I hate this game

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For a number of reasons, I've been cooling on the NBA for a few years now. The regular season is too long, and as a result, the players don't have any incentive to really bust it every night (full disclosure- I've seen a lot of Knicks games. Too many, really). Tickets are too expensive, especially for the less-than-compelling Bulls. Offenses rely heavily on isolation and the pick-and-roll, meaning that most of the players on the court at any given moment are little more than spectators.

More than anything else, though, it's hard to get behind the NBA when things like this happen.

Maybe it's just nostalgia from trading cards, or from fantasy sports, but isn't it fundamentally wrong for a team to immediately release the player it traded for? And isn't it even wronger for that player to return to his former team as quickly as the rules allow? Sadly, in Denver, they're actually getting used to this kind of money-driven shenanigans: 

  • July 15, 2008: Nuggets trade former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby to the Clippers in exchange for the option to switch second-round draft picks in 2010. 
  • July 29, 2008: Nuggets acquire Renaldo Balkman from the Knicks for Taurean Green, Bobby Jones and a second round-pick. The Knicks immediately waive Green and Jones.
  • Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke personally nixes a contract extension for talented small forward Linas Kleiza, likely so that money will be available for Indianapolis miscreant Jamaal Tinsley (who has yet to play this season, for the Pacers or anyone else).

 

Now, the point isn't that the Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien is an idiot. He got a $10 million trade exception out of the Camby deal and used the extra cash to sign Chris Andersen and re-sign J.R. Smith. What is galling about the whole thing is how little the players themselves seem to matter in personnel decisions, and how opaque the process is to fans. Like the financial market, the NBA's salary cap has become so dauntingly arcane that fans often simply throw their hands up and forget it. And, as David Stern knows, a disinterested fan base is the first and biggest step towards trouble. There must be a way to eliminate pseudo-trades like the Iverson affair without unduly restricting the players' choices or sending the owners to the poorhouse. A salary cap expert, I'm not, but is this really where the NBA wants to be?

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