Ah, the NBA these days. Millionaires being petulant, wanting not only their money but also unmitigated adoration from those closest to them and, sometimes more importantly, from those who sign their paychecks and/or decide how much their paycheck will be.
Not so different from the real world, actually. Raise your hand if you'd rather get positive feedback from your boss than nothing at all. Now, imagine your company is considering layoffs, and you know that half the people around you will be given their walking papers any day now. Raise your hand if you'd rather hear SOMETHING from your boss than nothing at all. That's everyone, right? When it comes to job security, silence can be worse than any alternative.
Now imagine NBA free agency. Half the league's players are free agents on some level every summer. That leaves you stumping for a job, hoping for that callback from a team that wants your services. Few free agents get to choose their next employer from among multiple job offers.
Now, imagine those free agents who don't even get a courtesy call from their current employer, the one who allowed their existing contract to expire. That team has the most flexibility to re-sign you, so why not? You played hard for them. Couldn't they at least call you to say "yay" or "nay" on next season's prospects?
Let's apply that scenario to 38-year old 2-time MVP Steve Nash, 23-year old backup C Robin Lopez, 26-year old one-time league MIP Aaron Brooks, and 23-year old potential all-star Hornets SG Eric Gordon.
Of these 4 players, the least accomplished is Robin Lopez.
And of these 4 players, the ONLY one called or visited directly by his current team on July 1 was Robin Lopez.
Three of the four players (Lopez, Brooks and Gordon) are restricted free agents, meaning that their current team has right-of-refusal on any contract to which that free agent signs with another team. Also meaning that those three players already have a 'qualifying offer' for a 1-year contract worth more money than any prior salary that player has seen. So, the current team does not necessarily have any dire need to contact those players.
Yet, remember that silence is deafening. And unnerving. That current team can pull that qualifying offer any time they want, without forewarning, before July 11. And even after that, unless you sign that 1-year deal, they can pull it out from under you at their whim. That's not job security.
Each of those players wants a multi-year contract. But even more than that, each of those players wants to know their team WANTS them back. And simply talking through the player's agent, rather than talking to them directly, is not good enough.
Robin Lopez got a personal visit from Babby, Blanks and Gentry. They gave him a custom-made comic book in which Lopez was the hero. Whether Lopez wants to re-sign with the Suns or not, or whether he wants a fresh start on a new team giving him a starting job, he had to be thrilled that the Suns spent part of Day 1 of free agency with HIM.
In contrast, 2-time MVP Steve Nash did not get a direct call or visit from the Suns. Sure, they contacted his agent to say they would get back to him after they see how things shake out, but Nash said there was no contact with him, and no contract offer either. Nash told reporters that it "stung" to be ignored, just as other teams were lining up at his Manhattan doorstep.
Neither did Aaron Brooks get a call. And even a few days later, he was set free entirely. So much for that job.
And finally, we get to Eric Gordon of the Hornets. If you believe his recent vitriolic comments, Gordon was highly peeved that none of the Hornets brass called or visited him on July 1 or since then. Sure, they contacted his agent. Sure, they made statements all spring about their desire for him as their cornerstone, but when July 1 rolled around the only calls he got were from OTHER teams.
So can you blame him for being peeved? The team that has his exclusive rights didn't even bother to make personal contact, while other teams rolled out the orange carpet for him.
Even after visiting the Rockets, the Pacers and the Suns, and signing an offer sheet with the Suns, and clarifying his position of feeling neglected not once, but twice in three days...
Still nothing. By the time Gordon was interviewed by a pool of reporters on Friday after practicing for Team USA, he was seething.
Even with GM Dell Demps on hand to watch his Hornets try out (Gordon and Anthony Davis were both trying out for the team), there had still been no personal conversation between them. Gordon saw Demps in the stands all day, knew that Demps was aware of his publicly-stated unhappiness, and STILL no contact.
Do you blame Gordon for feeling slighted?
Sure the Hornets have exclusive rights to Gordon. Sure they didn't need to stroke his ego in this small, busy timeframe. Sure it's smart business to have someone else set Gordon's price, and to save (at minimum) that fifth year and those higher raises that other teams cannot offer.
But come on.
The Suns visited the guy they wanted to keep, and kept the ones they didn't want to keep at arms length.
Is New Orleans doing the same? Do they really not want Gordon in their future? Or at least, did they want to pay Gordon the least amount of money possible, damn the ego?
Or did they just drop the ball?