Chaos reigns in NBA as players seize control from front offices

Dan O'Shea

This is already one of the most fun offseasons in recent memory. It’s not because we have a giant decision looming like we did when KD made the Warriors more indestructible than the Avengers or when LeBron made sure everyone took two hours out of their night to hear that he was leaving for a little town by the water called South Beach. It’s fun because the players are now in control, and they know it. 

Throughout the history of the NBA, we’ve seen these athletes allow their emotions and ideas on where they want to play become larger than themselves as they made demands and dictated the way the league shaped out. We’ve seen Shaq leave Orlando because he needed his ego pampered and the team was giving Penny Hardaway too much attention. We saw Dwight Howard leave a number of teams in ashes as he walked around killing coach after coach while shrugging the entire way not knowing the damage he was causing in his wake. Things like this have happened many times. But now? We’re seeing the puppets take full control as the puppeteers, as the players control the future of the league like never before.

Just look at the current offseason. We’re seeing the players become more self-aware of their own contracts, team situations, and talent like never before. It’s like the hosts in West World realizing they’ve been manipulated this whole time, and now they’re all going against the grain to turn on the men behind the controls. All over the league, players are the ones forcing the hands of upper management in a number of different ways.

 

Take Jimmy Butler for example. He knows he’s getting dealt, and is probably extremely okay leaving instead of standing around while the entire Bulls front office all huddles around the one copy of “Running An NBA Franchise For Dummies” they have in Chicago. The only thing is, he’d rather not join the other teams rumored to grab him. Why leave the Bulls to head for a team like Phoenix, Minnesota, or Denver? It’s hotter in Phoenix than it is in hell, Minnesota hasn’t been relevant since Kevin Love put up 25/16 in an empty arena, and Denver at least legalized weed. The kicker is, none of these teams are contenders, and Butler doesn’t want to waste his time. He has Kyrie and LeBron whispering in his ear telling him about the ring they can win, looking like Draymond talking to Durant the entire time.

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It’s an incredible realization that has essentially struck every single dynamic player all at once. What’s the point of wasting your time? You can love players like Westbrook staying loyal and I’m sure there’s a boy scout badge he’s earned for that, but at the end of the day players are realizing playing where you want to play, who you want to play with, and what you want to play for is more important. That’s probably why Kyrie is jumping on the riot bandwagon and firmly saying he’s gone if LeBron’s gone.

 

You can make jokes about Kyrie being a B-player and riding LeBron’s coat tails and doing his best Brian Windhorst impression of just following LeBron around, but let’s face the facts. Cleveland without the King was a hellhole. Kyrie has seen it with his own two eyes. It’s a hell and an evil he’s experienced first hand, as he averaged a grotesque 26 wins a season without LeBron. Why would he put that evil on himself and stay? Just so fans don’t burn his jersey, too, this time? If LeBron leaves in 2018, he can demand a trade before his player option kicks in the next season, so Cleveland would be forced to move him if they at least want something in return.

Instead of letting these teams just go around and do whatever they want with their fingers in their ears while the players scream for attention, players are forcing their hands. Instead letting the team figure it out, they’re making them figure it out. We’ve seen situations where players are unhappy and just suck it up. That isn’t happening anymore. Just ask Paul George.

 

That man has a full year left in Indy and simply could not care less about it. You know the scene in Semi Pro where Coffee Black (Andre 3000) shows up to the game late, dribbles the ball around the entire court, and then jacks up a contested three with the entire team in his face just because he could? That’s going to be Paul George for 82 straight games next season unless the Pacers trade him. He’s told them before he doesn’t want to be in Indiana. Now he’s forcing them to get rid of him.

Even with players who have absolutely no leverage at all are starting to get their wishes. Look at Kristaps Porzingis. No, he doesn’t want to leave, in fact, he loves New York. He just hates Phil Jackson’s guts, so he won’t speak to the Knicks at all. They’re using his brother to speak through him, as if he doesn’t speak English and he’s his translator. Since the season ended he hasn’t been in contact with them, skipped his exit interview, and cut them off cold turkey. That’s why Jackson’s looking to trade him.

 

By going full radio silence on New York, the Zinger forced their hand another way. Jackson’s now going to try to trade Porzingis, and the entire Knicks fan base is going to grab their pitchforks and torches, and burn down Madison Square Garden. Jackson looking to trade his 21-year old 7’3 phenom just because he doesn’t see eye to eye with him is the nuclear meltdown in the front office Porzingis needs. He’s now making them choose between Jackson, or himself. Even if they do choose Jackson and unload him, he gets to leave basketball hell and the dumpster fire that is the Knicks organization behind him.

We’ve already seen four separate situations this offseason where the players are taking matters into their own hands and running the show. You realize the just ended, right? We’re already seeing this kind of anarchy and it’s barely been a week since the season officially ended. It’s because the offseason is where the players can actually make their mark. They can demand trades, tell teams where they want to go, and even try to get their front office members fired in a full scale mutiny. Want to know why? Because no one cares about the men in the front office. Only the ones on the court. Now that the players are completely taking control of that fact, the puppets are finally off their strings.

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