SERGE SIGNS ON
WHY IS IBAKA SO HAPPY?
Fair warning: Here comes an old man “get-off-my-lawn” rant.
The NBA is no longer a sports league. It is a privileged fraternity of bluebloods always angling for perks, especially friends with benefits.
They will be true to your team only if it involves a better situation, and big money. There’s always a play to engage a new BFF, and dump yesterday’s fav like stinky garbage. Meanwhile, owners are throwing crazy dollars at players, hoping something sticks.
J.J. Redick, the old Magic guy, is going to make $23 million a year. That’s a nice uptick from his $7,377,500 salary last season.
Some dude named Joe Ingles signed a fouryear, $52 million deal with the Utah Jazz. Ingles averaged a sizzling 7.1 points in 24 minutes last season.
And Serge Ibaka — another old Magic guy, albeit briefly — signed a three-year, $65 million deal with the Toronto Raptors. That’s the price one pays for a decent but not a game-changer kind of guy, as Ibaka was with the Magic.
And in the epitome of Monopoly money arms races, Steph Curry signed an extension with the Golden State Warriors, a contract worth $201 million over five years. For perspective, Curry makes more each day than roughly 95 per cent of Americans make in a year.
At least Curry is a superstar who adds tremendous value to the franchise. But there are a lot of other guys who are stealing piles of money while shifting the balance of power in the NBA way West.
Every pro athlete should grab as much money as he or she can during their career. The shelf-life is always short for big paydays. But the optics here are bad for the NBA. Or at least extremely silly.
The petty personal skirmishes are rubbernecking eye candy on the internet. A year after Kevin Durant broke up with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James has jumped into the fray by not being an active “recruiter” for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The speculation is that LeBron is setting himself up to take his talents elsewhere again, which of course will escalate the sucking up by members of those privileged NBA fraternities.
This inside skinny involves LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul — all free agents next season — starring in a remake of “Cocoon,” when they all come together to try to win a title when everybody is 57-years-old.
My math may be off, but you get the drift. The BFFs plan is both good and bad for the league. A handful of superpowers, with the vast majority of teams panhandling along I-4, asking “brother can you spare a power forward?”
All this drama seems to be a fabulous business model. The NBA set the all-time regular-season attendance record for a third consecutive season, with 21,997,412 fans in the stands.
But the business model starts to go off the rails because of the obvious competitive imbalance. It’s now geographical, even if by circumstance. The West is the power grid, with stars like Paul George, Paul Millsap and others bolting from the East. Some metrics have 22 of the league’s best 30 players in the West.
The free agency dynamics also put the squeeze on teams that don’t have the star-power to lure other stars.
Yes, that would be the Orlando Magic, a franchise that can no longer sell the weather and no state income taxes as a recruiting pitch. Their “come down and play with Elfrid Payton and Nik Vucevic!” game plan doesn’t seem to be working well either.
In defence of the Magic, they don’t have crazy money to throw at players this off-season. A good chunk of the salary cap is eaten up by the four-year, $72 million deal they gave Bismack Biyombo last season. He averaged seven rebounds and six points in 22 minutes of play. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, that doesn’t seem to be working out either.
In the meantime, brother can you spare a few bucks, Mr. Curry?
Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and Raptors president Masai Ujiri smile as they hold a jersey during a news conference in Toronto on Friday.