NBA's Changing Face of Free Agency: Form a Big Three

Greg StarddardContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 23:  Carmelo Anthony is introduced as a New York Knick player during a press conference at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Melo wasn't budging, and there was very little anyone could do about it. 

He wanted the bright lights of Broadway, and nothing was getting in his way. Not the Denver Nuggets. Not the New Jersey Nets. Not La La Vasquez, George Carl or East Baltimore.

The list goes on and on. In fact, Carmelo Anthony is just the latest NBA superstar to say, "I'm gonna pick the team and city where I want to live and create another dynasty."

Today's free agent wants a championship yesterday, and they'll do anything to get it.

Melo figures he's part two of the New York Knicks' pending "Big Three." Conventional wisdom has New Orleans point guard Chris Paul joining the Knicks as a free agent this summer and thus creating another trio of superstars.

The Boston Celtics sort of did it a few years ago. General Manager Danny Ainge is credited with teaming Kevin "KG" Garnett, Paul "The Truth" Pierce, and Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen, but you can't tell me those three ballers weren't thinking about forming a big three.

Let's get a grip here. They knew what they were doing, and more power to them; it led to a championship.

Of course, that championship team has since been jeopardized by the trade of Kendrick Perkins, but that's for another column. The original big three started it all, and others are carrying the torch.

The Heatles did it next. The basketball world watched as the Miami Heat constructed its own championship-caliber team with three superstars. 

Before we go any further, I think Dwayne Wade and LeBron James are indeed in that category, but Chris Bosh is more of a complementary piece to those two players. I don't place him in the same category as D-Wade and LBJ.

However, they all decided to play together, and another big three was born. 

They took a lot of heat (no pun intended) for it, but stuck to their guns in the face of scathing criticism. LeBron took most of the flak, but all three were forced to answer unending questions about their strategy. 

LeBron's plan was a little cheesy and created some bad television, but so what? 

It was his face, his strategy, and his "Decision," so why should we care? The very people talking smack about his TV special were the very ones glued to their television set watching it. 

If you don't like the guy, why are you watching his TV program? 

And please don't get me started on the ignorance of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan "I Own You, LeBron" Gilbert and his cloudy-headed fans in Northern Ohio. That's the reason I'm proud of growing up in Cincinnati instead of Cleveland, the "Mistake by the Lake." 

But with that aside, another trio of potential championship players are now in place. It isn't the way Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael "Air" Jordan and others would have done it, but it is done. 

Deal with it.

Despite a slow start and a handful of shaky losses, the Miami Heat are now looking like one of the teams to beat.

The Los Angeles Lakers did it too. We all remember a few years ago when Kobe said he wanted out of L.A.; rumors had him going to the Chicago Bulls. He himself said Chicago was a viable option at the time. 

About the same time, General Manager Mitch Kupchak's wedgie got just a little bit tighter.

He didn't want to be known as the front-office guy who allowed the greatest player in the world to walk away. Kupchak's legacy was hanging in the balance, until he got a call from Lakers Hall-of-Famer and (now former) General Manager Jerry West of the Memphis Grizzlies

In a deal that still raises eyebrows, West offered up seven-footer Pau Gasol for the taking. All of a sudden, Kobe had someone to play pick-and-roll with every night.

Later, L.A. added Ron Artest and another big three was born, which of course led to the Lakers' 17th championship last year. 

Give Kupchak credit for waking up in the nick of time. And yes, Kobe had to be fully aware Gasol and Artest also gave him a trio that would be hard to defend.

Finally, we now have the Knicks. 

They already had Amare Stoudemire in place. And yes, they had Raymond Felton, but he ain't a big three. Sorry.

I know he was playing the best ball of his career in the Big Apple, but he's not an elite player or top point guard.  He is, however, a very good player.

The Knicks knew they needed another two to form a big three, so enter Melo. He wanted New York. They wanted him. 

Nothing was going to spoil their dreams. With Melo and Amare wearing blue and orange, the only thing the Knicks need now is the final piece to the big-three puzzle, right? 

Everyone in the world knows Paul wants to play in New York. He all but said as much in the offseason when asked about the Heatles and his desire to play under similar circumstances.

So, Paul joins the Knicks this summer and New York has another...wait for it, wait for it, wait for it: another "Big Three!"

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn't old school. You remember the days when a player stayed with one franchise for most if not all of his career. Magic did it. Bird did it. David Robinson, John Stockton, Walt Frazier, John Havlicek, Wes Unseld, Isaiah get the picture. 

The "New Bucks," if you will, aren't tied down to one franchise their entire careers, especially if said careers don't include championships.

Critics accused LeBron of bailing on the Cavaliers, but he didn't bail. 

He gave them seven years. Seven years to win a championship, and Danny Boy Gilbert and his front office geniuses couldn't pull it off. 

No one forced them to go out and sign Mo Williams as their point guard. Williams wasn't the championship-caliber point guard they needed for LeBron. 

And then there's Antwan Jamison. Are you smoking something? Jamison's a quality guy, but he's at the end of his career and the Cavaliers thought he was one of the missing pieces to the Larry O'Brien Trophy. LeBron saw where everything was headed and put himself in a better position to win a ring in South Florida.

Good for him.

Melo gave the Denver Nuggets eight years. Guess what? No championship. I could have told the Nuggets' front office they'd never win the trophy with Kenyon Martin, Nene, JR Smith, Allen Iverson, or Ty Lawson. 

Melo saw the same thing. He waited, scored points by the buckets, and waited some more. Just like Gilbert, the owners of the Nuggets couldn't put together a winner, and Melo bounced.

I'm not hating on him for that. 

Amare was in a similar situation.  He knew the Phoenix Suns' front office didn't have a clue. and he took his talents to the Big Apple. Why? 

Because he knew Knicks owner James Dolan wants a championship, and he's showing the fans how serious he is with the trade for Melo.

Every NBA owner has been put on notice.

Take a look at the Cavs. They lost a future Hall-of-Famer and the franchise is in the crapper. They set an NBA record this year for consecutive losses. They have a roster full of young guys and decent-but-not-championship-type players. 

One has to wonder what the Cleveland front office has been thinking all these years.  Oh wait, I know: Let's pin all our hopes on one superstar and not surround him with great players. How'd that work for you, Danny "LeBron quit on me in Game Six but I still want to sign him to a long-term deal" Gilbert? 

The Nuggets are also living in a fantasy world these day if they think Gallinari, Felton, and Nene are going to lead them to the NBA promised land.

Memo to the Dan Gilberts of the world: If you have a superstar on your roster, and several years have passed without a sniff of a possible championship, don't be surprised if your meal ticket busts a move.

The LeBrons and Melos wll give you a window, but it will slam shut on your fingers if you can't get it done.


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