Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are taking the headlines of the early NBA offseason/training camp period. Free agency has been placed sort of on hold as the league waits for those two gigantic dominoes to fall. There's no doubt though, the NBA is back to business as usual. And nothing seems to have changed after the 160-day lockout that claimed 16 games and dampened spirits throughout the league.
Superstar players still want and are forcing their way by trades to large markets to play with friends. General managers are still making head-scratching moves and offering massive contracts to players that may not deserve them. Nobody is saving anybody from themselves -- well, David Stern is saving the Hornets from themselves, even if they are responsible.
Chris Paul will still get traded. Now that the Lakers are out of the running, the Clippers appear to be the front runner. So much for helping out the small markets keep their stars.
Dwight Howard formally requested a trade from the Magic. And now the Lakers appear to be the front runner. Howard's camp received permission from the team to talk with the Mavericks, Lakers and Nets about potential extend-and-trades. Again, all three are large-market teams.
Then you hear the report that Clippers center DeAndre Jordan signed a four-year $40 million contract with the Warriors after averaging 7.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game in a breakout third year. Jordan could develop into a solid player, but he has hardly earned a $10 million per year salary.
Nene is set to make everyone forget about his history of injury and inconsistency and sign a max contract starting at $17 million. Nene only averaged 14.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game last year (both second-best for his career).
Even the Magic, in some last ditch effort to convince Dwight Howard to stay, signed Glen Davis and Jason Richardson to reported four-year, $26 million deals. If Orlando is rebuilding, committing to long-term deals does not seem the way to go.
Once the big pieces have moved on this chess board, surely more head-scratching moves will follow.
So what has changed in the NBA?
The free agency action has centered around the stars and the big markets. The top free agents are flocking away toward bigger roles on better teams in bigger markets.
Tyson Chandler, formerly of the Mavericks, is now with the Knicks. Nene is preparing to move from Denver to New Jersey/Brooklyn, pending the resolution of the Nets' pursuit of Dwight Howard. Jamal Crawford is rumored to be involved in a three-team sign-and-trade deal that will send him from Atlanta to New York. Shane Battier signed on in Miami.
Do you hear any chatter about big-name, more coveted free agents wanting to get in on the ground floor of Minnesota's rebuilding project? Or Portland's? Or even getting in on Oklahoma City before that team ascends?
The frustration over the Paul-to-Lakers veto and the evidence of free agents still flocking toward the large-market teams shows how little changed after the lockout. Maybe we will not really see its effects until after the 2013 season when the repeater tax and graduated luxury tax really take place. The NBA is operating largely under the rules of the previous collective bargaining agreement as it transitions to the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
Until we reach that point, it feels like little has changed in the NBA. Dan Gilbert and the other small-market owners voiced their displeasure (futilely) in the wake of the league's veto of the Chris Paul deal. That does not seem to matter as the Lakers will move forward to acquire Dwight Howard in the coming days. Will Stern veto that deal and further send the NBA into madness?
It might be best to let things play itself out before judging the competitive balance the new collective bargaining agreement has created. It sure isn't looking good though.
At least in the immediate aftermath, nothing has changed with the NBA and how it operates.
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