Nothin' but Net: Free agency already the story

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Updated: 11/01/2013 11:50 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The NBA season is three days old and impending free agency is the talk of the sport already.

Whether it's possible unrestricted free agents, fellas who can opt out of deals, or young players who did or didn't get extensions as of Thursday night's deadline, the summer chatter is coming before Thanksgiving.

LeBron James is obviously the biggest name potentially to hit the market this offseason. He can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and have every team in the NBA with money salivating.

James has gone the monk rout and elected not to speak too much about his prospects.

"Being a leader of this team, I owe it to this organization, to my teammates to not talk about it," James said at Heat media day, almost a month ago.

Carmelo Anthony is the other huge name that could be available. He took a slightly different path in discussing his impending status.

"I want to be a free agent," Anthony told the New York Observer. "I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It's like you have an evaluation period, you know. It's like if I'm in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience."

Anthony's words have been taken to mean he is absolutely leaving New York and heading to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Yet, no one took the time to really analyze what Anthony said in this interview, which was also, almost a month ago. His comments are exactly what every player thinks, only Anthony had the stomach to say it.

Players put their bodies on the line night in and night out for the right to make a lot of money. Anthony played almost all of last season in severe shoulder pain, out of position and led his team to the Atlantic Division championship.

Free agency is a right earned by professional athletes. This notion that we should begrudge a player for exercising their rights is ludicrous. That is how the structure of sports contracts work and it's important they do. They protect the rights of the players.

Is it sometimes hard to see the plight of a man who has already banked almost $136 million in salary alone? Sure, but arguing about the money celebrities make is so pointless. They're getting it, deal with it.

So Anthony's big sin is acknowledging that he wants to chart his career path based on what he's accomplished and through his hard work. Acknowledging it was the problem and Melo is already moonwalking back his statements.

"They pulled all the strings to get me here, and I wanted to be here, you know," Anthony said in the television interview with TNT on Thursday. "And I want to retire in New York, let's be quite frank. I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent."

Silence was probably the best policy for Anthony, but he's getting beat up for giving an honest appraisal of his situation. The best part of this hogwash is that, even prior to his interview with TNT, most believe Anthony will be back with the Knicks long-term.

Was there ego involved in Anthony seeking courtship? Definitely, but again, it's an ego he earned and one that was afforded him by the structure of a binding legal contract.

As for these youngsters who didn't get contract extensions of their rookie deals, or options picked up, tough break. It was mildly surprising guys like Gordon Hayward, or Eric Bledsoe didn't reach agreements with their current squads, but they will be restricted free agents by the time summer rolls around and their current teams can match offers.

Some guys made sense for extensions like Paul George, John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Some cost efficient moves occurred too, like picking up the third-year options on some guys teams haven't gotten to see much of in their brief careers.

But no one should be crying in their cereal bowls for players like Evan Turner, or Jimmer Fredette, who didn't get extension offers. The simple question is, has each player warranted such a financial commitment, or a long-term commitment? Neither of those players have come close, although Turner has shown flashes, the Sixers are clearly going in a different direction. And Fredette can shoot, so there's probably a small place somewhere in the league for him.

Too often free agency is equated with greed. It's not close, it's almost the opposite. Before free agency, teams could just hold on to a player for close to ever and if you think players make a lot of loot, check out the number on the check Vivek Ranadive cut to buy the Sacramento Kings.

These contractual options were earned and agreed upon. Pat Riley wanted James on the Heat. James has won two MVPs and guided the Heat to two titles. The price - this opt out clause after four years. The alternative - don't sign James.

The best part of it all is that these conversations, which are happening because they are sexy subjects like free agency and big-name stars, are probably much ado about nothing. Your money on the line, James and Anthony and Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all staying put.

For James and Anthony, they are opting out of current deals to make more money. Don't think those two earned it? They could even sign contracts friendlier to the Heat and Knicks.

Eight months away and this is what Anthony deals with nightly. It's unfair and silly. But it's sexy.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Michael Carter-Williams had a great debut with a near triple-double. The Sixers beat the Heat. Eighty-one more of them to go, so let's pump all brakes. If Carter-Williams proves to be an NBA point guard and they play hard every night, this season was a success for Philly.

- Allen Iverson's retirement press conference was pure gold. There are so few genuine, charismatic and charming pro athletes as Iverson was and stayed on Wednesday.

- It's utter nonsense to think you've seen anything truly impactful outside of injury this quickly into the season.

- Movie moment - "Last Vegas" is the best example of a movie I'd never see in the theaters, but would watch on cable.

- TV moment - New shows I've given up on already - "The Millers," "Hello, Ladies," and "Hostages."

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