Monday, September 24, 2007
The Kirilenko Affair
The (fairly) recent news of Andrei Kirilenko's dramatic trade demand is striking on a number of levels. First, it's always interesting when a (once) marquee player throws down a "trade-me-or-else" ultimatum, but secondly, Kirilenko's apparently legitimate threat to abandon his US career and return to Europe signals a shift in the hegemonic wisdom that the NBA is the be-all, end-all of basketball leagues. After all, it wouldn't exactly be a small amount of money that the player once known as AK-47 would be walking away from: it'd be roughly $63mil, all in the name of personal and professional happiness that would ostensibly be better fulfilled by playing overseas, and the very fact that this suggestion is being taken seriously illustrates the changing nature of international basketball as a business. Until recently the European leagues were seen by most casual NBA fans as a sort of glorified farm system, but it's hard to imagine a high-end baseball player choosing to play in Durham or Buffalo, so clearly this analogy no longer holds. Furthermore, mainstream media widely (and, I'd add, foolishly) ridiculed Stephon Marbury's assertion that he'll be heading overseas when his contract expires, but Kirilenko's claim will be taken more seriously, if only because he has nationality on his side.
Still, as one who as recently as a few months ago repeatedly endorsed the Celtics exploring a trade for Kirilenko, I find it difficult to believe that this threat will come to fruition. The "name player" is an irresistible entity in all sports but especially the NBA, and Kirilenko is certainly that, even if that name in his case is difficult to spell. The NBA's most famous practitioner of open marriage was an All-Star in 2004, and has been repeatedly held up as one of the league's most dynamic players. Granted, he had an abysmal year last season and hasn't played in all 82 games since his rookie year, but the basketball media has been falling all over themselves to praise the Rockets for their acquisition of Steve Francis, a player whose pronounced decline in production has been far more disturbing than Kirilenko's. In this sense, Kirilenko represents a sort of late entry into the NBA trading scene, a market which has been mostly dead save for areas such as LA, where inaction grows increasingly embarrassing with each passing day. It says here the Jazz will find a taker.
Sorry this post isn't more Celtics-related, but the Glenn Rivers-penned "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay that we were planning to run came back all sticky and full of typos. After my indulgent ruminations on the perpetual Knicks Crisis I'd be remiss if I didn't direct people to this outstanding Jemele Hill column on the disturbing misogyny/racism of Isiah Thomas. Page 2 is more or less a joke these days, but Hill is consistently excellent and does her best--along with Simmons--to hold down the fort in the face of Scoop Jackson's regressive idiocy and more pointless lists than you can shake a stick at.