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The Unicorn Is The Latest Sign NBA Players Have Too Much Stroke

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The New York Knicks traded F/C Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night. The move rocked NYC, the center of the basketball universe. The Knicks received a package of Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, and two first-round draft picks. The Mavs acquired Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke in return. More concerning is that the “Unicorn” and his agent precipitated the move during a Thursday meeting with Knicks executives. According to reports, Porzingis voiced his displeasure with the team’s direction. He also expressed uncertainty about the long-term stability of the franchise. Porzingis becomes the second high-profile NBA star to allow their lack of confidence with their teams to go public. Forward Anthony Davis also demanded a trade from the Pelicans to a championship contender. The current crop of NBA players has too much leverage.

kristapsporzingistrade
Source: NBA.com
Source: NBA.com

The Birth of Modern NBA Super teams

When the Boston Celtics acquired Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen in 2007, the ripple effects were felt league-wide. Especially on the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James and a rag-tag group of role players reached the NBA Finals in 2007. But King James saw the writing on the walls. In order to become a perennial winner, he needed to squad up. So during the summer of ‘09, free-agent LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. He joined Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat. The duo convinced one of the best big men in the league to join their team as well. The Raptors’ Chris Bosh signed as a free agent and formed the “Big Three.”

King James famously joked that the trio could win, “Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” at the Big Three welcome party in July 2010. The Heat ended up winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013 and served as the blueprint for the super teams that followed.

miamiheatbigthree
Source: Sports Illustrated

Warriors Come Out to Play

Some franchises have failed to create super teams (see the Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony Knicks) while others have perfected the practice. The Golden State Warriors, who already won a championship in 2014 with the quartet of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala have added perennial All-Stars Kevin Durant in 2016 and DeMarcus Cousins in 2018 to their core. The Warriors are the gold standard of superstars teaming up together for a title.

The Houston Rockets are trying to reach super-team status, but the results haven’t followed. Their first move was to sign former Sixth-Man of the Year James Harden as a free agent in 2012. Harden was instrumental in recruiting former Clippers PG Chris Paul to sign with Houston, who then convinced his good friend Carmelo Anthony to sign in 2018. The Rockets have made the Western Conference Finals, but haven’t won the Larry O’Brien trophy yet. Detractors are upset with how players are forming super-teams.

Let’s Be Friends

The 80s and 90s NBA featured some of the league’s best players of all-time and very physical play. Older NBA fans could never picture heated rivals like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Isaiah Thomas convincing each other to pair up and win titles. Even when that era’s top players came together to play on the first Dream Team, Thomas was so hated he wasn’t included on the roster.

From r to l: Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul

The modern NBA era has virtually eliminated physical play, so players today don’t beat up each other anymore, and therefore aren’t mortal enemies. Further, these players are part of one shared universe. The King James, Wade, Melo, Paul generation played AAU ball together, played on the Olympics together and are members of the Nike family. The increased level of fraternization encourages them to link up. The current crop of NBA stars seem more pampered, as if they are destined to win championships. But if they struggle, or can’t do it themselves, they’re more willing to go elsewhere.

The Death of the True Franchise Player

The most recent high-profile player moves in the NBA highlight the “millennial-ization” of the league.

It began with Jimmy Butler, the four-time All-Star from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who forced a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. While Butler is a great two-way player, he’s not in the same class of Durant, Curry or Kawhi Leonard. But he sure acts that way. He was frustrated with his head coach Tom Thibodeau. He didn’t get along with the team’s other stars Karl Anthony Thomas, and Andrew Wiggins. Rather than show maturity and leadership, Butler sulked, made disparaging comments about the franchise, and became a distraction. He had to be moved.

Kristaps Porzingis’ relationship with the Knicks was complicated. Even when fans booed his drafting, he embraced the city and publicly stated his desire to bring a championship back to the Garden. But there were signs the relationship was rocky. When Porzingis didn’t show up for the Phil Jackson exit interview, he was criticized. Then during his recovery from an ACL tear this season, new head coach David Fizdale didn’t seem to be on the same page with his star. While Fizdale told reporters that Porzingis hadn’t made significant progress in his recovery, the unicorn posted an IG story of him sprinting. Oops.

Conclusion

The befuddling aspect of Anthony Davis’ situation in New Orleans is that his talent should be translating to more winning. Davis has never played a full 82 game regular season in seven years. But Davis is a once in a generation type of player. He’s got handles and the shooting touch of a guard and the power of an elite big man. However, something about his game or personality isn’t making the players around him better. Davis has decided that it’s time for him to move on a full year and a half before his contract expires, even with all these variables.

In terms of Porzingis, he’s too young and hasn’t won enough to be acting like a diva and making demands. He should have been more patient. The current crop of NBA stars needs to grow up, be accountable, and willing to lead their squad to success. Stop punking out and teaming up with your buddies for rings.

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