Does a team like the Charlotte Bobcats really ever stand a chance of winning an NBA title? Why not? Charlotte isn't that bad of a place to live. I mean, sure the drive home from work on I-77 is always hell despite what time of the day it is, and there are more gangs here than women that were bedded by Wilt Chamberlain, but it's still a hell of a place to raise a family right? I'd even go as far to say that it's better to do that here than New York, Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles.
Unfortunately for us fans, NBA players typically aren't interested in such variables when making their decisions on where to play out their basketball careers. There are hundreds of factors that typically go into a players final choice, but ultimately, it's always come down to the main three priorities: 1. Money, 2. Winning, 3. Market. There's been a shift towards a thinking that a team's market has become a bigger factor in the player's choice these days. And with 'superstars' like Chris Paul of the Hornets and Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets supposedly looking to depart New Orleans and Denver respectively for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, that theory holds some merit. LeBron James and Chris Bosh leaving Cleveland and Toronto for Miami also backs that theory up a little bit. However, one must remember that Dwayne Wade, Bosh, and James all spurned bigger markets with teams with more history than Miami in Chicago and New York to join the Heat, so it also goes against itself a bit.
Looking back on history, we can see that it's not always the size of the market that attracts the big time free agents or wins championships, it's really all about the competence of the front office. So even though the new CBA is going to be suited towards giving smaller market teams like our Bobcats a better chance to compete for a championship, I have to wonder how much of an effect it can really have in the end.
Over the past 30 or so years, the same old teams in and out have won the championship in the NBA. Since 1980, only 8 different franchises have won the title; the L.A. Lakers (10) Boston Celtics (4), Chicago Bulls (6), Detroit Pistons (3), Philadelphia 76'ers (1), Houston Rockets (2), and San Antonio Spurs (3), Miami Heat (1). Of those 8 franchises, how many of them do you really consider big markets? When people define market size, I've come to realize that they don't always actually mean market size. For example, a team like the Toronto Raptors has one of the larger markets in the NBA in all areas (television, fan attendance, merchandising), yet, they will probably never be one of the ultimate free agent destinations for a superstar since they are not in the U.S. So let's throw out the thinking that big markets actually dominate the league. Or at least, let's dismiss the claim that superstars are only interested in big markets (not every big market is interesting) and small market teams can't win titles (the Spurs, winners of multiple NBA titles are actually one of the smaller market teams).
Free agency and player mindsets have changed A LOT over the last 30 years, so to prove the point I am about to try to make, I'll just use the last few years as an example. When everyone talks about the "great big market" teams, it's always the same ones right? The LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and New York Knicks. Well, history actually shows that those teams actually had to overcome mediocrity as well, despite their dominance.
"Kobe got that I don't know what the hell they got me doin playin with your sorry ass face"
Think about it, their superstar, Kobe Bryant, was once a CHARLOTTE HORNET!!!! I mean, just let that resonate through your head for a moment. He was the 13th pick in the draft of 1996, and now he's considered the closest thing to Michael Jordan with some even going as far to say he was better. That was just a smart move by the Lakers trading Vlade Divac for him. Has nothing to do with the fact that it was Los Angeles. The Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown and Marc Gasol trade that lifted the Lakers from mediocrity (more on that in a sec) back to championship glory had nothing to do with the fact that it was the Lakers either. Just a smart move, I think, for both teams. The Grizzlies were going nowhere with Pau, Kwame had a huge expiring deal, and Marc is showing everyone that he is actually a pretty good player. Everyone wants to talk about how the Lakers always dominate the league, but their core of today has been acquired through smart trading and drafting, not free agency. Lamar Odom was acquired in a trade for Shaq and Andrew Bynum was the 10th pick of his draft, by the Lakers. Sure, they could very well win 3 titles in a row for the second time in the last decade or so, but let's not forget about those 6 years in between those title runs where Phil Jackson and Shaq left, Rudy Tomjanovich took over and was in the hospital every other week, and the Lakers, even with Kobe missed the playoffs with a 34-48 record. Again, let that sink in. The almighty Lakers with a Toronto Raptors type of record. It can happen.
