It’s fitting that the debut edition of Hollywood’s Blockbuster centers around the city that inspired both my pen name and the name of my column: Los Angeles.
In our podcast this week, Murdoc and I briefly touched on the reports surrounding Chris Paul’s inevitable departure from the New Orleans Hornets. Paul has two years left on his current contract with the city that proudly chants “Bee-fense!”, and rumors started swirling last week that the New York Knicks were looking to acquire him. A trade to the Knicks would certainly boost a roster that already has superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, but that wasn’t the only possible landing spot that turned heads. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Los Angeles Lakers may also be entering the Chris Paul sweepstakes. Although Andrew Bynum will presumably be traded at some point in the near future, Paul would be joining the likes of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and of course, Kobe Bryant. LA’s motivation for the move is said to be that of a “win now” mentality–interesting for a team that has already “won enough” recently, and for that matter, has retained most of its key players from its last championship, excluding Phil Jackson.
The truth of the matter is that the NBA has entered the Age of Superteams. While phrases like “The Big 3” are hardly anything new, the league is seeing players maneuvering around rosters more than ever before. Last summer, in unprecedented moves, Chris Bosh and LeBron James skipped out on Toronto and Cleveland, respectively, and joined their buddy Dwyane Wade in South Beach. Later that week, at the “Yes We Did!” Miami Heat fan rally, LeBron infamously “not counted” the number of rings this newly established superteam would win. During the season, Carmelo Anthony was shipped to the Knicks, pairing him up with Amare Stoudemire. The move was instantly received by analysts and sports reporters as one that would make the Knicks a contender again, an instrumental step in ridding the franchise of Isaiah Thomas’ lasting stench. Now, with the lockout over and Chris Paul, New Jersey’s Deron Williams, and Orlando’s Dwight Howard all potentially on the move, it seems that last year was only the beginning.
Critics of the idea of “superteams” contend that the new NBA collective bargaining agreement includes incentives for players to re-sign with their current teams, and encourages them to do so. This contention is inherently flawed. Whether purposely or not, the new CBA incentives were drafted in order to sustain parity within the league and discourage players from jumping ship to play with their buddies or chase maximum contracts, a goal that is in essence unattainable. Although maximum salaries are now instituted later in a player’s contract under the new CBA, and extend-and-trade contracts are designed to be shorter, players are still able to reject extensions from their current teams and seek greater contracts elsewhere. In fact, several sports journalists contend that in order for Paul, Williams, and Howard to get the money they want from the team that they want to play for, each of them has to seek a trade now. The motivating factors, in Chris Paul’s case at least: all of the common factors that lead to the formation of a superteam. Kobe wants to play with him. Chris wants to play with his buddies in New York. And, ultimately, Paul wants as much money as possible. Any of these wishes have to come true before the league starts come Christmas.
Who knows? Perhaps Santa will be bringing Kobe exactly what he wants this year.