And there’s plenty of blame to go around.

It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t hear about shit until it was happening. Like, you’d be going about your business and get a text from a friend that said “holy shit, the Lakers just got Pau Gasol!”. Really, it used to happen that quick.

Shit’s changed, though. Now it’s an endless parade of rumors, tweets and wild guesses, and 99% of it doesn’t lead to a damn thing. If you are someone who pays close enough attention to all of it, it’s likely to drive you up the fucking wall. At last count, Dwight Howard has made 31 declarations regarding where he wants to play (then changed his mind on said place) and been traded to half the teams in the league. Same for Pau Gasol and Rajon Rondo. Or Josh Smith. Oh, and Monta Ellis. Funny thing is, with all these rumors and stories flying around about all these supposed blockbuster moves have actually taken place?

Not a single one.

And now, we’re 72 hours away from the deadline and there is the very real possibility that it comes and goes without anything of significance going down. How does this ever  happen with all of these reporters and basketball insiders lobbing hot rumors at us 24/7?

For a number of reasons, actually.

The absolute worst recurring phenomenon in the current NBA is the now-yearly superstar hostage crisis, whereby some poor franchise player not only wants off the small-market team he plays for, but wants the world to fall at his feet while he takes his pick of the glamour teams.

Two years ago it was LeBron James, who largely kept his mouth shut, at least until he dumped the Cleveland Cavaliers on a made-for-TV special. Last year, Carmelo Anthony was at least man enough to say he wanted to go to New York and nowhere else, but served as a major distraction in Denver until the day they gave him his wish.

Of course, this Dwight Howard mess has gone to another level altogether.

Hey, I’m not confused about the attitude of most modern athletes. I’m paying enough attention to know that some of them want not only want to have enough control to do whatever they wish, but also want to do everything they can to make sure they aren’t held accountable, so that the whole world continues adoring them. Even if the two ideas are at cross purposes, they’re still gonna give it their best shot. Really, that kind of attitude sums up the whole LeBron story in a nutshell: Too spoiled to play by any rules other than his own, too sensitive to handle the backlash.

Still, the Howard saga feels like a tipping point. All season, it’s appeared he wants out at all costs. Depending which member of his “team” is talking for him , we here he’s dead set on going to New Jersey, Dallas or LA. Or all of them. Or none of them. Maybe he wants to play for Chicago, or maybe he doesn’t. We’ve heard all kinds of tales about not wanting to share the spotlight with Kobe or Derrick Rose or whatever. Thing is, in all this time, have we even heard him, just once, say something like. “look, I gave seven years of my career to this team and did my best, now I feel it’s time for me to move on”? I mean, I for one would appreciate him keeping it that real.

Instead, we get all this second hand hearsay and bullshit platitudes about how he’s not sure what he’s going to do, as if anyone believes that, and inn the meantime, every team in the league is basically paralyzed by the lack of movement in Orlando.  Of course, they are waiting for the first domino to fall, even if Orlando’s front office swears it won’t.

And just in case you thought that wasn’t enough to scare teams away from making moves,  there are a couple of problems being caused by the new collective bargaining agreement that are making teams even more weary still. For one, everyone is probably still getting comfortable with the new CBA rules, and would prefer to take there time now rather than make hasty moves and end up holding the bag. For two, teams are terrified of the heavy duty luxury tax that kicks in two years from now, so they’re trying to avoid adding salary.

Now, with three days to go before the deadline, I’m hoping there will be plenty of movement, but it won’t come until the last day when everyone wakes up and realizes Howard isn’t going anywhere. You know, for the sake of excitement and all that. Of course, that’s certainly not where i’d put my money, but I’m all for hoping.

Hey. that’s just the reality of where things are right now. Even if the new rules were designed to restore competitive order and give the underdogs a better shot at competing, it’s just creating a new kind of problem. Sure, the little guys might stand a chance, but the damage done by stupid teams is going to be way more damning now. If you could buy your way out of mistakes in the past, now that option will be all but gone. Bottom line is, when it comes to dramatic roster moves, the new financial game is going to scare most teams stiff.

Like it or not, we’re bound to end up with one hell of a boring trade deadline, and it may just be the first of many to come.

We’ll find out in 72 hours.

-John Hathwell


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