And why some journalists should lay off writing about race in the United States…
If you have ever read my blog you will realize I am really whiney and particular when it comes to racial issues in
sports basketball. Well we have another whiney race-related post today because of the recent Nets-Kirilenko signing.
Look at this headline from the Miami Herald.
I am no history buff but the Cold War happens to be one of those things I paid attention to, and I have a couple of issues with this article. Relating the Nets and the Heat to the Cold War is a HUGE stretch.
The writer fails to suggest any sort of cold war going on between the Nets and the Heat in the body of the article. All he talks about is how Prokhorov is playing by ‘his own rules’ and is trying to win an NBA championship by spending lots of money.
The premise of the Cold War was that it was a war between two superpowers, but instead of busting out tanks and big guns, it was a fight between two different ideologies (politics, economics, all that good stuff). There was no direct fighting but there were a lot of proxy wars fought through American and Soviet allies.
If we tried to relate this to NBA terms, the first thing it would require is teams with very different team principles. Here are a few examples.
- Drafting and building for the future (Early Thunder) vs. Acquiring all the best players quickly but have a very short window of success (Big 3 Celtics).
- Advanced statistics/analytics (Rockets, Warriors, Grizzlies) vs. traditional basketball ‘feel’ and philosophy (probably what Michael Jordan thinks he’s doing).
- Small market success (Spurs) vs. big market Hollywood reception (Lakers/Knicks).
- Team play (04 Pistons) vs. Superstars (Kobe Lakers)
But that is not the situation at all. The Heat and the Nets are both in big markets, surrounded by glamor and media attention. Both teams took steroids for team building, having built a contender in one offseason.
Neither teams are on the frugal side of the NBA spending spectrum. The only reason the Heat are watching their spending is because they have over 50 million dollars tied up in their Big 3. In fact if there was any other team in the NBA that was the most similar to the Heat, in terms of finances, market, and team building, I would vote the Nets.
So we are missing the whole ideology war part. Should we even get started on the proxy wars? The closest examples would be like Kevin McHale (when he worked for the Timberwolves) waging a war against the Lakers, but because his Timberwolves were far too shitty, he had to give Garnett to the Celtics so they could beat the Lakers. Or something like that.
And think about this. The Nets built this team to battle the Heat. There is absolutely nothing cold about it. This team was built to take the Heat down in direct confrontation, using many of the similar team building philosophies the Heat did.
In fact, the only thing that we can really call a similarity is that the fact that the Cold War involved Americans and Soviets, and both Mikhail Prokhorov and Andrei Kirilenko are Russian people in an American business.
That is all there is to it. This is actually worse than when *gasp* when the ESPN reporter famously used the “Chink in the armor” title on Jeremy Lin. Chink in the armor makes sense, but was just a unfortunate choice of words. A cold war is just… wrong.
Now that I’ve ripped on this article title a little, let’s talk about the Kirilenko signing.
It is an awesome move for the Nets. Kirilenko is probably the perfect backup for Pierce and Garnett. He represents everything that is right about Jeff Green. Every guy in the Nets frontcourt has some sort of tragic flaw that could be exposed by a particular playoff matchup. We know Brook Lopez won’t be closing every single game out of a hypothetical Heat series. This move gives Nets an insane amount of flexibility in their lineups. The combination of experience, versatility, and depth makes the Nets a very dangerous team.
But everyone knew that. What people are talking about is the prospect of some sort of unheard of, under-the-table deals going on between Prokhorov and Kirilenko that helped Kirilenko decline his 10 million dollar player option, opting to go to the Nets for a measly 3 million.
And I don’t doubt that. There’s nothing wrong with a little collusion and bribery here and there. There are very few NBA players that play for their exact market value according to team salary. A lot of NBA players make money on the side. The Heat Big 3 all ‘unselfishly’ took ‘paycuts’ to play with each other. But what about all the other endorsements and incentives that came with playing in a larger market, and the extra fame and opportunities from being winners? How selfless of LeBron of them! Trade in some basketball statistics for fame, success, and cult celebrity status.
Fundamentally, Kirilenko signing with the Nets and having other sweet incentives (hot European prostitutes) from Prokhorov is no different from LeBron making quadruple in endorsements from Nike if he chose to sign in New York in the memorable summer of 2010. Or anyone who has ever signed with the Lakers. Magic Johnson had a sweet-ass relationship with Jerry Buss. Buss treated Magic like a saint and took him out to clubs and parties. Part of the reason why Dirk is a lifelong Maverick has to do with his relationship with Mark Cuban. A player having a good relationship with his coach is not a sin.
And then there is the obvious thing people seem to be ignoring. There’s this thing called taking a pay-cut for a championship. The same pay-cut that Ray Allen took to play for the Heat. Ray Allen was earning $10 million in his last year with the Celtics. He probably could have gotten around $8 on the market, but he signed with the Heat for $3 million. Do those numbers sound similar to Kirilenko’s numbers? Is Micky Arison giving Ray Allen a hand-job under the table?
He isn’t. And I really hope I’m right. Kirilenko is an excellent fit for the Brook-ston Cel-nets, just like Ray Allen is the right fit for the Heat. Good fit + good chance of championship = Really think about taking a pay-cut. Do you think if the same thing happened with Shawn Marion people would be calling out Prokhorov and Marion for some sort of strange deal? They would not.
So let the race aspect slip out of this one. Kirilenko can sign wherever he wants for however much he wants. Just because Kirilenko isn’t one of the league’s stars doesn’t mean he can’t have a little special treatment from his owner. And just because they’re Russian doesn’t mean they’re waging a Cold War over the defending champions.