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NBA PM: Five Stars With The Right To Be Upset
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On September 4, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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When it comes to building a successful NBA team, there’s nothing more important than having a star player – the kind of guy who will carry the load on a nightly basis, set the example for everyone else on the team and serve as the face of the franchise.
There are a lot of other factors that are nearly as important, but look no further than the San Antonio Spurs for a testimony on the importance of star power. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will tell you without hesitation that Tim Duncan is the reason why they’ve been so successful over the last 16 years. His presence makes everything easier.
Players like Duncan don’t come along every year, though. In fact, they’re few and far between, which in turn creates a lot of competition for their services. Teams will cultivate multi-year plans with one of the main end goals being signing another team’s top player, like the Miami HEAT did back in 2010.
With all the changeover occurring in the league today, keeping your star happy is as vital as having the right coach or supporting pieces around him. Just getting them under contract is half the battle, then franchises almost have to re-sell themselves to the player as they get closer to the end of their deal to ensure they stick around.
This season, just as there is every season, there is a group of star players who have the right to be upset about the status of their team. Some of them have gone public with their feelings, others remain supportive, but their situations warrant monitoring and we take a deeper look at those players today:
Rajon Rondo – Boston Celtics
Under contract through: 2014-15
As a point guard, especially one who is pass-first like Rondo, being surrounded by quality weapons is everything. For the last several years Rondo has had the luxury of playing with future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen up until last season. They helped him break records, win a championship and become one of the league’s best point guards. Now, they’re all gone – as is the only head coach Rondo had played for in the NBA in Doc Rivers.
In their place is first year NBA head coach Brad Stevens and a young roster that now features Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and potential Rookie of the Year candidate Kelly Olynyk.
Rondo, who has been rehabilitating from a torn ACL suffered last season, was rumored to be on his way out in a trade as well, but nothing came to fruition. Since then, Boston management has stated that the plan is to build around him, but does Rondo want to be a part of that plan?
He’s yet to say anything directly himself, but as a fiery competitor who is used to competing for championships, it’s reasonable to question just how happy he is in Boston. The rest of the league is closely keeping an eye. Boston has received trade offers and will continue to get them; if Rondo isn’t be happy with their new direction, they may start seriously listening to them.
Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves
Under contract through: 2014-15 (has $16.7 million player option for 2015-16 season)
The Timberwolves have luckily managed to weather the storm with Love for the most part; currently, they seem to be in as good of a place with him as they’ve been throughout his five-year tenure with the team. He has embraced Flip Saunders taking over for David Kahn as general manager and the talent around him has improved significantly.
However, liken this more to a honeymoon stage than a truly successful marriage. Everything still needs to come together for the Timberwolves, a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2004. If they still can’t crack the top eight with the moves they’ve made this upcoming season, it would be hard to fault Love for losing hope.
Plus, he’s going to be one of the most coveted free agents if he does hit the market. He’s the kind of guy who other stars are going to recruit hard to come join forces with them because of how easy he is to play with.
Clearly, these next two seasons are make or break for the Timberwolves with Love. He’s optimistic right now, but if they still remain injury plagued and lottery bound, it’ll be like rubbing salt on the wound and his disgruntled feelings of the past will resurface in a major way.
LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trail Blazers
Under contract through: 2014-15
If every star handled rumors about him being upset and wanting out like Aldridge has, they’d be a lot better off. For the better part of the offseason, Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey has been dealing with questions about Aldridge and whether he was looking for a way out of Portland. As masterfully as he handled them all, Aldridge had to say something for the story to truly be put to rest before the start of the season.
That’s exactly what he did in an exclusive interview with Chris Haynes of CSNNorthwest. He denied asking for a trade, being unhappy with the “size” of the Portland market and clearly stated that he’s excited to get to work with the new pieces Olshey has added.
This offseason has been very productive for the Blazers. They completely upgraded their bench, highlighted by the addition of former All-Star point guard Mo Williams, and added a certifiable center next to Aldridge in Robin Lopez.
All of this talk surfaced because Aldridge was upset with missing the playoffs again, though. So, if this year’s team doesn’t live up to expectations and struggles, expect Aldridge rumors to get jump started back up again. Aldridge has given Portland seven great years and understandably is ready to contend as he enters the prime years of his career. If it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen in Portland, he’s going to be ready to move on. Either way, next they have to start worrying about keeping Damian Lillard happy.
Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
Under contract through: 2013-14
When Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks in 2010 on a four-year deal worth $80 million rather than the $96 million he was eligible to earn it was because he wanted to help them sign top-tier free agents in order to remain contenders.
Only, that hasn’t happened. They let the championship team break up the following season, citing future financial flexibility as one of the primary reasons why.
Since then, the Mavericks have been in the hunt for the biggest free agents over the last two offseasons, but have continually come up short. As a result, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000 last season.
Nowitkzi’s relationship and history with the Mavericks is too great for him to demand a trade or publicly criticize them too harshly, but fact of the matter is that this is not what he signed up for. He’s been playing with almost a completely new team each of the last two years and the biggest free agent of note they’ve been able to sign is Monta Ellis.
His loyalty is really going to be put to the test this offseason when he becomes a free agent. Nobody could blame him if he wanted to see if the grass was greener on the other side before the end of his career. He’s given the Mavericks a Hall of Fame career, but they just haven’t rewarded him with a contending supporting cast like they planned to.
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Under contract through: 2015-16
Durant is the golden boy of the NBA right now. He’s beloved by everybody and viewed as the most ideal franchise player to come along since LeBron James and Tim Duncan. He’s really taken to being the face of the Thunder’s franchise, being active in the community and a role model for kids across the world.
Durant isn’t going to do anything to risk the pristine image he’s created. He doesn’t appear to be the type to go out there and question whether he has the best supporting cast around him possible or if the front office is making the right moves anyway, but you have to wonder if deep down he really does.
Two years ago the Thunder were in the NBA Finals, where the ultimately came up short. The following offseason, they shipped off James Harden, who went on to become an All-Star and arguably the league’s best shooting guard.
The business reasons and the acquisitions of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a lottery pick that turned into Steven Adams made it a little bit easier to stomach at the time. But, the team went on to lose in the second round in the playoffs last season. Then this offseason, Martin got sign-and-traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The reasons for Durant to be frustrated are piling up.
If the Thunder don’t improve internally this season to help make up for the losses of Harden and Martin, they should start to feel the pressure to make something big happen. Durant is a ways from becoming a free agent, but when he does teams will move mountains to become a more attractive destination than Oklahoma City.
News and Notes: Here’s some quick hitting news from around the league.
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