Thursday, July 5, 2012

NBA Free Agency - The Association's Christmas Morning

New Laker teammates Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant -

The NBA holiday season is in full swing as the hangover of promise from the NBA Draft is starting to wear off as the free agency period has taken off.

It has been a busy first week of free agency, with an already blockbuster move consisting of a former MVP and a dynasty-rich NBA juggernaut. Yes, you may have heard about Steve Nash accepting a deal to play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season, giving LA a much-needed passer and floor general to make sure Kobe Bryant gets the ball, while also having the ability to create shots.

The draft and free agency are both very exciting times for NBA fans, but in very different ways. The excitement around the draft is all about hope and optimism. This is where the future is born and general managers pray the big-time talent transfers from college to pros.

The draft is the bigger spectacle, with both college basketball and NBA fans alike glued to the coverage, listening to the results of every workout, combine and interview. NBA fans want to know who to welcome to their team, and college fans want to see the player they helped grow make his dream come true. Analysts break down every aspect of a player’s game and personality for months until the player becomes transparent. Mock drafts flood the Internet with lofty predictions (I’m expecting the 2018 mock draft to be released next week) as everyone wants to play detective and determine who will make it and who will crumble.

The draft may have primetime coverage under the bright lights of New York City (or in this year’s case, Newark, New Jersey) but for NBA fans, the draft isn’t Christmas morning, but rather New Years Day.

It gives you the same promise as a new year, where you make goals and strive to get better. But how those goals will play out is far from clear. It is a time to wash away bad draft picks and losing records from the past for a brighter future, but just like New Years Day, the work has just begun.

The real holiday for NBA fans is free agency. Waking up to the glow of your computer while opening up NBA blogs may as well be you under the Christmas tree shredding through wrapping paper. Either you got the toy you had been wanting for months (Steve Nash or Deron Williams), something practical but not exciting (Hasheem Thabeet) or you are Dwight Howard, who might not have any presents to open at all.

The point is, the best time for fans is free agency. Turning around a franchise in the draft is a shot in the dark, and usually takes firing multiple shots to work. But in the free-agent market, the immediate future of your fanhood is impacted by every move.

These are not fresh-from-college hopefuls looking to prove themselves. Even the most talented of the college draft class, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Thomas Robinson, will take time to mature into superstars.

But free agency is where a league MVP or top-10 player can wear your jersey, already being a seasoned veteran. In the best cases, there’s no assembly required with this Christmas present.

All it takes is one move to make your team a playoff contender next season.

You’ll plead with your superstar to stay for another three years, entice a former rival player to join forces for the greater good of winning a championship or keep a close eye on that team whose dealings could bring your potential trade crashing to the ground.

You will welcome players with open arms, hate him for leaving and scratch your head when thinking about your GM’s “strategy” this offseason.

You will be ecstatic, furious, content and confused; everything you love about the holidays.

So enjoy your Christmas morning, NBA fans, because outside of your team holding up the trophy, it is the most exciting time of year. 

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