Posted by: Kingsguru21 | July 8, 2011

Discussing Yao Ming and Deron Williams

First Yao. I’m saddened that Yao’s career was A) shortened by injury and B) that he was not on the court more than he was.

One memory about Yao before I move onto D-Will. I was watching a game during the 07-08 season when Yao was still playing well. The Rockets were in Denver, and in a tight game. For whatever reason, and I forget who said it, one of the analysts on TNT said: How often do you ever see a team send their Center to the line to hit a big technical Free Throw? And, among many things that made Yao truly special when healthy, he was a 7’6 Giant who had a career 83 FT% from the line. A career 99 DRtg is not a bad thing, or a 59.6 TS% on a 26.8 career USG% is simply rather impressive. The biggest statistical thing Yao achieved: Consistency. And, with any player, one of my favorite things about a player can be consistency. (It’s why I enjoyed Tyreke Evans’ rookie season so much for one thing.)

I remember a long time ago in a Yahoo chat room debating the impact that Yao or Jason (Jay) Williams would have vs Yao. Even without Williams accident, I don’t think the Rockets ever truly believed that Jay Williams would have had the impact on the Rockets the way Yao would have. Had Williams ever panned out, it may have changed the Kirk Hinrich pick for the Bulls in 2003, but the Rockets? They had to absolutely 100% get that right. They did. Unfortunately, it’s over after 9 season with a tremendous amount of impact in limited time. Yao Ming changed a lot of important perceptions about foreign big men, and every basketball fan should be in his debt. Yao did a more important thing: He wasn’t a self pitied narcissist asshole clown that American kids are often are after being in the coddled AAU-NCAA system. It was refreshing to see a man with his own demons from an entirely different culture do things his own way without needing a TV program (or hordes of media announcing when he’s ready to become a Free Agent) to announce it. Yao Ming appealed to casual fans because of the “King Kong” factor, and he appealed to hardcore fans because of how he played the actual game. How many players can you honestly say that about? Here’s to hoping his post-NBA life is more successful than his NBA life.

******

By now, everyone has heard about Deron Williams decision to sign with the Turkish club Beskitas. I like this piece by Stephen A Smith, and commentary by TZ subsequently, about such. Henry Abbott has the best take, and the closest to the one I’m about to present here, at TrueHoop. (Read these 2 pieces. This first and then this follow-up. Most of the time, I don’t care which you read first, but for your benefit I suggest reading the links in order. Both are incredibly brilliant points made by Abbott.)

Now, with Williams possibly playing in Turkey next season, and possibly dragging Kobe Bryant with him (assuming that happens), perhaps we’re starting to see that beyond narcissitic retarded clown shows like the Decision, that players are the real NBA power brokers. The owners always had one trump card in the lockout: The ability to not pay players for a year. But what if the players, albeit at a significantly lower price, do the same thing? 50K would go a long way towards helping a lot of players who aren’t anywhere near financially set. How much would 100, 150 or 200K go?

From SAS’s column at ESPN New York:

“Here’s the bottom line,” a league executive told me Thursday. “Not only does Williams help the Nets by remaining in basketball shape and helping to globalize the brand, but he divides the players in a way without even knowing it.

“With the money he made last year, with him in position to collect on the $16.3 million for next season, assuming the lockout ends, if he’s going to go and collect more cash in Turkey while mid-level, relatively unknown players remain here waiting for a deal — because Turkey ain’t inviting them overseas — how is the union going to stand up and tell players they need to stand together? It ain’t happening.”

This is all true assuming Deron Williams takes the money. But, what if, and this is a rather large what if, the players just needed one guy to do this before the guys who can make money overseas all go? And, worse, or worse if you’re the owners, what if the big name players take jobs over-seas and give the money away? Giving away 15 million dollars of European club money is nothing compared to what Kobe Bryant has made annually since re-signing with the Lakers in 2004. (And he had a very big deal before that, too.) Bryant would only be giving a fraction of that 15 million away personally. Is he risking injury? Sure, but he’s doing that practicing for nothing at his home gym in Newport Beach (or wherever it is that he lives).

The idea that the middle-tier players are being stabbed in the back by stars going over-seas in money grabs is only true if stars hold onto that money.

The players have one and only one trump card over the owner’s lockout: Playing over-seas. And this only works if that money is used to help the union, and not the high earners like Williams, Bryant etc etc. There is an upper, middle and lower class in the NBA economically. Most of the top earners could not earn another dime from their NBA contracts and be set financially to the point where their kids would be high income earners off their daddy’s trust fund he set up for them as small children. All of them. I repeat: All the big money stars in their prime right now.

That doesn’t include veterans on the backside of their career or long time role players in the NBA who are financially set too.

In otherwords? The middle class of the NBA player is not going to be taken care of by NBA stars, like Deron Williams, staying in the US not playing ball, but an offensive strike against the notion that players can’t live without NBA paychecks. Yes, of course they can. They did it before joining the NBA in fact. All of them.

The middle class, and ultimately lower class of players, who will have to be protected no matter what in the case of a prolonged lockout, will not be hurt or protected by stars jumping to the NBA. They will only be hurt in the interim and long term if the NBA owners get their way and end up with their aimed target of 40% BRI share going to players. Kobe Bryant playing in a Turkish Team’s uniform doesn’t change that unless there is no NBA season in the first place.

If the NBA players are smart, and I’m hoping they are, they use articles like SAS to hide their true actions here. The idea is to get the fat cat squirming with a little bit of fear. Deron Williams is bad enough as is. What if Kobe jumps too? What if LeBron James plays in China along with guys like Andre Iguodala and Tyreke Evans?

