Chris Paul and the players’ moral paradox

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We can do this one of two ways. The quick and dirty way, or the abstract and more complex way. As usual, I’ll give you the quick and dirty version first.

In an interview with Business Week, Chris Paul revealed the stunning information that the players know how much the lockout affects the fans and wish it didn’t hurt them. He also goes over the usual stuff about how the players just can’t give up as much as the owners want, and that they have a responsibility to further generations of players to protect their earning potential. He’s hopeful they won’t lose games, but he also says some day his son might grow up to need a contract and be proud that his dad fought for him.

You know. That old chestnut.

That’s the quick and dirty version.

Here’s where it gets a bit more complex, once you start to think about it. From Business Week, in Paul’s own words:

All I knew was that there was no basketball, which is why, this time around, it was so hard to walk away from the negotiating table without a deal. I know—we know—how much it affects the fans. And we know that if it weren’t for the fans, there would be no us.

We hate to see something like a lockout take place, but we can’t just take a huge step back. There are so many players that came before us—Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing—who got the game to where it is today. And what about the kids in high school who aspire to be in the NBA? We don’t believe in making sure it’s O.K. for ourselves now, but more difficult for them later.

via Chris Paul on Risking a Lost NBA Season – BusinessWeek.

Basic stuff, right? You’ve pretty much decided how you’ve felt about this. If you’re not associated with a team (in which case your response is much like Bob Hoskins in “Hook,” “What about Smee?!”), or the player’s association (a hearty “Right on!”) then you’re probably left wondering what the big deal is. The players are just protecting their millions and the ability of future players to earn millions while working class people struggle every day. It’s not going to earn your sympathy, nor should it.

But when we take it out of the pragmatic, and into the abstract or philosophical, we have a bit more of a sticky wicket.

Take out the context. Remove the players from what they do for a living, how much they make, the lifestyle they get to enjoy. Don’t even try to make them into something innocuous like plumbers, construction workers, database engineers, or the like. Just remove all of the details from their particular situation and focus on the actual construct of the dilemma they face.

The player’s primary responsibility is to what created them. In this case, that’s the fans. They exist, have meaning, are able to fulfill their dreams only because of this entity which gave them life. (The owners believe they in fact created the players, but this is a fallacy, without the owners, there would simply be another structure which would bring the players to ply their trade in front of the masses.) It’s a symbiotic relationship. The players entertain the fans, who then spend their money to further the players, who then play more, and so on and so on. While it’s true that corporate sponsorships, concessions, and merchandising deals all are third party entities who contribute to the players’ livelihood, those are all driven by the same beings, the creators (fans).

But then you have the descendants, the future players. These players are the same as the current players in every way. They have the same needs, likely the same backgrounds, the same experiences, the same desires. So let’s say the players were to say “You know what, it doesn’t matter. Not losing a year of income is what’s best for me. That’s what I need to do for me.” Can you really justify abandoning future people who you don’t know and who have no say in this debate in order to further your own desires?

Well, that depends on if the harm given to the fans is more important than the harm done to the future players. Or is it greater? Is depriving the people who allow you to do what you do (which is what you both want and need) for up to an entire year worse than harming the people who will come after you who have no say in this process and are depending on you to protect them?

That’s the paradox. They can’t protect the future without harming the present, and they can’t protect the present without harming the future. They can’t do right by the people who give them life (as basketball players) without doing harm to the people who are themselves in the future. They can’t do right by the people who they’re obligated to protect without harming the people they’re obligated to protect.

In reality, very little of this appears to the players. They’re worried about themselves and their pride. They’re worried about ensuring they can sail off into the sunset with as much money as possible. The fans are not at the top of their list of priorities, neither are the NBA players of the future. But if we remove the context of the players’ collective identity, their problem becomes easier to relate to, even if their lifestyle isn’t.

Steve Kerr to Trump: “Isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President?”

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There was much discussion this week about whether the Golden State Warriors would accept a potential invitation to visit the White House. However, when asked about a visit, Stephen Curry said that he would vote no. That prompted Donald Trump to preemptively rescind an invitation.

Then the weekend came, along with the backlash against Trump.

Trump rescinded the invitation for the Warriors in a speech in which he also called NFL players silently protesting police brutality, “sons of bitches”.

The Warriors organization responded to Trump’s comments, as did some players.

Now, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr has written about his own feelings on the matter on SI.com.

In an impassioned article, Kerr said that it was not possible for the team to visit the White House and have a typical visit. Kerr, whose father was the President of the American University of Beruit, said that he had met with several presidents in the past even if his personal views had differed. However, Kerr said he felt that Trump’s comments were “childish” and that he felt the real estate magnate was unable to absorb criticism — something former Trump supporter Mark Cuban agreed recently echoed.

Via SI:

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people. And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.

..

Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’

Remember, the president works for us, not vice versa. We elected him. He doesn’t just work for his constituents and his base. He works for every citizen. Once you take that office, you have to do what’s best for the entire country. Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point. Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.

