Carmelo Anthony is now a Knick and Deron Williams is now a Net, but the Western Conference is still slightly stronger. At most, the conferences are even.
With Carmelo Anthony traded from the Nuggets to the Knicks late Monday evening and Deron Williams traded Wednesday morning from the Jazz to the Nets, the prisoner-of-the-moment memes are dominant. But more due to loudness than logic.
Meme #1: The inmates are running the asylum
This is wrong on so many levels, it's almost immoral. Athletes are not inmates, confined because of their existential danger to society. Also, neither front offices nor coaches are the noble protectors of society from these monsters. They're all just a bunch of humans with different degrees of talents to be marketed in different manners, hired for different reasons, and on mutually agreed upon terms.
Besides the owners, they're all just workers. Their contracts and constitutional rights dictate the limits of bargaining power. If one party doesn't like the terms, they can simply not sign on. If the value of sacrificing certain degrees of bargaining power is outweighed by the positive values of signing the contracts, a decision is to be made. But in the end, it's still people making decisions.
'Melo didn't hold his team hostage. He and the Nuggets mutually agreed upon installing an Early Termination Option in his contract and he gave them about a year's notice before he planned on exercising it. He wasn't contractually obliged to do so, but he did. And the Nuggets were educated enough to weigh the values of many different options and made a conscious decision on one that they decided was best. No one was forced into anything. A sexual predator kept from children in Denver wasn't let loose on Manhattan. A worker gave his boss a extremely early notice he was leaving at the time when his contract allowed for him to do so.
Williams is said to have driven Jerry Sloan to resign, but this is trite. Sloan reportedly wanted Williams traded and gave management an ultimatum. Looking at what the Jazz received in return, is there any serious doubt that Sloan doesn't resign after this season? Why would he stay for an extra year to work on projects from what will be a terrible 2011 draft and a work-in-progress (though very promising) Derrick Favors on top of the other projects already there, who are also at least two-to-three years away?
Also, Williams was "not happy with" this trade upon hearing of it, "had no idea" it was happening and was "dumbfounded" upon hearing about it from the media.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhov said Wednesday: ""I think we made a very good tactical decision to force [the] Knicks to pay as much as they can,"
Who's running what?
Meme #2: NBA power has shifted to the East
More superstars are in the Eastern Conference today than there were at this time last year, but: (a) this isn't a bad thing as the East was a pile of shit for over a decade; and (b) this started with the Celtics, not the Heat.
What's biting people's asses -- at the risk of being trite -- is that the "underdog conference" line is losing cuteness. The the Celtics were a breath of fresh air is a still heavily unbalanced league. And in that unbalanced league, didn't just dominate the regular season in a shit conference with 66 wins, but won the NBA Championship. They were a case of a superpower lifting underdogs.
But people complaining of the current trend are just bitch-n-moaners. They were the same people complaining about the imbalance when the Lakers and Spurs won every year and multiple teams were winning 60 games in the West. Now they're complaining about a power shift toward the East while the West is still a conference with more good teams. There are easily nine-to-11 teams worth watching on League Pass for at least a quarter or two in the West, while there are about seven or eight you have to get people really drunk to watch in the East.
Before the Knicks acquired 'Melo, they were somewhere in the top-12-to-17 range of the NBA. Now, they're 10th at best; probably 14th or 15th at worst. The Nets with D-Will is different because going from being one of the five-worst to being slightly less than mediocre doesn't take many moves in the NBA. After the D-Will trade, the Nets are at the bottom of the top-20 -- probably no higher than 17th or 18th.
At best, we can't really project the Nets to be better than seventh in the East going into next season. We can't really project much right now, but that's my point. There's only upside to this projection of massive power shift. Right now, the #10- or #11-seed in the West would give the Celtics as tough a run in a seven-game series than the whatever tub of good eventually becomes the #8-seed in the East. They're both top-heavy conferences and the NBA has more than ten teams worth watching across the league -- maybe up to 15. Tell me that about a "better league."
Meme #3: Big markets are running the show
First, this isn't a problem. It's pretty value-neutral. There was a time when the three of the five most competitive NBA teams were in San Antonio, Phoenix, and Detroit. How'd that work out for ya'?
I'm not saying the NBA should morph the rules to favor big markets. I'm saying that free player movement displays better market indicators of the directions owners should take. This isn't inmates running the asylum; it's consumers telling the producers what they want. Markets work best when subjective value isn't hidden. With a sports league, the invisible hand does need to be heavier, but the status quo isn't delivering a disturbing trend. If so, the Knicks and Nets would be a lot better.
That the most productive elements of a business sector -- especially entertainment -- tend to gravitate toward bigger markets isn't good or bad. It's just axiomatic. The only alternative is trending toward the elements of involuntary servitude that held sports back from progressing for decades. It flies in the face of advancements we've made as a society and pisses on the graves of the likes of Curt Flood.
The conditions of being owned are now luxurious, but that doesn't change the immorality of a human being owned and greatly limited, systematically, by bargaining the terms and conditions of contracting their labor.
Also: I don't know how you fix Mitch Kupchak and Danny Ainge being better GMs than Davis Khan and Larry Bird; or Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle being better coaches than Vinny Del Negro and Paul Westphal.
Meme #4: These stars are, you know, I don't know, but, uh, IT'S BAD!
The loudest meme is usually the unintelligible ramblings that point to no specific problems, have no clue why they have a problem with what they're unsure of which they have a problem, and have no suggestions to fix said problems without creating the bigger problem of making the league irrelevant.
This usually is the result of not just scapegoating players, but a league. The scapegoating denies the reality that every sports league has cellar-dwelling, bottom-feeding houses of Hades. There's a fine line between parity and a mediocre league; worse, there's a very fine line between a mediocre league and a giant pile of shit, e.g. the difference between the NFL and the NHL.
Is anyone seriously suggesting anyone but the Celtics, Lakers, or Spurs are winning the title this season? Maybe, you throw the Heat in there, but this isn't a drastic power shift. The Celtics shifted a fragile imbalance in 2007, but those four teams have won 11 of the last 12 championships.
Add in the Bulls to that mix as a fringe contender and you have 17 of the last 20 champions.
Longevity means losing out on a ton of free agents, too. It means drafting well, dealing prospects well, and accumulating picks well in order to deal them. All five of those teams aren't just blessed by circumstance of market. They all play strong, efficient defense or are struggling, but coached by two of the best coaches of all time -- who are two of the best because they can repair a defensive problem through a season.
I hate the Knicks. I hate the Nets. But anyone who prefers they remain the compost-gathering landfills of the league to the point where they want the system to be morphed to get it back to being that way is ridiculous.
Athletes are owners, too. They own their bodies and the labor it uses as a means to produce. The NBA is more popular that ever. The league is more competitive than ever. The level of talent is higher than ever. That the talent is coming out younger and more polished makes for a more sustainable level of this excellence.
This is a very, very good thing.
A lot may change with a new collective bargaining agreement this summer. And I agree it's flawed and I'm open to brainstorming criticism. But if you can't specifically point to why recent trends of player movement are bad and what about the CBA encourages the regression you see, please shut up and stick your 'OMG THIS NEEDS TO BE FIXED!' up your ass. I don't really think asking you to define "this" and expand on "fixed" is asking too much.