Posted Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, at 4:05 PM
is outraged by the trade that sent
from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks. It was "sickening," he writes. It "[s]ucks for the game."
The problem, according to Reilly, is that the NBA has been hijacked by scheming, bullying young players, eager to abandon their loyal home fans in the hopes of forming big-city superteams like the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, and now the Knicks. Addressing commissioner David Stern, Reilly writes:
Your clubs need to be able to protect their great players with a franchise tag, as the NFL does. If that isn't priority No. 1 in your lockout talks, you need the Wite-Out.
Anthony stuck it to Denver because he could. Teams are powerless against it. He got the city he wanted, the teammates he wanted and the money he wanted.
Carmelo Anthony only played for the Denver Nuggets in the first place because they drafted him, and a player entering the NBA is required to play the first few years of his careers for whichever team claims his rights. After that, the players are able to change jobs, which is what Denver Post sports writer Rick Reilly wants the league to put a stop to.
Did I write "Denver Post"? Sorry, Reilly ditched the Denver Post long ago, after two whole years there, to go write for the Los Angeles Times. Then, after two more years, he ditched the Times for Sports Illustrated. Eventually, when the money got good enough, he ditched Sports Illustrated for ESPN.
Carmelo Anthony owed Rick Reilly and the people of Denver nothing. He joined a 17-win team and led it to the playoffs seven years in a row. Now he wants to play somewhere else.
According to Reilly, this proves that the spoiled millionaires of today are destroying the whole structure of the game. He laments
The grinding unfairness of it all: The NBA used to work on a turn system. You will lose, but if you hang in there, you'll be rewarded with a very high draft pick like an Anthony, and your turn at glory will arrive.
Will it, now? When was it that the league worked that way, before the selfish kids ruined everything? Here's the list of the cities that have won
since the league merged with the ABA in 1976:
Portland, Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Boston, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Detroit, Detroit, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, Houston, Houston, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Detroit, San Antonio, Miami, San Antonio, Boston, Los Angeles, Los Angeles.
So if you're Los Angeles, your turn at glory comes up 10 times in 34 years. If you're Phoenix or Sacramento—or Denver—your turn comes up: never.
And how did the Lakers win all those titles? With
, who forced a trade from the Charlotte Hornets when they drafted him; Pau Gasol, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies;
, formerly of the Orlando Magic;
, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks—the big-city franchises have been plucking talent from the small-city ones forever. Only San Antonio, a brilliantly managed franchise that also was lucky enough to win the draft lottery twice, has been able to consistently play championship-level basketball against the big-time teams.
But when San Antonio does win, nobody watches. As I wrote in the Sports Nut column back in 2008, when the Lakers got Gasol, the Spurs have produced the three
in history. The NBA has too many teams in too many places that nobody cares about. Why should superstars languish in the league's backwaters? All-Star point guard
, Reilly writes, "is set to enter free agency next season, bags already packed." This is supposed to be a bad thing.
Yet till that sorrowful day he leaves for the bright lights and more talented teammates, Chris Paul continues to play for the
—a franchise that collapsed financially and is currently being operated by the league. Is the NBA's problem that good players want to go play on good teams? Or is it that there are so many bad teams being left behind?