If many of the NBA's all-stars had their way, every game would be like the all-star game.
They want to be surrounded only by those deemed to be worthy, so all-star weekend, which gets underway today in Denver, is the perfect alliance -- and ego-building exercise.
By the way, when we refer to "those deemed to be worthy," we're not talking about movie stars, corporate sponsors, hangers-on or hookers, all of which are staples of all-star weekend, too.
What we mean is, NBA stars seem to feel as if they have the right to play with whomever they want to play with, and in whatever locale they see fit. Even former stars who are well past their prime can get in on the act, as the recent episode between the Raptors and Alonzo Mourning attests.
Few stars have any patience for sticking with franchises that suffer more losses than wins, or sticking in cities where their personal existence has become even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Cases in point:
- Vince Carter asked to be traded by the Raptors, with one of his reasons supposedly being he was tired of losing. He got his wish and was dealt to the New Jersey Nets, where for the time being he gets to be Robin to Jason Kidd's Batman (Carter's terminology). Some have suggested a better nickname for Carter is Batgirl, but that's another matter.
- Stories continue to emerge out of New Jersey that Kidd is looking elsewhere because the Nets presumably are not headed in the right direction, Carter's presence notwithstanding. Rumours suggest Kidd has his sights set on playing with Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Stories also continue to emerge out of Philadelphia that Allen Iverson has grown irritated by the 76ers' lack of progress. He apparently would like to be moved unless the club makes what he perceives to be a firm commitment to getting better, and fast.
- Tracy McGrady left the Raptors because he wanted to play in his ol' backyard and because he didn't want to play with Carter. But as soon as Orlando started to lose, McGrady expressed his frustration and bingo, he got traded to Houston.
- Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando because he felt suffocated by the small-city atmosphere. But even after winning three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, the split-second his co-existence with Kobe Bryant hit some significant pot-holes, Shaq asked to be dealt and wound up with the Miami Heat.
ACT OF PETULANCE
Now, in pointing out these acts of petulance, we're not suggesting we don't see the player's side of things sometimes. We all have heard critics argue that players today are looking for "instant gratification," but often there's nothing "instant" about it.
With a 30-team league, some clubs simply have incompetent management, or a weak financial commitment from ownership. There are certain franchises that never are going to win: The fans know it, the media knows it, the players know it.
That said, in recent years there has been a real wave of NBA stars who have demanded trades. It reached the point last fall, when Carter still was plotting his escape from Toronto, that league commissioner David Stern publicly expressed his exasperation.
Raptors veteran swingman Jalen Rose recently had an interesting take on the notion of long-term planning in the sports world of the 21st century.
"The most overrated thing in sports today is building for the future," Rose said.
He probably is right.
Still, when you see all the high-priced talent together on one court in the NBA all-star game, it's understandable if you want to scream: "Hey, are you whiners finally happy now?"