Hey, did you guys hear about Chris Paul? According to Adrian Wojnarowski’s reports from last night (probably via Paul himself or his agent if I had to take a wild guess) the Clippers and Golden State Warriors could “significantly raise their chances of keeping” Paul past this season if they also sign center Tyson Chandler. For Wojnarowski and the rumor loving NBA twitterati it is business as usual. They’re eating it up because this is just the type of “action” that they’ve been missing since the league was locked out.
Vince McMahon would be so proud. Everyone thinks he is in the wrestling business, but so little of his hours and hours of programming is actual action taking place in the squared circle. Yes, sometimes the fans are blown away by a “Hell in the Cell,” “Loser Leaves Town,” or “Ladder” match that sets the world on fire because it is such a spectacle, but without behind the scenes drama and serious mic time, there’s no way The Rock would have an acting career in Hollywood today. Really, that was the only way for wrestling to go once the illusion of competition was dashed by the name “Sports Entertainment.”
The NBA relies on this non-action type of action as well. Over the last decade the NBA has placed more and more emphasis on the off-season, trade deadlines and draft. I’ll admit I’ve played with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine too. It culminated in this lockout which was supposed to be at least partially about competitive balance. To me, that meant doing away with some of the wilder and more brash kinds of player movement. Say, the kind where a superstar player holds the league hostage by demanding a trade and then placing additional demands for the promise that he might just sign a long-term deal for the team that is willing to pay the price to bring him in.
It’s a spit in the face to fans. Those same fans were used like pawns by players and owners throughout the lockout in order to garner sympathy. Look no further than Hornets fans today to see just how little fans matter to NBA players.
It isn’t a spit in the face to this new breed of “NBA fan” though. There is a type of fan that just loves player movement and superteams. Not to pick on one person, but on Twitter last night someone proclaimed to me that CP3 holding the league hostage is preferable to watching him “waste” his career with Hornets teammates like Aaron Gray and Trevor Ariza. I can’t even comprehend that kind of thinking.
For every minute of time that Chris Paul “wastes” in New Orleans, how many other players’ careers are wasted in Cleveland, Minnesota, Sacramento and other markets where giant free agents don’t choose to team up? Talk about waste. While the TNT games are undoubtedly highly rated and hyped up as the Miami Heat take on the New York Knicks there is a matchup somewhere between Minnesota and Sacramento in front of 4,700 people. There is a matchup of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers barely causing a blip on local cable TV in each town.
Now, there will be an “eh?” type of game between the CP3-less Hornets and someone else without a star player that barely anyone will care about. Talk about waste. How about all these minutes of basketball wasted every year because we have the top 10% of NBA players playing in only 5-7 markets? I don’t care about TV ratings for TNT, ESPN and ABC and I refuse to listen to anyone who uses them as some sort of proof that the league is great. Just remember how much Yankees fans like to talk about sagging TV ratings when the Bronx Bombers get knocked out of World Series contention as if TV ratings equals great baseball.
Maybe this is just a hangover from the old era though. Maybe this new collective bargaining agreement really will stop this kind of stuff going forward. Maybe Chris Paul is the last gasp of the way things used to be where NBA stars gathered at NYC weddings and plotted super-matchups over champagne toasts that probably cost more than the average gate receipts of a Timberwolves home game.
I sincerely hope so because I’m not an NBA fan. I don’t want to be an NBA fan. I want to be a Cavaliers fan. And that’s why I was pretty biased at times during the lockout toward the owners. At the end of the day, I know at least for selfish reasons that Dan Gilbert desperately wants me to be a Cavaliers fan. I can’t say the same for any superstar players in the NBA.