There’s been a lot of talk lately about NBA superstars and role players alike taking less money than they’re ostensibly worth “for the good of the team.” The collective bargaining agreement is structured to minimize a team’s ability to load up on big contracts, and it makes guys who don’t settle for less seem greedy. C’mon, you’re really going to take $8 million over there instead of $5 million over here? DON’T YOU WANT TO WIN?
Meanwhile, the owners are taking Scrooge McDuck baths in gold coins and bitching about only getting half of the league’s basketball related income.
But for the players, it’s about more than taking less money. Forward Channing Frye, who just signed a new deal with the Orlando Magic and left behind a rising team in the Phoenix Suns, made a great point as to why players shouldn’t settle for a hometown discount (unless they’re Dirk Nowitzki, whose future with the Mavericks is assured). Via ArizonaSports.com (emphasis ours):
“The question I always ask is ‘would you take a hometown discount?'” Frye told Burns and Gambo Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “People say that, it’s just absolutely ridiculous. Because the thing that happens is someone takes a discount. Let’s say the market says they’re worth $10 million and they take $5 million. The next day they get traded, so they’re like ‘well dang, why did I take $5 million if you’re just going to trade me?‘
“Think about it, our careers are short-lived. So why not go somewhere where you’re going to be extremely appreciated, where you’re going to be part of the future? People just say ‘take a discount,’ why? I’m 31. Why would I do that? I’m not asking for $15 million a year — I’m not crazy. The market dictated what was going on and I took the best deal.”
Here’s the thing: If you take a discount, all you’re doing is making yourself a more favorable bargaining chip in a future trade. “Whoa, we can get Channing Frye for $5 million a year? Pull the trigger!” And suddenly Channing Frye is playing for $5 million a year in Milwaukee. Unless you obtain a no-trade clause in your contract (a rarity in the NBA) or have a Dirk-Dallas or Kobe-L.A. relationship, your place on the team is never guaranteed. Hell, the number one overall draft pick might get shipped off before he plays an NBA game.
Accepting a big contract is as much about securing your future with the organization as it is making money. If you’re going to move to Orlando, you’re not doing so with the idea of potentially getting uprooted midseason just because your team made a “basketball decision” to swap you for a draft pick.
It’s one thing to take less money in the service of winning a title. It’s another to set yourself up to become a pawn in the NBA game that takes place off the court and in the board room. The NBA is a business, a fact that is conveniently forgotten when it’s time for the players to take care of theirs. If the owners want to hold on to their good pieces, they know what they need to do in 2016. (Is that too vague? I mean raise the cap. They need to spend more money, and stop making the players give up theirs.)
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