The NBA teams of the three biggest TV markets can’t seem to get it right. The Chicago Bulls are mediocre and unsure whether to build around Jimmy Butler or dump him, and what to do with the current management. The New York Knicks seem to be realizing that Carmelo Anthony is only hurting them, but Phil Jackson may not be the one who can bring this group into the playoffs and contention again. And for the Los Angeles Lakers, it looks like the young talent they’ve assembled isn’t going to be enough for the post-Kobe Bryant era, but some of the decisions they made last offseason will limit their flexibility.
The Los Angeles Clippers? They’re not going to win a championship anytime soon, and they may have already peaked in the Chris Paul – Blake Griffin era, but there doesn’t seem to be organizational dysfunction regarding the future. They do have some big decisions to make this offseason regardless of what happens in the 2017 playoffs, but their situation is slightly different compared to the minor chaos brewing in the more popular side of town, and in Chicago and New York.
We keep going back to the Bulls and the disconnection between the front office composed of Gar Forman and John Paxson, and both the players and the head coach. Jimmy Butler is the team’s franchise player for at least three more years, but it seems like he isn’t feeling that vibe from above. Fred Hoiberg has always been working through rumors of a soft approach and lack of discipline, and he hasn’t been able to sway opinions in his direction.
While many expect the Bulls to go in a new direction regarding their basketball operations once this season is over (playoffs or no), the latest rumors coming out of Chicago seem to indicate that ownership like the talent evaluation from the Forman-Paxson duo, and would like to give the pair more than one season in reshaping the team after the Derrick Rose trade. They see this season as the beginning of a new era, even if signing Rajon Rondo hasn’t exactly worked, nor is Dwayne Wade going to be this good for much longer. Butler, for now, isn’t going anywhere too.
In New York, it’s the same old story, only magnified. Carmelo Anthony doesn’t want to waive his no-trade clause unless it’s to a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers or Los Angeles Clippers. Despite the rumors, it doesn’t seem like any serious title contender or even semi-serious ball club wants Anthony to join them, or give up anything for him. It’s not that he’s a bad player – his career and his 22.9 points per game this season show he still has plenty left in the tank. But he’s not going to be someone who leads a team deep into the playoffs (only twice in his career past the first round), and his contribution beyond scoring is almost non-existent.
The interesting thing in New York is how Anthony and Jackson are relaying messages to each other through the media. Jackson is almost goading Anthony to waive his no-trade clause so the Knicks will have more options to move him and his undesirable contract elsewhere. Next season will give them opportunity to start over and completely commit to building around Kristaps Porzingis. Derrick Rose will be a free agent. But with Jackson acting this way, which big-name free agent would like to sign in the big apple?
On to the Lakers, who had a promising start and have some talented players on board in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the slowly developing Brandon Ingram. Their biggest asset might be Luke Walton, but what’s happening in the luxury boxes might be more interesting. Magic Johnson has been brought back to a decision-making position. What decisions? The first one will probably be whether to keep Mitch Kupchak on board or not. No one is arguing about Kupchak’s ability to evaluate players and talent. However, the Lakers failure to land a big-time free agent, their tendency to go only after big names and neglect the second tier players and the contracts Kupchak gave Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in the offseason have put him in a weird position, maybe for the first time after over 30 years with the organization.
The NBA has never been a league that’s pulled forward by its “big” franchises, although to see the Lakers out of it for so long is perplexing. However, LeBron James isn’t going to be around forever, and when thinking from a ratings and national appeal standpoint, having the teams from the big TV markets struggle for so long without a clear vision and positive direction to be headed down should be something to think about. Ratings-wise, the NBA didn’t do very well after Michael Jordan and especially after the 2000-2002 Lakers dynasty. Having some solid, “vintage” foundations to lean on would be nice.