The ability of a limited amount of players to jump to overseas in the lockout is incredible if only used to help those who do not have the opportunity OR help those gain what’s in their long term best interest. The real power brokers in the NBA have that opportunity to make this less about them, as is in the case in daily NBA culture that worships at the alter of these uber-duper stars, and find a way to give back to those players who sacrifice themselves, up to a point, for the greater NBA stars and teams. There’s an opportunity to create real loyalty to the top players who do not necessarily have to show it during a NBA season. But in time of a lockout? How else can you do that other than simply giving the money away.

It’s easy to get caught up, as many fans have, in the way role players are paid in the NBA. But it’s also easy to forget how important these role players are to teams, and that, quite often anyway, the guys who end up getting paid the most tend to be guys who score a lot of points. As you may have noticed, and this is ever more true at the NBA level than anywhere else, guys who can do other things than just scoring points are immensely valuable. But if you disincentivize that? Well, that goes out the window. In other words, Deron Wiliams move only works if big names consistently jump to Europe, the Middle East, and China. And then give the money away even though they are the one’s doing the earning. Penny for a pound as they say. Make no mistake, guys like Williams, and Bryant who has a lot of money coming to him in the next 3 seasons, have every reason to jump if only to protect their investment and status of being NBA stars.

If the NBA owners have no incentive to get off their stance of that 40% BRI, the players have no choice. They have to go over-seas and make those teams money. And, for teams like the Lakers, Spurs, Magic, Kings, Nuggets, and whomever else who may have players who can make money in various leagues in various ways, this poses a serious challenge.

Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers) and Robert Sarver (Suns) all are apparently the headliners in the hard cap charge. But, they aren’t also in danger of losing their talent to over-seas for various reasons. That’s not true of two-thirds of the NBA with very marketable stars and/or immensely talented players who could ply their trade to help the overall effort of getting players through the lockout. (While I’m on the other guys topic, what about Pau Gasol? Isn’t he pretty important to the Lakers too?)

Stephen A Smith’s column makes a good point: If the players that are going over-seas with the idea that they are protecting themselves, then it will only be an act of self-preservation. But, what if it’s not? What if playing over-seas is the plan B to the plan A of the hope it gets the owners off the hardcore stance they are currently in?

******

One point about media coverage and fan opinion of these moves. SAS’s column made the point, and not subtlety, that the owners weren’t interested in public perception of the lockout. They were prepared to do so whether the fans liked it or not. Or, so SAS told us anyway. My feeling: Who cares what the owners think about the fans? It’s clear the owners, and players certainly, believe the fans will return in the long run. They are only interested in their money. Fans do forget things after all.

Fans: How will they react to players brokering their own league and determining it’s real future? Umm, well, in my opinion anyway, many fans resent that players have this type of power. What’s not understood by many fans is that NBA players, particularly the big name that we know on a first name basis stars, are not really employee’s. These big time stars are partners in a league that is paying them to ply their particular talents instead of other things. That’s not like your typical rank & file talent you would find at a Fortune 500 company or even smaller businesses. In othewords, it’s pointless to compare NBA players as a whole to the average working man. They aren’t the average working man and hoping they are is just wasting time on pointless “what-if’s” and the like.

As far as media coverage, it is what it is. The media outlets have to come up with new stories, and games often give that even in a limited context when it’s viewed as an overall continuation of a recent trend. The lockout does provide the media with new story potential, especially if NBA stars jump over-seas, but only if those stories provide a greater layer and context to how the NBA lockout proceeds. If it’s the same old story day in day out, than the NBA lockout will hurt media coverage of the league come October and November.

******

Anyone with a neutral point of view will tell you a few things about this lockout. 1) Owners believe they can tolerate the lack of an income of a season due to the higher expenses they face when a season is in session. 2) Many believe that come November 15th, that lack of a paycheck is going to hurt the bottom of the players union more than anywhere else. Subsequently, you may see a few of them cross the line or really create a divide amongst players in wanting to get a deal done rather than holding out for the best deal for everyone in the long run. 3) If the players union isn’t about protecting the players as a whole, and not just a segment of the population, the players union will fail in their quest. It really is just as simple as that. If Deron Williams jaunt to Turkey is just a money-grab, it will make Stephen A Smith’s column prophetic.

The question is: If the top end players jumping to non-NBA leagues as part of an union strategy to help their fellow less-advantaged players out, who has the real power? Do the NBA owners lose their potential rising tide that they would absolutely gain in succeeding with a hard cap?

You gotta admit: What Williams is doing a hell of a ploy if it’s not a money grab. If it is, the NBA is fucked as we know it. Here’s to hoping it ends up working out for fans, middle/lower end players, and NBA executives/coaches who are caught squarely in the middle of this power struggle. Make no mistake: Whomever takes care of the littler guy in all of this will end up being the one who reaps the most benefits.

The owners made their move and player their one trump card: The lockout. Deron Williams, hopefully, has started a collective player move to get the owners back to the table, or, and this isn’t a bad backup plan if you love basketball, as I do, play in Europe or over-seas to help their fellow players get back to the real things that make the NBA wonderful. In the meantime those of us that love basketball will get to see a potential merging of 2 basketball cultures.

Because if all Deron Williams is doing is getting paid for his time on the basketball-court, he will have missed the opportunity of several lifetimes that players have really dreamed about for decades: The ability to truly and dramatically affect the outcomes of how sports are seen through the public lenses. In reality, NBA stars are partners in the present and future NBA. (And, in many respects, a link to the past when comparing A to B.)

The only questions that remain: Do Deron Williams and other NBA stars see this lockout as an opportunity or a nuisance? Do owners fear such a thing?

Maybe the lockout isn’t so boring after all.

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