October 12th, 2011

Eddy Curry is the root of all evil. The NBA’s guaranteed deals have no way of holding Eddy Curry accountable, and this will always be a sore spot with fans—one owners have always done a good job of exploiting. Owners and fans, they’re in the same boat, gettng jobbed by unionized slobs like Eddy Curry. It’s pretty much the American right in miniature.

The obvious retort is well, tough. The Knicks signed him, they have to deal with it. Because of the way NBA contracts work, there’s a certain amount of risk built into deals. But Curry was an honest mistake on their part; he wasn’t another Jerome James. Curry is robbing the Knicks blind. However, if we’re going to apply this standard to players, what about the people making the decisions? Curry is one player. His superiors: then-GM Isiah Thomas, or arch-fiend owner James Dolan, are both splendidly incompetent at their jobs. And yet throughout this lockout, we’ve been told that NBA teams are losing money, and players must acknowledge this tough fact and make sacrifices.

Dolan is only one such case; there’s no shortage of owners whose competence, even their sanity, can be questioned on a regular basis. On the most basic level, though, dealing with the ups and downs of the economy, and generally running a business well, are the ownership version of accountability. What’s more, their actions effect dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people. Eddy Curry really only impacts his roster’s cap figure. Dolan, and his cronies, could sign an entire roster’s worth of Curry’s. And there are far more financial decisions that go into running a sports team than picking players.

Yet the entire discussion has addressed owners’ supposed financial woes as if they were owed special treatment. This isn’t the American economy at stake; there’s no such thing as an NBA team too big to fail. The league will continue to exist.

Player accountability of some form is probably a good thing. The NFL’s model, whereby big name players who have aged too fast or paid too much are cut to cover up the front office’s mistakes, is probably not the best one. This does nothing, though, to address the owners, who—like the financial sector during the bailout—have set their own incompetence as part of the ground rules in this labor dispute. As long as that’s the case, there’s no reason to expect the players to suddenly stand up and be the adults in the room. Eddy Curry-like cases make easy scapegoats, but they represent a very small percentage of the league’s players. It just doesn’t make sense to compare his impact to that of Dolan’s. And where there’s Dolan, there’s also Sterling, Sarver, and other nitwits tasked with making sure teams as wholes, in all senses, amount to something.

Maybe the rift shouldn’t be between large and small markets, but owners who deserve to keep their jobs, and maybe get a little bit of a bump with revenue streams suffering, and those who are, in essence, expecting the players to bail their dumb asses out.

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