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The NBA is back, but for how long?

The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard yesterday in a move that could shift the powers in the NBA back to the celebrity infested sidelines of LA. While the move was very savvy for Mitch Kupchak and the Laker’s front office, it begs many questions. Will Dwight re-sign with the Lakers after next year? Will Chris Paul simply switch locker rooms and join the Lakers next year? Can the Lakers sign CP3 and Dwight? Will one of them go to Dallas? Can Kobe and Dwight co-exist? Can Mike Brown coach all of this offensive fire power? Is Dwight trying to copy Shaq’s every career move?

Those questions are just a few of the many sub-plots that the NBA has to offer this season. The National Basketball Association is back. People care again. The league lost interest after MJ, Magic and Bird retired. Its popularity glimmered when Shaq and Kobe ran the Lake Show, then dipped as the Spurs began their dynasty and Tim Donaghy confirmed what many specualted, that NBA was a fixed league, at least occasionally. But, it’s officially back now. Thanks to LeBron, KD and other emerging stars, the NBA is in the lime light again.

However, while the NBA is becoming more and more popular, the Association’s major markets are the only teams improving. While it is fun to see super teams rise and dominate, how much is too much? The NBA’s smaller markets are left in the cold, no prime time free agents want to play in Milwaukee, Charlotte, Indiana, etc.  Boston started the trend when it landed Ray and KG to accompany Pierce a few years back. LeBron left his beloved hometown of Cleveland, a decently large city, to move to the bright lights of South Beach with his immensely talented friends. And who can blame them? It’s not against the rules.

Don’t get me wrong, building a ‘super team’ is a feat to be admired by NBA GMs, but it just doesn’t feel right to me and many other self proclaimed ‘basketball purists.’ To me, it seems infinitely more valiant to earn your talent through scouting, drafting and player development, like OKC and San Antonio have done. However, even if a team like Cleveland, Orlando or Denver does draft well and develop talent, there’s no guaranteeing that those players will stay (i.e. LBJ, Melo and Dwight.) It truly is a problem for small market teams. Once you draft a star player, you have about 3-4 years to do enough to make your star really want to stay, or else he’ll be peacin’ out for brighter lights, more exposure and a shot at the ever elusive ring. Even if you get him to sign on to a second contract, the odds of him staying any longer than that are slim to none.

New Orleans just landed Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon. Their 3-4 window has been opened. History repeats itself. That’s why I know that the Hornets won’t be able to keep those three together very long. It’s also why the Lakers were able to get Dwight for a good deal, just like they got Pau and Shaq for a good deal. History repeats itself in the NBA, it just does.

Oklahoma City is the last glimmering hope of purism left in the NBA. OKC (then Seattle) drafted Durant after the doomed Blazers took yet another injury prone bust in Greg Oden. Then they took a risky reach by drafting Westbrook fourth overall, a move that many thought was ill-advised. But, thanks to scouting and hard work, it worked out. They also took Harden third overall, and that worked out too. They drafted Ibaka with the 24th pick and then proceeded to deal the injury prone Jeff Green to Boston for a solid defender in Kendrick Perkins. In 2009, OKC even almost landed Tyson Chandler from the Hornets for Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and the rights to Devon Hardin. The deal would’ve gone through if it wasn’t for the Thunder’s team physician ruling Chandler’s toe injury to be too risky to commit to. In my opinion, the Thunder are the perfect model of how to run an NBA team. They did it the old fashioned way and it worked out. Who knows what will happen in the future now that KD, Russ and Harden are all stars. But, the fact that the Thunder developed all three of them and made a solid foundation to a team, in an extremely small market, is admirable. The Thunder are proof that it can be done.

Los Angeles now has Kobe, CP3, Dwight, Blake Griffin, Nash, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, World Peace, and Gasol all in one city. LA, New York, Miami, Chicago and Boston now have 8 of the top 10 most marketable players in the NBA, according to BleacherReport.com. It makes sense, but it’s simply unfair. What is Charlotte honestly supposed to do? No great player will ever want to sign with them. They will just have to pray that they can come close to achieving what Oklahoma City did. Minnesota is doing a solid job building talent right now, but I honestly doubt they will be able to keep Kevin Love when his contract is up.

The NBA is back, right on the coat tails of the NFL as far as popularity is concerned, and I’m happy about it. It’s great as a basketball fan. But as the old saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. If all the stars end up playing in the big markets, how will the other teams survive? What will happen if small market teams simply can’t compete?It will be interesting to see how the playing field will pan out in the NBA in years to come. The NFL has managed to have a solid amount of parody every year. The question is, why can’t the NBA?

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