"Pierce was so excited to be finally escaping mediocrity, he went to publicly display his Celtic jersey as if he had just been traded to the team as well"
Again, the Celtics return to dominance has nothing to do with the fact that they are the Celtics. Everyone knows how Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired (Garnett traded from Wolves for Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, first rounders and Allen from Sonics for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and what turned out to be Jeff Green of the Thunder). People were going nuts back then for the "superstar" trio that was put together, but the Celtics surrendered a lot for Garnett and Allen. They weren't terrible trades from either side. Sure, the Wolves have been in a collapse since, but again, that's due to poor GM'ing. Add in the fact that 9 teams passed on the other superstar Paul Pierce in the draft, 20 teams passed on Rajon Rondo in the draft, and 26 teams passed on Kendrick Perkins in the draft (who was acquired in a trade with Marcus Banks for Dahntay Jones and Troy Bell) and we see the Celtics have built their dynasty with no Celtic mystique involved, just smart moves. I mean sure, some players are there now to ride the coattails of the core and win a championship, but that team was built by Danny Ainge, who should be considered a master mind for his efforts. Like I say, it's easy to think about how dominant the Celtics are, but what about in 05-06 when they went on an 18 game losing streak? The Celtics have gone through hell as well.
"Jay Williams actually had a good future ahead for him before he killed his limo driver." Lol, you don't have to tell me, I know.
Does anyone really remember how terrible the Bulls were after Mike, Scottie, and the rest of the gang left Chicago? Let me just toss some words out there and tell me what comes to mind. Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Baby Bulls, Jay Williams, Ron Mercer, Eddie Robinson, Brad Miller, Tim Floyd, Jalen Rose, Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer, Ron Artest, 13-37, 17-65, 15-67 and so on and so on. Yes, even these dominant Chicago Bulls (well, not really to a Bobcats fan) had to go through hell and high water to get back to where they are. The only fluky thing I can say about Chicago is that the draft pick of Derrick Rose ended up to them under strange circumstances, but other than that, good drafting rescued them. Of the big market teams, the Bulls probably get spurned the worst. Bosh, Bron, Wade, and Joe Johnson did it to them this year, just like Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Eddie Jones, Grant Hill, and Tim Thomas (yes, Tim Thomas) did them back in 2000. But again, they have returned to the limelight with Rose as a number 1 pick in the draft, a number 9 pick in Joakim Noah, and a number 7 pick in Luol Deng. Of their core, only Carlos Boozer was acquired through free agency and that was because the Bulls were a team on the rise, not because they were in Chicago. Boozer was considering even taking an offer from Detroit before the screwed up their cap space, so his head obviously isn't in markets.
"Ending up on here twice is enough proof that Curry and mediocrity go hand in hand."
I'm not even going to waste too much time going over the Knicks struggles, because despite all of their improvements, they are still hovering around .500. But Isiah Thomas destroyed the franchise for several years with players like Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, and Quentin Richardson. The fact that Carmelo (who may end up being a Laker) and Chris Paul have talked about going to New York doesn't make them a threat to be a championship contender anytime soon as neither player ultimately may even end up there. Before we get so scared of how dominant the Knicks could ultimately be, let's keep in mind that this team hasn't even finished the season .500 since the 2000-01 season.
So what am I saying? I don't know. Most of the time I just start a post with a thought and try to enforce it as best as I can, so I guess my thought here is that the lack of parity in the NBA really just comes down to the lack of great general managers in the league as opposed to the lack great players. Who cares if CP3 or Melo talks about only wanting to play in big markets like New York? For every Melo, there is a Kevin Durant. For every Chris Paul, there is a Tim Duncan. The Charlotte Bobcats can win a championship. Our market size won't hold us back. The New Jersey Nets can win a championship. The Sacramento Kings can as well. Don't laugh. During those years where the Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics were down on their luck, Jason Kidd was leading the Nets to the NBA Finals and Jason Williams, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and Vlade Divac had the Kings as one of the best teams in the league and one of the most exciting teams in recent history. Once the Bobcats front office settles on a vision for the long term (and no, that doesn't mean just shedding costs and drafting late round picks), then we can be in that chase for a championship. Until then, believe in the team that we have now. I still believe that if this team catches enough fire, they have a true shot at advancing this year.