So what’s new in the NBA? Absolutely nothing.
The rich get richer. The dumb and desperate get dumber and more desperate. And those caught in between are destined to remain there.
So glad all the NBA fans went through that nasty lockout last year. Oh you remember, the lockout that the league told us was necessary to help level the playing field and guard against the construction of more super teams? All we found out was any NBA game before Christmas isn’t really necessary, and we kind of knew that already.
Look at the league now. Unless you live in Miami, Chicago, L.A. or New York (the Knicks belong on this list because they can’t win for losing), the NBA fan lost again.
The Lakers haven’t won an NBA championship in, what is it, 27 months? Well, that just won’t do. The last time Kobe Bryant had gone back-to-back years without at least going to the NBA Finals, the Lakers amazingly (1) found a team with limited cash flow and an unhappy superstar, (2) made a disgustingly one-sided trade in their favor and (3) restored proper order to the basketball world.
The Lakers get Pau Gasol for garbage. Then when Kobe and Gasol aren’t enough to get to June, they get Dwight Howard for … well, what’s less than garbage?
Two months ago, the Magic were worried about taking on Brook Lopez’s contract in a deal with the Nets? Two months later, they settled for a four-team team trade where they get the fourth-best player back and draft picks that will stock their D-League team for years to come.
But the heck with the Magic – they dump a world class center on the Lakers every 15 years or so. What about the rest of the league?
The Oklahoma City Thunder is now the new sheriff in the West? Think again.
No need to rush on that rebuilding project, Phoenix Suns. Oh, and that unprotected draft pick you got in the Steve Nash trade that appeared to have hidden value a month ago? Turns out it’s a Jose Canseco rookie card. The bubble gum is worth more.
I’m not knocking the Lakers here. They did what the league rules not only allow, but encourage. Is the NBA interested in revenue sharing like the NFL? How about parity like the NHL (seven different champions in the last seven years)? Heck, no. Give us five or six teams stacked with superstars battling for the title weekly on ESPN and TNT, and four dozen versions of the Washington Generals traveling the country for the big boys to practice on and posterize.
From now until November, you’ll hear a lot about the fact that (1) Howard still isn’t sold on the Lakers and (2) still wants to be a free agent at the end of the season. Right. Can you name me the last athlete who went to Los Angeles, won like crazy and then left for somewhere else? Where is the grass greener? Ireland?
If anyone is a bigger loser in this than the Magic, Thunder and Suns, it’s the Nets. Jay-Z is moving to Brooklyn with Deron Williams and a bunch of no-names. No Howard. No Andrew Bynum, who is now in Philadelphia (Philly fans … commence target practice), no nothing. And if you can’t get the headlines away from the Knicks, you might as well hang out with Tony Soprano in the swamplands of Jersey.
The Magic got less from the Lakers for Howard than New Orleans was going to get for Chris Paul. Unfortunately, the NBA doesn’t own Orlando — as they did the Hornets at that time — and Commissioner David Stern won’t come running in with one of Tim Donaghy’s old whistles and shout “Wait, wait, that’s not fair!” Once the ink dries, the Magic will take their place next to Memphis (Gasol) and Milwaukee (Kareem) and Philadelphia (Wilt) and every other team that traded their superstar to Lakers and got a box of rocks in return. Of course, the Magic already lost Shaquille O’Neal to “Showtime,” – Suns fans, think back to when Shaq was good – so they know the drill.
The Lakers got Nash and Howard and didn’t trade a single player off their roster they didn’t happily part ways with (hello, Andrew!) Remember how Suns insiders were talking about the Lakers would be wilting by 2015 and that first-round Lakers pick could be the key to the deal? Superman just swallowed the key, along with every other Western Conference point guard point guard who drives the lane until 2020.
Howard can be a handful, but the Lakers have dealt with Dennis Rodman, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom. This is a super-sized piece of cake. Unless his creaky back does him in, the rest of the West has just gone south.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.