Sports Fans, I would like to have a good chat about what is going on in my mind. Frankly what’s been going around in my brain for the matter of a few weeks now, since the Utah Jazz’s season came to an end at the hands of the World Champion Golden State Warriors – a sweep that I don’t have to remind anyone of. I mention that Jazz fans are no different than the rest of the NBA franchises’ fans. It’s an immutable truth that all fans want their players to stay loyal and in place and for the most part, or “Believe in the Process.”
This isn’t the movies, nor will it have a made-for-TV, Hallmark Channel ending. Not everyone gets to win in today’s NBA. Players have choices. Players have “inner circles.” Players want to go where they see themselves having the best possible chance of winning.
Yes, Virginia – Utah was winning. Utah was winning with broken down relics and reclamation projects from other teams with two legit stars. Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Last year, during free agency the Utah Jazz’s Dennis Lindsey put together a team of folks that, if healthy, could have been a possible 55 win team. The Jazz reached 51 wins and a 5th place spot in the playoffs. That for many players would show progress and a commitment to “Believe in the Process”.
In today’s NBA players’ head, “Believing in the Process” is a belief in themselves and what they individually can bring to a franchise and how, coupled with other players, they can solve all chemistry issues. Look, LeBron did it in Miami three times and then returned to Cleveland and did it again, right? That’s right, he did. However, folks, Gordon isn’t LeBron and I think we all knew that. However, Gordon was ours, right? Gordon even cited that in his Players Tribune (he is listed as a contributor – and yes we looked, this was his 3rd) contribution.
It was nicely written (ghost written and there is nothing wrong with that), however when you have someone help you write it and you include more people to help you write it, and you choose a venue like the Players Tribune that requires timing, coordination, and permission.
What? You believed what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed said that “Agent Mark Bartelstein says ‘Gordon hasn’t made a decision yet. We are still working through it'”?
Please. The NBA’s non-contact period in Free Agency is one of the jokes in all of professional sports. Every team violates this and they are complicit with agents. Those agents do the dirty work so the players and teams can look as clean as the first white driven snow. Bartelstein did his job and earned his commission this week.
- Got the Utah Jazz to trade for his other client Marco Rubio to replace George Hill
- Coordinated three ‘visits’ to the Heat (in Miami), Celtics (in Boston) and Utah Jazz (in San Diego)*
- Coordinated the offers so it would be the most beneficial to Gordon (and rightly so)
- Coordinated a ‘ghost writer’ to help pen the Players Tribune announcement
- Coordinated the access to the Players Tribune editorial staff and timing when this would be published
- Coordinated with Wojnarowski to buy time to allow the Players Tribune post to make it official
Now, all of that being said, let’s talk about three things that help us to know that we are not watching the Waltons.
Agents and The Media
Let’s take this back a little bit. There have been several people within the Salt Lake City Market that have been giving Utah Jazz fans signals that not everything is right in Kansas with Dorothy and Toto. There have also been good soldiers who have been towing the ‘good’ franchise and ‘sure we have a chance’ to resign Hayward just as much as Miami and Boston do.
When in all reality, agents release as much information as they can as long as it helps their client. How do you think that ESPN, Yahoo and other ‘sports’ news outlets get the scoop on these monster trades? The NBA head office? Teams? Sure, there might be some of that. However, remember the least enforced player moratorium in professional sports? That’s right, Pollyanna… everyone is talking to everyone and the last person who is going to know the truth is the everyday sports fan that has money tied up in season tickets and TV packages.
Agents and Teams
Most agents do the right thing by their players and the teams in whom they represent players too. This internal information network is built on relationships and for the most part, the Utah Jazz knew what they were walking into on Monday with Gordon Hayward.
There is no earthly reason why they spent 3.5 hours with him if they were not trying to do the following:
- Layout how Gordon fit in the future
- Layout loyalty and how the other players depended on him / the process
- Layout and apologize for the misses opportunities when Gordon asked for change in the past
- Work out any sign and trade options
Players and Fans
Now, this is most hard, as I am a fan as well. However, the honest truth is players owe fans nothing. We don’t own them. NBA free agency is theirs, and they will continue to choose to exercise this in the way they want to, as long as another team wants to purchase their services.
I have been a long-time antagonist of LeBron James’s ‘decision’ when he took his talents to South Beach and back again. To me, it hearkened to a Tolkien novel, rather than an all-time great. Then Durant sold his soul to the Golden State Warriors, whom the OKC Thunder had dead-to-rights in their series a season removed, and he did it for less money, mind you.
Sports fans, it comes down to this. The players are agents unto themselves. In some sort of fashion, they want to work for and contribute to teams they see the easiest way to the golden trophy. Super teams are a product of the AAU culture and NBA marketplace and the gargantuan television contracts.
Gordon, I think hit it right: “I was literally the last Jazz player left who played under Coach Sloan”. I believe that era of NBA basketball, that I grew up with, is dead. It has been dead for quite a while now. I believe it will take a whole lot of negotiating between the NBA and the NBAPLA in the collective bargaining process to slow the super team phenomenon. A resurgence of a culture of pride, in building something through hard work and perseverance is needed. If not, we as Utah Jazz fans are doomed to repeat this again and again.