Congratulations this morning to the Colorado Avalanche; they are the Stanley Cup champions having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games. I will not pretend to be able to provide a meaningful analysis of how or why the Avalanche prevailed here other than to say that as I watched the series progress, it seemed to me that Colorado was faster than Tampa and it is awfully hard to defend against an opponent that you cannot keep up with.
I want to focus on a couple of NBA issues today. The league is in its offseason – brief as it may be – but there are a bunch of storylines that need following over the next few days and others that will play out over the next couple of months. The ones that have short-term “deadlines” have to do with players whose contract has expired but who also have player options for one more year. Those players have until June 29 to choose one of three options:
- Decline the player option and work out a contract extension with their current team
- Let the deadline pass and become an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team
- Exercise that one-year option with their current team.
A report by NBC Sports says that Bradley Beal and the Wizards have agreed on a contract extension. His option year would have paid him $36.5M but the new contract is purportedly worth $248M over the next 5 years. Assuming that report to be completely accurate, Beal is setting himself – and most likely his grandchildren – up with an incredibly secure financial future. At the same time, I suspect that he is consigning himself to being the best player on a mediocre team for the next 5 years. The players surrounding him on the roster seem to me to be from Lake Woebegone – – everyone thinks they are slightly above average.
Another player who has to make a decision this week is James Harden. According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harden is going to blend Option 1 and Option 3 above; the report says that he will exercise his one-year option at $47.4M and then sign a short term (2-year) deal with the Sixers on top of that which would give him a 5% increase in salary in each of those two seasons. James Harden will be 33 years old when the next NBA season tips off; the last time he played in more than 70 games in a season was back in 2018/2019. I do not want to go hyperbolic here and say that Harden is washed up because he is not; having said that, James Harden is not the player he was 5 years ago, and he is not likely to regain that form any time in the future. This saga has a couple more days to run before the first shoe drops and Harden opts in for next year at $47.4M. I think he would be crazy not to do that.
The third player in this situation is the one that brings the most drama to the storyline; that would be Kyrie Irving and that ought not be a huge surprise because Kyrie Irving can create drama over the preparation of a grilled cheese sandwich. Irving’s option year with the Nets would pay him $36.4M next year; a couple of months ago, he announced that he intended to sign an extension with the Nets but that seems to have run aground. Let me try a thumbnail reset here:
- Irving was drafted by the Cavs in 2011. He was a major part of the Cavs’ NBA Championship team alongside LeBron James in 2016.
- He spent 2 seasons with the Celtics and professed a love for the team and city assuring fans he was there for the long haul – – and then he bailed.
- Signing with the Nets brought him close to his high school neighborhood in Elizabeth NJ and paired him with his friend, Kevin Durant – – but that has not seemed to make Irving into a reliable teammate.
To call Irving “mercurial” is an understatement. More importantly, he is not reliable in the sense that he has not played in slightly more than half of the Nets’ games over the past 3 seasons. From the Nets’ perspective, he is a part-time employee pulling down a full-time salary and according to reports, the Nets are not excited about the prospects of seeing that sort of situation perpetuate into the future until such time as Irving begins to whine and demand a trade.
At his best, Kyrie Irving is a dominant player. When I watch him play, he does his thing so effortlessly that I wonder why everyone else doesn’t do those same sorts of things. He is indeed a special talent on the court. On the bench and “on the street”, it is a different story. Irving does not “elevate the players around him” and he creates drama for himself and by extension for others involved with the team. Last season, it was his refusal to take the coronavirus vaccine that created a maelstrom; in the past Irving felt it important to let everyone know that he believed that the Earth is flat and for some reason there was a need for scientists to have the general public falsely believe it is spherical.
- [Aside: Those utterances earned him the nickname “World B. Flat” placing him aside another legendary NBA free spirit, World B. Free.]
The Nets/Irving drama has seen the curtain come down on several acts and another one will come down on June 29. The question for the Nets at that time will be:
- How much are you willing to pay for another string of acts in this play titled Irving and the Nets? [Aside: Not to be confused with Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets”…]
The reason that is the central question for the Nets is simple. History shows that Kyrie Irving cannot exist without “external events” that affect his game or his ability to participate. When no such circumstances exist, he will manufacture them. Stay tuned…
Finally, today’s rant has dealt with people who are very rich; and so, I will close with this comment about rich people from George Bernard Shaw:
“What is the matter with the poor is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………