NBA Trade Deadline 2011: How the Utah Jazz Saved the NBA

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NBA Trade Deadline 2011: How the Utah Jazz Saved the NBA

It tends to hurt a little, but sometimes it is better to rip the band-aid off quickly, than to simply wait and let it fall off on its own. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers how much coaxing and extra "stick-em" helped them in keeping their band-aid attached.

The way today's NBA stars are treated like royalty and cities, even states, are begging for their services, can you really blame the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James for dragging out the process? I mean, in the end aren't they still human with a fundamental need to feel loved? Well on February 24th, 2011, the Utah Jazz may have changed all of that, modifying the way NBA teams handle their love-sick "stars". 

The Jazz shocked the world on Thursday morning when they announced they had traded their franchise centerpiece, All-Star PG Deron Williams, to the New Jersey Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and two 1st-round picks (likely to be lottery picks in 2011 and 2012).

This went against all logic for NBA front-offices. Trading away a legitimate star and franchise player for a good PG and a PF with potential is not commonplace in a league where one great player can make a huge difference.

It is conventional wisdom that you don't trade "elite" players without getting an "elite" player in return in a league in which only five players can be on the court at a time. Conventional wisdom would look at what the Jazz did and deem it to be rash, stubborn, and overall detrimental to the team...conventional wisdom is wrong!

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There is nothing conventional about today's NBA. Elite players joining forces, rather than competing against each other is unprecedented in the world of sports. Players holding franchises hostage for years while they make "the decision" on where they will continue their career is backwards, asinine and points to bad management. Karl Malone described it as "the inmates running the asylum."

In trading Williams a year and a half before his contract was set to expire, Jazz owner Greg Miller and GM Kevin O'Connor rounded the inmates up, put them in straight-jackets, locked them away, and showed the other NBA teams how to do the same thing.

The message Utah sent to Deron Williams, as well as any other future "stars" for their franchise was, you can sign the extension to stay with us and build something, or you can have the rug pulled out from underneath you.

The Jazz left no question as to who is in charge of their franchise as they not only traded Williams, but they sent him to 17-40 New Jersey. Unlike the Carmelo fiasco, there was no talk of "where do you want to go?" or discussion with the player at all; in fact Williams found out about the trade from the Sports Center ticker on the TV in the training room. Bottom line was that they didn't need to "consult" Williams—he is under contract for another season and therefore still has value to many teams.

Time will tell how this trade turns out, but one thing can't be denied—the Jazz got A LOT for Williams. Devin Harris is two years removed from being an All-Star, Derrick Favors was the third overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft and has been compared to Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, and in the draft lottery the two picks could end up being extremely valuable.

Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor

Williams is a special talent, no doubt about it and could mean great things for the Nets franchise going forward. However the Jazz felt he had already made up his mind, he was leaving when his contract expired.

As far as the Nets are concerned Williams has already stated he will not sign an extension before hitting the free-agent market in the summer of 2012 and the Nets have no guarantee that he will sign with them (see James, LeBron). Despite this fact, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov seems to think Williams is a talent worth that risk.

The wooing has already begun as Prokhorov flew from Vancouver (where he was heli-skiing) to San Antonio to begin showing Williams the love he seems to crave. Prokhorov recently said of meeting Anthony, "It was a fantastic meeting, trust me. No words, live music, excellent atmosphere. We looked into each others eyes. Just real man talk." This was of course right before Anthony forced the Nuggets to spurn a better offer from the Nets so he could sign an extension with the Knicks. I am not sure how things work in Russia, but no amount of "man talks" from Dan Gilbert kept LeBron from taking his talents to South Beach.

NBA stars are going to do what they want to do; they have become spoiled children who view the world as their candy store—no amount of love or wooing will instill loyalty into them. They are loyal to only one thing...themselves.

I am not saying that this is still not a big problem for the NBA. What Utah did was a blueprint of how a small market team doesn't have to cave to its star player, but it in no way is the necessary solution. Unless the NBA wants to become a 6-10 team league they need to be proactive with this.

The new collective bargaining agreement must include a hard-cap and some semblance of a franchise tag. Small market teams can't compete when the ideals of competition and being a champion have been replaced with the league's top players joining up and becoming "tag-along champions" in big markets to create super-teams.

The problem is not fixed, but in essence what the Jazz did was take the biggest, most spoiled bully on the playground over their knee and showed the world who is really in charge.

This has sent shock waves around the league and has given small-market teams some semblance of hope as they wait for the NBA to fix what could become a major problem.

Until then, these teams can follow in Utah's footsteps in dealing with their star players, and they should probably start writing Jazz management some thank you notes.         

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