VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Wonder why so many NBA teams were willing, almost eager, to trade away stars this past offseason?
If one is adept at reading between the lines, all the mega-dealing is no mystery.
Allow MAS to ‘splain what his “See-thru” specs revealed about each of these swaps.
Basically, luminaries Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.
ALL were moved due to team chemistry issues of one sort or another.
Irving, a high-scoring guard, begged out of Cleveland because he could no longer abide LeBron James’ all-encompassing influence.
To force Irving to stay would have created an awkward situation on the Cavs.
Hence, his trade to Boston for fellow backcourt All-Star Isaiah Thomas.
Irving cited a “negative” atmosphere as the major reason for his exit request.
Translation: LBJ wanted to be the Cavs’ on- and off-court alpha male, de facto coach and clandestine general manager all rolled into one.
And whatever LeBron wants, LeBron gets from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.
Two seasons ago, it was the deep-sixing of former coach David Blatt.
Blatt was subsequently replaced with Tyronn Lue, more James’ malleable.
Then last campaign, LeBron moaned about the Cavs’ lack of a backup point guard ad nauseam. So, Deron Williams was acquired.
After that, LeBron strongly opined that a 3-point shooter was needed to better match up with Golden State. Of course, the Cavs’ front office then hopped to it and landed Kyle Korver to fill that role.
By season’s end, Irving had had enough of all the hat-wearing by James. Kyrie asked out and was accommodated.
After Irving’s exit, James offered this crocodile-lament: “And I was ready to give the keys to the car to Kyrie.”
Sure you were, LeBron. Riiiiiiiiight.
Kyrie Irving may think the world is flat but he’s still smart enough to know an unhealthy situation when he sees one.
Now for the case of the Chicago Bulls and versatile swingman Jimmy Butler.
It was the annoying presence last season of first year, self-styled team leader Dwyane Wade that led to Butler to ask out of Chi-town.
Butler was clearly not a happy camper. So, rather than risk dysfunction, the Bulls dealt Jimmy to Minnesota.
For his part, Wade was moody and aloof, hardly endearing leadership qualities.
Plus, he often missed practices and even games because of his achy 35-year-old knees, resulting in his being more of a “Do as I say, not as I do” variety leader.
The tipping point came after a late season lackluster Bulls loss.
Wade had turned in a good performance but his younger mates (including Butler) had struggled, leading D-Wade to call them out publicly.
His teammates were understandably miffed.
Vet point guard Rajon Rondo was led to comment: “My leaders in Boston (on the Celtics’ 2008 title team — Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) would not do something like that.”
So, after the season, Jimmy’s trade wish was granted.
It was too late to retain Butler, but the Bulls front office at least wised up to the festering situation Wade had created.
They were so eager to cut ties with Dwyane, they ate a large portion of his $23.8 million contract to do so.
Wade then signed with Cleveland where he’ll perform the role that best suits him: a capable wingman to a superstar (see Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron-led title teams in Miami).
With Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, you had yet another situation where a player ill-suited for leadership wore out his welcome.
If you couldn’t sense that the Paul’s overbearing ways — on and off-court — were an albatross around the neck of the underachieving Clips in recent years, then you weren’t looking close enough.
Why else would the Clips trade Paul to Houston while keeping the rest of their core intact? This, after many pundits had predicted the team would be blown up.
The Clips finally figured out that their problems might not lie with forward Blake Griffin being soft and center DeAndre Jordan being too one-dimensional or any number of notions floated out.
Just maybe, it was the haranguing methodology Paul practiced as self-appointed leader.
Think the browbeaten Griffin wasn’t clicking his heels when LAC dealt Paul to Houston?
Then look up a photo of him wearing a smile, rather than his former perpetual frown, while sitting astride a surfboard off Waikiki during training camp.
To MAS’ mind, as was the case in Chicago with Wade, LAC practiced addition by subtraction.
Then there’s the expulsion from New York of ex-Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, a coach — and general manager — killer both in The Big Apple and previously in Denver.
The Knicks made a wise “best for all parties” trade of Carmelo to Oklahoma City.
Anthony is a classic “there is no ‘I’ in Carmelo but there is a ‘me’ in there” type player — a terrific but self-centered scorer, one ill-suited to being the leading light for his pro team.
Make Anthony a second or third option devoid of leadership responsibilities and he’ll help you win three Olympic medals.
But with Melo as a team backbone, you get the non-playoff Knick teams of the past four years.
And before that, titleless Nugget teams.
Playing with Russell Westbrook and Paul George in OKC, though, could well earn Anthony his first NBA crown.
Just don’t ask him to play defense. There is no “d” in Carmelo either.
Finally, there was the Paul George situation in Indiana.
After years of starring for so-so Pacer teams, George, a high-scoring guard/forward, had stated his intention to sign with a legit contender once his Indy contract was up after this season.
You know, pull a Kevin Durant-to-Golden State type maneuver.
Rather than allow a lame-duck atmosphere to exist, the Pacers shipped him to Oklahoma City.
Indiana may have put George in his desired location. In OKC, he joins Westbrook and Anthony to form a formidable big three.
And, after many years of being the good soldier, George has — as Durant had before him — earned a shot at a championship.
When it comes to seeing through curious NBA trades, Superman with his X-Ray Vision has nothing on MAS.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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