Kevin Arnovitz has been listening to too many NBA players that are out of touch with reality.
The newest narrative out there is that NBA Players just aren't "happy." Arnovitz's solution? Let the best players chose where they want to play. The best player in this year's upcoming draft is Zion Williamson. Let's just scrap the draft and let Williamson chose the team that he wants to play for.
Before I go on a 10,000 word diatribe citing all of Arnovitz's examples in his ESPN article, it would just be quicker to say all of the author's examples are idiotic. Comparing NBA Players to the top doctors or lawyers in America is absurd. Apples and oranges.
Brass tacks, the NBA is capitalism at its finest (or worst). The NBA is a giant corporation that makes millions of dollars selling and marketing the game of basketball. Even the Draft has turned into a money-making endeavor onto itself. What Kevin Arnovitz fails to tell you in his article is that Zion Williamson has the freedom to play anywhere in world today if he wanted to. But Williamson chooses to play by the rules of the NBA because he'd like to make large sums of money with digits in the nine figures. He is trading his services for piles and piles and piles of money. Arnovitz also fails to point out that Williamson is an underclassman. He could have stayed at college and been the BMOC. If you take mammoth sums of money out of the equation, Williamson has options.
What do I mean? Right now, the second best basketball league in the world is the EuroLeague. To my knowledge, no one in that league has drafted Williamson to play in Europe, meaning that he is free to sign with any team in that league. If Arnovitz was truly concerned about Williamson's quality of life, he would counsel the young player out of Duke to sign with Greek juggernauts Olympiacos B.C. Beautiful weather with an amazing view of the Saronic Gulf. He could play at the Peace and Friendship Stadium (that's not me being sarcastic, that is the stadium's name), and the stressors of playing in the NBA would be diffused by a shorter season, less games, and less wear and tear on the body. Of course he'd only be making about $2 million a year, but his mental health would probably be better.
Or Williamson could play in China. Not in Xinjiang, that would be as bad as (gasp) Oklahoma City. No, Williamson could play in Shanghai or Beijing. Again, shorter season, less games, less wear and tear on the body. He could probably make a little more money, salary-wise, than in Europe, but on the self-marketing aspect, Williamson could potentially make tens of millions of dollars marketing himself to Basketball-Mad Chinese fans..
You can play anywhere, but if you want to make the most money possible, you have to play ball in the NBA. Let's use the example of the length of the NBA season. I heard ABC commentators lamenting that some members of the Toronto Raptors had to play 100 basketball games this past season. Well the players have a union, they can do something about it. Collectively, go to the owners and say you only want to play 50 regular season games a year. The owners will then say "get bent." And that would be that.
Or, if the players collectively went to the owners and said we'd like to only play 50 games for the regular season and we'd be willing to pro-rate our salaries down 38% based on less games played. I'm unclear if the owners would go for it, but I guarantee you that they'd have good faith discussions.
What Arnovitz is saying, in effect, is that we (the players) want to make $6 million a year (average NBA salary), but don't want to have to play by any of the stupid owners' rules.
Basically the NBA Players are whining, how can we make the same amount of money, but:
Ahhh, the stupid fans. Mathematically if there are 30 teams in the NBA, only 1 can be the Champion. So statistically, without any other factors considered, you only have a 3% chance at being the Champion. If your value as a player comes from winning championships, of course the players are going to try to make Superteams. It's too hard to beat 29 other teams with random dudes from Gonzaga, or, god forbid, Lithuania.
You go by the NBA's rules because you want the $$$. If your (Arnovitz's) argument is that young college educated (ahem, ahem) men shouldn't have to go to Siberian outposts like Minneapolis or Cleveland if they don't want to, then okay, don't make them. Let's just flat out fold cities that players don't stereotypically want to play for.
No more Oklahoma City.
And the Clippers would move to Las Vegas.
The NBA is now a 20 team league. No more draft, no more player restrictions. 150 or so NBA'ers are now unemployed, but they're bottom tier players, so the players that Arnovitz talks to all still have jobs. The remaining NBA'ers are happy because they don't have to face the indignities of going to Salt Lake City anymore.
"Happy" for about 5 seconds.
You know what would happen next? 2 things that would kill the NBA almost immediately.
The teams remaining would be in salary cap hell. The 100 plus players that would disappear would be low end (by NBA standards) earners. If you raised the salary cap to accommodate only high end contracts, you will have some teams declare bankruptcy within the year.
In about 5 minutes, the owners of the 10 teams above that disappeared would get together in a room, find 10 or so other like-minded owners, and start up a new league. The new league would already have over a hundred players with NBA experience to sign. For argument's sake, let's call this new league BUSA (Basketball-USA). The BUSA, in order to survive, would institute insane rules like having a draft and having a salary cap. If they had the perseverance to survive 3 or 4 years, I'm confident that they would be able to pick the bones of the NBA.
Why? Because I'm convinced that 90% of NBA players don't know what the NBA's business model is. What is that, you ask? Unfortunately, owners have to make hard decisions to make money. Owners of any business, really, but in the NBA, you're not trying to drive the other NBA teams out of business, you are only trying to BEAT the other teams in the game of basketball, while believing that the other team has a right to exist. An NBA with half of its teams as Globetrotters and the other half of its teams as Generals, with incoming talent going to all of the Globetrotter Teams is unsustainable.
If Arnovitz is being provocative, that's his right of free speech. We can get chippy on paper and agree to disagree. If Arnovitz is a mouthpiece for Williamson, that is a much, much deeper problem.
In any sports league, there have to be losing teams. In college, teams like Duke can stack the deck and beat up on teams like the Little Sisters of the Poor or Cleveland State every year and have a winning record. In the professional ranks, no one is volunteering to have their fans paying to be the league's doormat. Even if you suck today, you still have to sell your fans hope for 2020 and beyond.
(Shhh. I'm going to tell you a secret.) Part of the reason I'm so mad today is I read another report that Kyrie is eying the Lakers. LeBron and Kyrie, if they were still together in Cleveland today (with Kevin Love), they could have challenged Golden State. But they didn't stay together for a myriad of reasons. I have said it before and I'll say it again, I don't know how the NBA survives in Cleveland, when all of their stars (except Kevin Love) can't wait to leave. Every time I write about the NBA it makes me angry. Does Arnovitz care about my happiness? No. He would reply that I'm not being exploited by multi-million dollar contracts controlling my movement. And to that I would have to reply. "You're right, I am certainly not being exploited by multi-million dollar contracts where I work.
Another simple culprit in an NBA players' unhappiness? No one is happy in the age of social media.
Tell your players to go out and make some real friends.
See Fred Hunt, even Jesus loves the NBA.
Sorry, my bad.