We’ve all heard that phrase millions of times, and anyone who’s
ever played in the NBA — at one point or another — has probably
heard those words coming from the other end of a phone.
In the name of winning, guys get cut, don’t get their options
picked up and get traded against their will.
It’s the nature of the business.
With the influx of capital that the NBA got with its new TV
deals and the stiff luxury tax penalties in the new collective
bargaining agreement, we’ve all become so much smarter about the
business of basketball.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that this is
exactly what the NBA is… a business.
This summer, we got great reminders of that fact when guys like
Steph Curry, Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid signed huge contracts to
stay with their teams.
But on the other end of the spectrum, most players — especially
the players who aren’t superstars — have those difficult moments
where the business of basketball ends up pushing them towards
situations that weren’t necessarily their preferred outcome.
For me, that moment came after we won the championship in Boston
Even today, when people are reminded that I was only a Celtic
for one season, they seem surprised. It just seemed like I was
there longer. And for me, it feels that way, too. Unfortunately, as
you probably guessed, business got in the way.
The next season, though, for some reason, we never really got it
going. We got swept by Chicago in the first round, and it just
seemed to me like I needed a change. I was still in my prime and
was only one year removed from helping Miami win the championship.
By this time, I had a reputation for being a good “3-and-D” guy, so
I thought I would have an easy time finding a situation as a better
By that time, Boston traded for KG and Ray Allen, and the team
was looking for some tough role players and experienced specialists
to round out the squad. I had a couple options, but I thought that
was the best opportunity for me to win, and that’s exactly what we
went out and did.
I’ll never forget what it felt like to play against the Lakers
in the Finals as a member of the Celtics.
Truth be told, I left more money on the table in Miami and took
a bit of a pay cut to play for Boston. Even worse? The Celtics'
front office only offered me a one-year contract. At this point,
I’d just turned 30 years old, and even though I felt good enough to
play a few more years, once you hit 30, you start to think about
your post-playing career.
As a player, especially when you’re young and you’re having some
success, you don’t really want to think about what life will be
like once your playing days are over. So you kind of start mentally
preparing yourself as you get older. So by the time you hit 30
years old, you start to value long-term security and multi-year
deals a little more than when you were in your 20s.
Despite all that, I was confident in myself and decided to take
the one-year deal to play in Boston. I assumed that if I proved
that I could be a productive member of the team, the organization
would reward me with a multi-year deal closer to my market
I ended up being wrong.
We won the championship, lit the cigars and had the ticker tape
parade and all that.
And when it was all said and done — you guessed it — I was
offered another one-year deal.
There’s no other way to put it: I was really disappointed. I
helped deliver a championship and felt like I proved myself. In my
mind, there was no reason why we wouldn’t have been able to win at
least one or two more if the squad, including me, was brought
But if there's one thing I learned during my years in the
league, it’s this...
It’s a business.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to win, but winning in the
NBA costs money. When most teams win a championship, they start
thinking about how they can win by spending less money. And it’s
usually players like me who end up getting pinched.
So yeah, I wanted to go back to Boston, but when New Orleans
stepped up and offered me a four-year deal, my agent felt it was a
no-brainer. I’d had good relationships with both Chris Paul and
David West, and they were coming off a 56-win season with CP
finishing second in MVP voting to Kobe. I’d won championships in
Miami and Boston, so I thought I could help get New Orleans over
I was happy as hell with the situation, but not as happy as I
would’ve been to stay in Boston and help my team defend our
championship. It just didn’t work out that way.
For every Steph Curry, there are 100 James Poseys... and 100
Curry is obviously one of the greatest players of all-time, but
without guys like Tucker, teams don’t win. Without Tucker this past
season, Giannis doesn’t win.
And now, P.J. is in Miami.
P.J. Tucker just posted on his IG.
“Wow. I’m still a little lost for words to be honest. Still in
shock, but it is what it is. Today took a hard turn on the road of
my car career, but like my grandma used to tell me...all you can
control is what you can control.”
Now, I can’t say I know the particulars of P.J.’s situation. But
I’m not surprised to see a role player on a championship team end
up finding himself in a different situation, because it happens all
Having been in that situation, I just can’t help but to notice
it. I also can’t help but to notice the double-standard that exists
with players who want to maximize their earning potential and
owners who want to maximize their bottom line.
When front offices find ways to save money and reduce payroll,
they’re looked at as smart. When players opt for greener pastures,
we’re looked at as being greedy. For most role players, you’re
lucky to get one or two multi-year contracts in your career. There
is nothing wrong with trying to maximize your earning potential,
and that needs to be said more often.
After all, it’s business, right?
It was business when Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Brooklyn Nets
for $200 million and sold the team for $3.3 billion.
It was business when Leslie Alexander bought the Houston Rockets
for $85 million and sold for $2.2 billion.
And it was business when the late, great Larry Miller bought the
Utah Jazz for $14 million and sold for $1.6 billion.
Let’s just also remember that there’s nothing wrong with players
deciding they want to do what’s best for them when they have the
opportunity to become a free agent.
Particularly, the proven winners who have worked their entire
careers for an opportunity to earn a nice payday.