Free agency isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Just when a team thinks that it’s gotten the final piece or pieces to the puzzle that will help the franchise solve its own postseason riddle of whose talent it will take individually or collectively to win an NBA championship, the answer could be a resounding, unmistakable “no” before the season even gets started, hits the half-way mark or is in the homestretch.
In other words, free agency is a crap shoot. Free agency is a risky business. Free agency is chemistry in a nutshell. Free agency is blind faith. It’s either going to work – or it’s not. And, either way, free agency with all of the max contracts players are being signed to, is very expensive.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have Brooklyn Nets fans going bonkers after being linked in discussion then inked to take the team to heights it has never reached since coming into NBA existence.
Can Durant and Irving’s talents mesh, complement one another and in the process, elevate the rest of the roster to play at a championship caliber level? Durant wasn’t the man in Golden State although he won two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards. That distinction belonged to Stephen Curry.
Irving wanted to be the man in both Cleveland and Boston, got his chance and failed miserably. He wouldn’t share lead roles with second-year stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have taken the Celtics to the brink of eliminating a LeBron James-led Cavaliers squad in last year’s playoffs.
Gordon Heyward’s return from a season-ending injury suffered in the very first game wasn’t enough to help Boston return to that same stage. While coach Brad Stevens had difficulty getting players to buy into their roles, Irving pouted publicly and privately.
There is no “I” in team,but Durant and Irving want to know that Brooklyn is “my team”. Good luck with that. Durant is clearly the transcendent talent, a top-two player on the planet and the one who has earned the opportunity to be center stage. However, that "me-first" mentality can be a killjoy to any hopes or dreams inside or outside of a locker room. And that, by all accounts, is a hefty price to pay.
Celtic general manager and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge wasted little time going after and nabbing Kemba Walker following a stellar draft that will have Boston smack dab in the middle, if not out front, in the race for not only Eastern Conference supremacy, but an odds-on-favorite to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy following the 2019-2020 campaign.
Walker replaces the caustic Irving and comes equipped with a team-first and scorers mentality.
Enigmatic Jimmy Butler has a new home now in Miami as the newest member of the Heat, leaving a talented Sixers team to wonder what might have been if not for a heroic, last-second Kawhi Leonard shot that danced on the rim it seemed for an eternity before finally falling through the net, ousting Philadelphia from the playoffs. Can Butler be the difference maker or will he be distracted by the temptations of South Beach?
The City of Brotherly Love adds former do-it-all Celtic center/forward Al Hortford to a fortified frontline that spotlights versatile “Big” Joel Embiid, making his free agent acquisition an insurance policy for Embiid’s injury history as well as an extremely difficult challenge for opponents to defend.
Golden State loses Durant but retains the All-Pro defensive and offensive -minded Klay Thompson. Management then dealt for Nets All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade move that will buffer the loss of Durant while giving the Warriors a much-needed asset to their lineup and rotation of players that will log minutes.
Sharpshooter and 3-point specialist JJ Redick pledged his allegiance to the New Orleans Pelicans to help usher in the Zion Williamson era. The former Duke stars will create an extremely hard-to-guard tandem in helping establish this bird’s brand as a serious contender and young team on the rise following the haul of players obtained in the Anthony Davis trade.
Which brings us to the Lakers and their quest to return to their championship-winning ways sooner-than-later now that Davis can team with James, the world’s best player, to form the National Basketball Association’s most formidable tandem of big men. Add forward Kyle Kuzma, whom Los Angeles was able to hang onto instead of including in the Davis deal, and Tinsel Town is giddy with excitement.
Now that Leonard and Paul George have cast their lots with the Clippers, what’s certain is the landing spots for this class of free agents has made for a more balanced league, something I’ve been clamoring for since the unwise inclusion of graduated high school seniors destroyed the National Basketball Association’s competitive balance, forcing an evolution that featured a proliferation of dollars to pay lesser skilled players.
Free agency. It’s a crap shoot. It’s risky. It’s extremely expensive. But, for the first time in as long as I can remember, it’s welcomed.