“Do I stay or do I go?”
It’s been five days since the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expired after only being in effect for six years and a lot of players are asking themselves that very question.
It’s hard to have much sympathy though for these players after they have essentially been fed with a golden spoon for so long. Even Eddy Curry was paid more money last season to not play in the NBA the salary caps of every WNBA team combined.
However, it is the players who have refused so many parts of a restructuring deal that would limit them to only 57 percent of basketball related income which reached over $3 billion last season.
Now, many are mulling over options to extend their careers overseas where money pays and glory is obsolete. A title in Europe doesn’t even approach the honor of hosting the Larry O’Brien in any U.S. City.
Some have other reasons though. Patty Mills has been offered a deal from his former coach Marty Clarke to play for Adelaide in Australia. He is hoping Mills will be attracted by increase playing time and abandon the $1.2 million he would earn by returning to Portland. However, even his agent has stated that he hopes he will sign for a more lucrative deal in Europe.
Conversely, we have the case of another foreign player who started his career in Portland. Rudy Fernandez was offered a six-year, $26 million contract with Real Madrid last week after the Mavericks traded the draft rights of their 26th overall pick, Jordan Hamilton, to the Blazers. Under the former CBA that expired on July 1, Fernandez would earn $2.2 million next season and could become a restricted free agent with a $3.2 million qualifying offer for the 2012-13 season.
It has come to light that he would maybe earn even less under the restructuring of the CBA. He was very vocal about wanting to return to Spain last season so it seemed as though he would take the offer. If so, he would have only played out the last season of his contract in the NBA after the lockout ended before continuing on to Europe.
Today, he rejected the offer and opted to wait out the lockout, possibly earn a lot less money and stay in the country he vowed to leave. After the draft-night trade, Fernandez found himself on the defending champion Mavericks’ roster and an opportunity to actually compete. Portland was not a good fit for Fernandez who only averaged 8.6 points a game last season. He would rather fit in as a role-player on the Mavs with more shooting opportunities in their faster offense. He will also be able to start at the two-guard spot for Dallas after only starting 9 games in his first three years playing for the Trail Blazers.
Might seem a little puzzling that he would turn down such a lucrative offer to play in his homeland but it’s simple: he’s taking his chance for something a little more important than money, a championship.
Sadly, this whinny European embodies an answer to the current problem in the NBA and that’s pride. For too long, these players and owners have been focusing on the paychecks and not the honor. We saw every ounce of it leave LeBron James during the Decision (brought to you by Vitamin Water) and we saw Michael Finley relinquish his when he signed with the Spurs a few years ago. Hell, we even saw Karl Malone leave his pride behind when he went to LA and even that didn’t pay off for him.
But their is still hope for honor in the NBA. Under the new CBA, we may see a lot of provisions that help restore what we the fans want to see. A higher cap will help level the playing field and restrict contracts like Curry’s mentioned about. With less money to spend on players and increase revenue sharing, well-run teams like Memphis will be able to attract better players without money even being the biggest part of the equation.
This is a chance for the players and owners to change the entire culture of the NBA. It’s about the game and the honor tied to it. Money can never be taken from the picture with so much cash on the line but they cannot pass up the opportunity to restore what a lot have ignored. Pride is what will fix the game and now is the time to bring it back.