The signs are appearing. It started when Deron gave himself an out with his statements about the Jazz not being a championship team. Then he watched good players and some of his friends walk out the Jazz door in Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer in the past year. In an interview with David Locke last week, Deron mentioned that he doesn't live in Salt Lake City during the summers any longer. And when the Jazz unveiled a new banner on the ESA last night, Deron's picture was not on it.
And if Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are successful in meeting up with Amare Stoudemire in New York in the next couple years, it will be proof that NBA players are getting a little bit wiser about their motives. Haven't we all asked at one time, "if NBA players care so much about winning, why don't they sacrifice money to play for a winning team?" Careful what we wish for, I suppose.
I am not saying that I know Deron Williams is going to leave the Jazz in two years. And I obviously don't know if he is going to stay. But to just brush it under the rug and act like his leaving isn't a possibility is a mistake. You will think about it often the next two years, even if you publicly profess that it isn't a valid topic of conversation.
But rather than just focus on Deron Williams' quickly approaching decision, I want to point out how the game has changed. Star players in the NBA have changed teams at the peak of their careers before, but it has always been due to trades or because the team wasn't willing to offer maximum dollars. Shaq left because the Lakers chose Kobe. And many NBA players have sacrificed money to play for championship contenders, but that usually happens only after the player has cashed in on years of big paydays. But when Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade took paycuts to form a super team, the game changed.
The truth of the matter is that those three took a 12% paycut and when you factor in Miami's lack of state taxes... would any of you take $60,000 a year to work in Atlanta than $75,000 to work in Fargo, North Dakota for instance? You catch my drift. But the move certainly has made teaming up with other all-stars, even with sacrifice, a vogue thing. It is only going to get cooler and more acceptable.
The good news is that the Jazz have some things going for them. They have a front office and ownership who appear to be willing to spend and win. Last year, they went into luxury tax territory to bring back the same team. This year, they have spent similar money, but have brought in youth and new faces, new blood. Deron seems excited and there is no doubt that most Jazz fans are excited. The Jazz also have a head coach that most of the players respect and who gets the best out of his team, instead of calling isolation plays on offense for his best player time and time again.
And the big thing the Jazz have is the looming CBA. If Deron decides before the summer that he likes the direction of the team, it would be in his best interest, financially, to sign an extension before he is limited by the next agreements' maximum salaries. Rumors have the next agreements' maximum salaries starting at $12 million. So here is something that Jazz fans should hope happens: that this year's Jazz team starts off hot. If this team can start winning consistently and show cohesive play early and often, it may be all Deron needs to want to be a part of it. He probably will want to see the whole season before making that sort of decision but the current CBA expires on June 30, 2011, so he only has until then to sign under the current maximum allowable salary.
The other thing that most NBA fans should hope for this season and probably already do: that the Miami Heat lose. They need to lose, or at least not win the championship. If Miami can't win the title, and better yet, if they don't even come that close, the new trend to get together with your superstar friends will sound less appealing. I have my doubts about Lebron, Wade and Bosh being championship worthy, because they are thin in the front court. And Melo, Stoudemire and Paul wouldn't hypothetically do anything of significance, because none of those guys are committed to playing defense. But really, the myth of making a superteam being the golden road to titles needs to be exposed. Now.
So go ahead and be angry that I talked about Deron possibly leaving two years prematurely. If Deron leaves the Jazz high and dry after all that is in place for him, then I will believe there is nothing they could have done differently to convince him to stay. It will be his choice and yes, we can deal with it then. But there is no reason not to talk about it. It is a reality and brushing it under the rug is immature, in my opinion. Just don't get too worked up about it either. There will be a million reports in the next year or two that give "proof" to Deron wanting to stay or go, but just don't be affected by them. And yes, let's enjoy this upcoming season and the fact we have the best point guard in the NBA.