Newsflash: NBA players are not indentured servants. They are not forced to work until their contract ends. If unhappy, they can ask for a trade. Teams can deny their request. It’s a give and take because the system functions where both sides have equity. Despite where Steve Kerr’s hurt feelings are guiding him, Anthony Davis has the right to want out if he is unhappy. It is the coach and the organization’s job to make sure the star player wants to stay. And that is the problem here. Owners and coaches want star players to sign for the long haul just because. But players come into the league as teenagers and then as men have the right to determine happiness. They are not props. They are not robots.
Steve Kerr hasn’t had a good summer. He lost Kevin Durant amid reports that Durant didn’t particularly care for the Steve Kerr sermonizing. Kerr also is without Klay Thompson, a moody introvert who balls his ass off 24-7. Thompson may return in February and will need a couple of months to round into form. Then what happens to D’Angelo Russell?
It’s easy to be a great coach when you have 4 All-Stars on the roster but let’s see how Kerr coaches with the average class. Steph and Dray are the top of the food chain surrounded by role players. But is that going to be enough with a star loaded conference?
Everything we didn’t know about Steve Kerr, who inherited players Mark Jackson developed, will rise to the top like cream, or maybe will tread water. Or, even drown. This is Steve Kerr under pressure. Is that why he sounded like a PR hack for NBA owners, who are peeved at how this summer went?
Anthony Davis and Rich Paul were big winners. Everything they wanted to happen did. Forget all that King of the North crap, Kawhi Leonard won a title for Canada and then walked out the door. Paul George picked up the telephone a year after he picked up the telephone, but this year he told Sam Presti I’m gone. Russell Westbrook is with his BFF James Harden in Houston and OKC is picking up the pieces after drafting Durant in 2007, Westbrook in 2008, and Harden in 2009.
Steve Kerr is redundant: you sign a contract then you stick to it. What he didn’t say is you should stick to a signed contract, not that you have to. Players aren’t servants and this is not communism.
In capitalism, workers can voice their displeasure and go elsewhere, contract or not. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won a title for Milwaukee and wanted out. Shaq wanted more money and Jerry Buss was on the fence. Shaq demanded a trade. Vince Carter was sullen before his contract was up. Same for Melo in Denver. Ditto Chris Webber wanting out of Nellyball. Wilt wanted out. Chris Paul sunk the Pelicans before Anthony Davis did. Jason Kidd flexed his power. So did Kyrie Irving. The list goes on and on.
Anthony Davis didn’t invent this carousel. Davis was aggressively taking control of his career, propped up by a driven agent. The problem is that a handful of NBA players can force their way out and in the process reduce their old team to a pile of nothing but junk. Is it fair? No. But who said life is fair?
Billionaire owners are used to controlling their labor pool but professional sports is dependent on the superstar athlete and in the NBA that means black men. Those men have a lot of control which feels antithetical to white privilege benefits. Accordingly, owners have tried to put incentives into the Collective Bargaining Agreement to wrestle that control back. But if a player wants to go, he will go.
That Steve Kerr is the one waving the flag on this particular issue is laughable. He helped himself to Kevin Durant and it earned him back-to-back titles. Those titles had little currency. The Warriors couldn’t keep Durant in town because Steve Kerr couldn’t keep Durant in town. He couldn’t create the relationship where Durant wanted to stay. Kerr has to own that, his own mistakes.
But is he right that owners have to be wary? Sure. Since Kareem pushed his way out, star players have let owners know this isn’t indentured servitude. Owners can throw money in players face, they can beg and plead, and try to create incentives to stay but money isn’t the last word. Players make just as much off the court with endorsements and smart business investments.
Let’s not overreact to one player’s selfishness, like Kerr did with his anti-player diatribe. The tail is not wagging the dog just because white owners are on the short end of black power. When owners want a player traded, do they care about his contract? Do they care about his family, his kids in school, being blindsided? No. They do what they have to do for business.
Players are doing what they have to do for business. It’s can be a cruel place, the NBA. For every Damian Lillard loyalty, there is a Kyrie Irving or a Paul George.
It’s not money, baby. It’s black power.