How Can Small Market NBA Teams Secure Their Superstars?

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2011

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 02:  LeBron James #6, Chris Bosh #1 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat walk onto the loor after a timeout while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 2, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony's and LeBron James’ new destinations have created an ugly term that has dominated talks about the NBA’s future.

That term is “Super Teams”.

We have Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, while down south in Miami we have James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. On top of that, we have the impending 2012 free agency period for Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, adding to the possibility of even more superpowers.

With the labor situation in the NBA up in the air and a lockout looking more and more likely, the owners of teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets are looking to find a way to keep from losing their stars in the future.

The idea of a franchise tag, much like the NFL, has been floating around to try and keep major stars with smaller market teams, but in reality, that’s not an option. However, I do have an option that will keep the stars in small markets.

It’s a radical thought, but how about just running your team better?

I know that may be crazy, but if you manage your team well and build a contender around a star, they will stay with your franchise. Before anyone brings up Cleveland, look at the Cavaliers now, and tell me if that was a valid supporting cast.

Teams like San Antonio and Oklahoma City have built around stars, and it has kept them in those markets. Maybe if you aren’t giving out a five-year, $34-million deal to Amir Johnson (Toronto) or a four-year, $20-million deal to Darko Milicic (Minnesota), your stars will want to stay and help win a championship.

There is a reason that Kevin Durant re-signed with the Thunder this past summer. Sam Presti has put winners on the court around Durant, and the young star knew what he was getting.  With Durant in place, Presti went out and traded for Kendrick Perkins and then locked him up to a friendly extension.

Now that’s how you run a franchise.

Sure, the league is always going to want to have players that want the bright lights of a big market, but it’s been like that for decades.

The NBA has always had players that left small teams to head to a major market and help bring championships to those cities. This is nothing new, but to act like it’s a sudden revelation is just foolish.

The bright lights aren’t the only draw that lures players to these cities. It also happens that these major markets run their teams extremely well. Teams like Chicago, Miami, New York and the Los Angeles Lakers are all teams that know how to manage a roster and put talent out on the court that can win.

Superstars weren’t exactly falling all over themselves to sign with New York when Isiah Thomas was running the Knicks into the ground. The same goes for the Los Angeles Clippers, who haven’t landed a major free agent in years…unless you count Baron Davis.

Sure, cities like Detroit, Indiana and Toronto aren’t ideal destinations for the superstars of today’s NBA, but if you run your team well, then your city becomes an attractive destination.

James took less money to join the Miami Heat because he believed it gave him the best chance to win multiple championships. The perceived inability to win titles is what drove him out of Cleveland and kept him away from destinations like New Jersey and New York.

Owners can whine and complain all they want about how stars don’t want to stay in small markets, but what matters most to the superstars of this league is winning.

And the winners are in the bigger markets.

It is awful to see these smaller teams struggling to get people in the seats and bleed money, but you know the arenas would be full if these franchises knew how to manage a roster.

If you draft well and you make wise contract moves, players won’t be fleeing your franchise like it’s the Titanic. If James thought Cleveland had the ability to put a group around him to win a championship, he would have stayed.

He left in a manner that many felt was distasteful, but he did it because Pat Riley knew how to manage his team and set it up so he could land Bosh and James while keeping Wade. Riley also has a history of winning and not too long ago, brought a championship to Miami.

If you’re a fan of a small market team, I sympathize with you, but the owners of these teams shouldn’t insult our intelligence about superpowers when the Celtics and Lakers have a combined 52 NBA Finals appearances and 33 championships, while no other team has more than six titles.

The NBA has always been this way, and running your franchise the same way you always have isn’t going to change the fortunes of your teams. If you want to win, bring in people who know how to run an organization.

If you don’t, prepare to lose your stars, your money and the sympathy of your fans.


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