The comments from Kerr are also especially timely given that on Sunday many NFL teams and players either locked arms, knelt, or stayed inside the locker room in a display of solidarity. Unfortunately, given that this mass showing comes following Trump’s comments, many have mistakenly come to understand the meaning of kneeling itself to be some kind of protest against Trump.

However, whether it be Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem or LeBron James and company wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, the message has always been against police brutality and racial inequity — not against the nation, flag, or military, or Trump as many have incorrectly equated it to mean.

That Kerr has come out and explicitly stated that fact in his reaction — as the coach of the current NBA champions and perhaps the most popular team in the league right now — is an important thing.

CJ McCollum on Carmelo, Kanter trade: “Stay woke, it’s a business”

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The most insane NBA offseason in recent memory got weirder this week when Carmelo Anthony was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a first round draft pick.

The trade has made many of us wonder just what the on the court play will look like in Oklahoma City this season with a high usage set of players in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and now Carmelo.

Meanwhile, Kanter had made comments earlier in the week about expressing his appreciation for the fans in Oklahoma City. Having been traded just a few days later, that apparently didn’t sit right for some people. Or at the very least, it appeared to be a teaching moment.

Via Twitter:

There’s no doubt about this fact, and it is hard to try to refute McCollum here. This is the nature of the league and there is no such thing as complete loyalty — at least in the sense of how most people understand it interpersonally — between employers and their employees in the NBA.

Teams are going to trade players to make sure they can win the most games and maximize their profits. Likewise, players should take the biggest contract they can get if they feel that is in their best interest.

In any case, we are all excited to see what kind of shenanigans happen in Oklahoma City next year.

Paul George on Thunder: “This feels like a championship team”

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They have an MVP, top-five NBA player. They have another All-NBA player who is a strong wing defender. They now have an aging all-star who still can get buckets with the best of them. There is a strong collection of role players who can help form a solid defense.

On paper, there’s a lot to like with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Paul George realizes that, as he said to Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This feels like a championship team,” George told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m in a good place. I know Russ (Westbrook) is in a good place. Melo is motivated more than ever…You put us three together, who all have something to prove still, (and) we’re going to be a special team. We have a young group, a lot of talent here, an unbelievable coach (in Billy Donovan), (and) as you see, a front office that’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team. It just has all the makeups to be a great organization and a chance to put championships together.”

Championships? Plural? That implies the team would stay together, and sorry Thunder fans, but that is far from a sure thing. First, financially there is no realistic way Oklahoma City can afford to sign Russell Westbrook and Paul George max deals (which they both will get) and keep Anthony if he opts into the final year of his contract for just shy of $28 million.

OKC is a small market team that simply would lose a lot of money to keep the band together, and this ownership group traded James Harden out of fear of a massive luxury tax bill. (They will pay a tax bill of about $24 million for this season if the roster stays as is.)

Also, George’s camp made it very clear during the run-up to his trade he plans to test free agency and has a strong lean to the Lakers next season. He may be more likely to stay in OKC now after the trade, but how much more?

However, George is right, this team does look like a roster that could contend for a title most years — and maybe be in the mix this year. We will put aside the Warriors challenge for a moment (they are still the clear favorites if they stay healthy) and get to the big question for the Thunder:

Will their big three learn to sacrifice, learn to mesh, learn to play together as a team as a championship team does fast enough? The 2008 Celtics did, but that team of veterans has been the exception. It took LeBron’s Miami Heat two seasons to learn how to win, and the same when he came back to Cleveland. OKC doesn’t have two seasons, they have to do it fast. It’s possible, but not easy.

George is right, this is an excellent Oklahoma City team. The Thunder are now right in the middle of that second tier in the West with Houston (another team that has to learn to mesh and sacrifice) and the Spurs. That’s a great place to be.

Is it a place George wants to stay? That question will hang over the Thunder all season.

 

Mark Cuban: Trump has “got to be able to take the blowback” from comments

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President Donald Trump used the bully pulpit of his office to, well, bully — he fired shots at the NFL over its concussion protocols and players kneeling during the national anthem. Then he rescinded his invite to the White House to the Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote not to go.

Sports stars fired back. LeBron James called Trump a bum, Chris Paul asked if he didn’t have better things to worry about, and the Warriors said as a team they would use their time in Washington this season to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.” Even supporters of the President, such as Patriots owner Robert Craft, rebuked the president for his comments.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for Meet the Press Trump has to be a big enough man to handle people standing up to him.

“If the president’s going to say something condemning a person, an industry, a sport, then he’s got to be able to take the blowback that’s going to come back,” Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for “Meet the Press.”

“So LeBron [James] and Steph and any athlete, any owner, it’s an open door now, and so they have every right for the same reasons to be able to say whatever’s on their mind,” he said. “Now we’ll be able to see if he can take it.”

Unlike previous presidents of both parties, Trump is not good at letting criticism of him and his administration roll off his back to stay focused on his agenda. It’s more personal with him, and that is something Warriors coach Steve Kerr said is a problem for him, and the nation.

Bottom line, NBA players are not going to back off — their base isn’t going to push back against them for their comments. Most are going to nod their heads in agreement. The NBA fan demographic is not the NFL’s. This storyline is far from over.