Let’s say you’ve got a desk job and you’ve worked your way to middle management at several different companies. Got a decent office, mostly good projects here and there, some stinkers — but you enjoy what you do and you’re pretty good at it, keeps your family from wanting. There are others who might be smarter and better in certain areas, but you do well: people think you’re reliable, you’ve been around, and you know what you’re doing. Now, when you signed with your current company, there was a provision that if you stuck around this long, you couldn’t be forced to relocate. You had final say on that, and when they asked you if you would move to head up a division a couple thousand miles away, you said no — even though it would be better for the company and might be better for you in the long run.
So, why is everyone giving the Mavericks’ Devean George such shit when he exercised his Larry Bird rights and kiboshed the trade that would have brought Jason Kidd to Dallas?
Part of it has to do with identifying with the team over the individual players — especially the ones who aren’t stars, the lesser starters and bench guys who don’t command the regular attention of the fans. Another part says pro athletes are making millions; they should just deal with and go earn them in another place. They’re not hurting for money. So there’s that resentment involved. His rank in the world of NBA ballers is not high — certainly not as high as Kidd, whom the team and the fans think is a key to playoff run.
But that’s all irrelevant, because George is simply opting to stay, not because he doesn’t want Kidd to come to Dallas, but he doesn’t want to be part of the trade. That’s his right, and it’s being obscured. Statements like this one, from owner Mark Cuban, don’t help matters:
“I feel bad for Devean George,” Cuban said. “I really, really do. I think he got thrown under the bus by his agent. I think he’s a great, great, great, great guy.”
Right, and you just threw him under the bus. George exercised one of the very few checks a pro athlete has, by lucking into an accidental no trade-clause. Kobe Bryant is the only player in the league with one, but George fell into a select category and decided to take advantage of it. Bravo for him. If you were getting plush assignments and comfortable where you were, why wouldn’t you stay?
As George told the Dallas Morning News’ David Moore:
“There were two parts to it,” George said of his meetings with [coach Avery] Johnson and Cuban. “The whole trade talk a couple of weeks ago was basically, ‘I just want to play.’ I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in my career. I’m finally healthy. I just want to get minutes.
“The second question was, would you want to leave if you could get minutes here? I said absolutely not. If I get minutes here, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t want to go anywhere.”
In sports, owners and teams possess so much of the power that we forget that there are individuals involved when trades happen — and that the players should be able to exercise the rights that the players’ union has bargained for them.