Even in basketball, the leagues are in a power struggle.
The NBA has entered the era of player empowerment. The PBA is taking baby steps. Last May 14, the NBA held its annual Draft lottery, which will decide the fate of Duke University star Zion Williamson. He was awarded to the New Orleans Pelicans.
It was obvious that Zion and most NBA observers wanted him to go to a different “New” city. Having too many cameras can catch an unguarded gesture — or facial expression.
That was enough to get the talking heads buzzing. Zion could refuse to play for the Pelicans and just decide to return to Duke. He has not yet hired an agent, so the door is not necessarily closed for him to return to Durham.
PBA has no free agency
The reason why we have speculations on where NBA players will play next season is because they have free agency. After a range of four to seven seasons, depending on the contracts he signs, a drafted player can become a free agent and sign with any team he wishes. We have LeBron James in 2010, Kevin Durant in 2016 as prime examples.
There is no such thing in the PBA. If a team drafts a player, they own him. He will only be a free agent if they do not want him anymore.
The only way for a PBA star to transfer is to ask for a trade. You have Paul Lee, Calvin Abueva and most recently, Raymond Almazan. For the latter two, they had team suspensions before their teams relented.
If you ask, or demand a trade, you still don’t get to choose your destination team. The teams have all the cards here in the PBA.
To be fair, a trade doesn’t mean as much to a PBA player than an NBA player. Most, if not all PBA teams are Manila-based. They only change jerseys and practice facilities. An NBA player has to relocate his family.
Battle for empowerment
Empowerment for the NBA player did not come easy. They had to endure multiple lockouts. The owners wanted protections for their billion-dollar investments, the players wanted to make the most out of their limited playing years.
It has led to where we are now. Players can choose to enter free agency together and sign on a team where they wanted (the Miami Big Three). For some reason, fans found that disgusting, which was weird.
During the lockout, it was mentioned that “fans watch to see the players play, not to watch the owners own.” So when players like LeBron James took the power from the owners, other players, like Kevin Durant were demonized for it.
James himself defended Durant, which was ironic since many of his fans chided Durant for forming the Warriors dynasty of today. They called KD a “snake” and that he was not “loyal.”
The fans were unusually silent when a Blake Griffin, a “loyal” player who declined offers to stay with the LA Clippers, was traded to the Detroit Pistons. LeBron James criticized that, but it went unscathed, and Steve Ballmer is considered to be one of the better NBA owners.
So when players want to exercise their right to choose after waiting for seven seasons, they are disloyal, selfish or weak. But when owners trade their players, they are simply doing what’s best for the team.
The New Orleans Pelicans are locked in the middle of AD’s power play, while the rumors about Zion were downplayed. The standoff in New Orleans will be the cloud hanging on the NBA summer.
The rumors about Zion have been downplayed, and it’s probably best for the Pelicans that Zion didn’t seek advice from Davis. Zion will most likely be drafted by New Orleans.
Zion Williamson was supposed to be a trade chip to acquire Davis, but now that’s gone and the poker game continues. AD, for his part, said the lottery win won’t change anything, he still wants out. The plot thickens, and the idea that players have cards at all is a victory for player empowerment.
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