ties to a region, connection with management, etc.

Because if it was all about winning, these NBA players that want to do it so much would be posted up outside Gregg Popovich’s office, begging to take less money because the last time the now reigning champion Spurs weren’t in the NBA playoffs, Bill Clinton was the sitting President.

Or they’d be faxing resumes over to HR in Oklahoma City, a team with a young core that can reasonably be the next Spurs Playoff Streak team and has already hung a conference championship pelt on their wall even with stars in their early 20s.

The truth about “wanting to win” is that a lot of these guys want to do it … but not at the expense of having to hang out in a place with low market visibility and fewer endorsement deals.

But hey, capitalism rocks, and go get yours how you can get it if you can get more of it. Yet understand that it comes as a cost so often, and that “cost” is sometimes the allegedly craved wanting to win.

Popovich said it best following the Spurs evisceration of the Miami Heat this year … “these guys got over themselves a long time ago.” Often, that’s what it takes to win, from rec league to NBA. Are you willing to do less and take less for the purpose of winning if necessary?

It’s what makes teams like the Spurs such an oddity. Their stars passed up millions over the course of their careers because the cost of winning was deemed worth more. It’s why that model is so hard to replicate as much as how they play flawless team basketball, but aren’t nearly the first team to do so as it seems to be perpetuated.

There’s a cost to everything in life … if you mow the lawn, that means you can’t watch the game. If you buy item A, that means you cannot buy item B. Sometimes, the costs intersect with one another. Sometimes, those costs are wins and brand management.

Sometimes, the cost of winning really is too addictive to pass up. But most of the time it’s not. And probably won’t be again this summer in the NBA. So please, pour us another round of “all I wanna do is win.” Just like at the aforementioned night club, eventually, someone will believe the nonsense.