I work for a software company in Seattle. I make a decent living. Imagine, if you will, that my company decided to move to Minnesota and offered to move me there as well, but said that since the opportunities for software companies are not as plentiful as they are in Seattle, I'd have to take a 20% pay cut. In this hypothetical scenario, I'd say "thanks but no thanks" and go get a different job at my market value in Seattle.
Would that make me selfish?
As the news broke yesterday that James Harden was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston, there seemed to be plenty of people that thought James Harden was being selfish for not signing in OKC -- reportedly, OKC was offering about $4 million less than Harden wanted. In other words, OKC refused to pay the max because, as a small market team, they can't afford it.
Let's leave aside for a moment that this is not at all true; at the max contract, Harden would be underpaid. This is sort of the point of max contracts, from the NBA's perspective: it ensures that the best players cannot get their fair market value. This entire scenario indictates to me not that OKC simply is not correctly evaluating the worth of their players, which should not surprise us given that they chose to overpay Russell Westbrook last year. As Stop-n-Pop put it:
Professional basketball roster construction is not rocket science. Rule #1 is simple: If you get an awesome player, never ever let him go. There simply aren't that many enormous humans with stunning athleticism who can put the little orange ball through the hoop.
There are multiple ways to underpay for talent in the NBA. One is to have a good rookie who's forced to play for the rookie pay scale. Another is to buy talent that is underappreciated (Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik, Ersan Illyasova, etc), and the last is to get a superstar and pay him whatever he wants (which is usually the max). If you get a superstar who's willing to take less (like Durant, James, and Wade did), great, congratulations, you win extra bonus points! But if he stands firm, you pay him anyway, because not paying him is crazy. It's like if some guy is willing to sell you a dollar at 75 cents and you're standing firm at 50 cents.
I digress... my original point is....why, exactly can't OKC afford to pay for Harden? Twitter is awash with type-first-think-second-if-they-think-at-all pundits who are quick to blame the CBA and how the harsh luxury taxes put small markets at a disadvantage, so clearly the OKC ownership is a victim of the system, here.
Except...does anyone remember the part where this team used to play in Seattle? I know geography is not a strong suit for us Americans, but surely there are a few people that might recall, if gently prodded, that a lot more people live in Seattle, and that, famously, lots of them are millionaires. in 2009, Clay Bennett took the Sonics and moved them to Oklahoma City (and paid a handsome sum to do so) because that's his hometown. This franchise chose to be here.
If a man wants to own an NBA team in his hometown, that is his right, of course. It's cool if Mr. Bennett and his co-owners like watching the team in their hometown more than they like money. But it strikes me as odd that James Harden is being asked to pay for the moving expenses. It strikes me as exceedingly strange that a man who wants to be paid his market value (or well...at least as close as he can get with the max) is considered "selfish", but that packing up the toys and moving them to Oklahoma City isn't.