The NBA is a star-driven league.
There are only five players per team on a basketball court and having one star can make all the difference between being mediocre and contending for the championship.
A star can be the face of a franchise, drive up interest, ticket sales, marketing and overall success.
So why have we now reached a point where we expect these stars to take pay cuts to help the team?
This free agency period has been a whirlwind of entertainment with big-name players on the open market and at the centre of it all was LeBron James.
He’s hands down the best player in the league, yet was never the highest-paid on his own team in his career until signing with Cleveland.
In 2010, he opted for less money to play with the Heat so he could have a better chance to win championships.
Don’t weep for James though.
He still made around $67 million (Dh246.1 million) in his four years in Miami, which is conveniently located in a state that has no income tax, and makes more money off the court in endorsements than most players earn in salary.
But the point is, James’ decision to take less to chase titles was a personal choice.
That same standard can’t be applied to all star players.
Fans want sport to be like the movies, where it’s all about sacrifice and doing whatever necessary to win, but this is real life, and no one can be blamed in any profession for taking the most money they can get.
Yes, Carmelo Anthony turned down his best chance to contend for a championship with the Chicago Bulls for more money and familiarity in New York.
Yes, Kobe Bryant, despite being 35 and playing just six games last season, took a massive two-year, $48.5m (Dh178.1m) extension in November that will hamstring the Lakers’ cap space.
Compare those deals with Dirk Nowitzki inking an extension of only $25m (Dh91.8 million) over three years to allow Dallas to build around him and remain competitive in the loaded West and, of course, Anthony and Bryant seem selfish.
But while Nowitzki must be commended, Anthony and Bryant can’t be criticised for taking what they’ve earned.
Fans also can’t be upset then when players work the system and form super-teams to give them the best chance of winning.
You can’t have it both ways.
Anthony and Bryant’s contracts do eat up a lot of cap space and sure they make it more difficult for their teams to bring in high-quality players, but it’s not impossible.
That’s what general managers and front offices are for.
They’re in charge of constructing the roster, not the stars that go out and lead the team in scoring night after night.
There is enough pressure on players like Anthony to carry a city to a title.
Asking them to also take less than what they’re worth is flat out unfair.
Houston undervalued Parsons
The Houston Rockets this week went from being on the verge of becoming a top team in the NBA to taking a step backward. Missing out on Chris Bosh was devastating enough for Houston, but then they lost one of their own players which no one saw coming.
The Rockets’ Chandler Parsons, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with Texas rivals the Dallas Mavericks, but it was expected to be matched by Houston.
Even at three years for $46m (Dh168.9 million), Parsons appeared well worth it for the Rockets as a 25-year-old small forward coming off his best season in which he averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists.
Instead, Houston disagreed, with general manager Daryl Morey saying he valued cap flexibility more going forward.
The problem, however, isn’t Morey’s decision in a vacuum but rather that the Rockets badly overplayed their hand.
They had actually declined a team option on Parsons for next season which would have paid him just $965,000 (Dh3.5m), wanting to create cap space to pursue big names like Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, which didn’t work out as they stayed in Miami and New York.
Morey is considered one of the better GMs and while he has transformed Houston with smart moves to bring in James Harden and Dwight Howard, he’s often striving to build his ideal team rather than valuing the one he already has.
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