Players rule  

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard hoists the MVP trophy next to teammates during the team's NBA basketball championship parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

The money is rolling into the NBA coffers. Everybody, particularly the players, are getting big gobs of it.

And like the NFL (and formerly baseball), the NBA has become a 365-day-per-year cottage industry.

Stories abound. Some good soap opera stuff. Big names moving and shaking. Positioning for the 2019-20 season has not only begun, but it's almost over.

Let's do a little then-and-now fact-finding tour with the National Basketball Association.

Old NBA:

1. At beginning of season, four teams have a realistic chance at winning an NBA championship.

2. The league and teams say "You play where I say you play."

3. All-Star players will spend, at least, eight years in one city, maybe more.

4. If team management is bad, say New York Knicks bad, tough luck. You're stuck there.

5. Big markets (and San Antonio) are your best bets at winning or contending for a championship.

New NBA:

1. All-Stars get opt-out clauses after only two years.

2. Four years with one team is a long, in some cases (see Kyrie) too long.

3. Age is only a number.

4. If you don't have a $130 million contract, you're a role player.

5. Players -- not owners, team presidents, GMs and coaches -- run the NBA.

We got an obvious lesson on the new NBA the last few weeks.

Not only did players get a mammoth piece of the NBA's financial pie -- about $4 billion in guaranteed money in less than a week -- but their new-found power was on full-display while awaiting the Kawhi Leonard announcement.

Kawhi chose the Los Angeles Clippers, which was understandable. He not only grew up in the L.A. area, but he would play on a good Clippers team coached by a great coach, Doc Rivers.

There was one fly in the ointment. He chose the Clippers if they could somehow pry his former high school buddy, Paul George, another L.A. native, from the Oklahoma Thunder.

Old NBA? No chance.

The Thunder, as dysfunctional as they've been, are not in compete disarray like a half-dozen other squads.

Figure it out.

New NBA? Easy peazy.

In fact, word has it that George went to OKC management and demanded a trade to the Clippers. True, he signed a big-time "max" 4-year deal for $136,911,936 one year ago.

The Clippers gave up not only a solid player in Danilo Gallinari (19.8 ppg) but five of their next six first-round draft picks.


So Mr. Nice Guy ... a k a Kawhi ... had zero problem with breaking up Oklahoma City.

In Boston, we got a taste of what Kawhi did. With the Celtis appearing to be in position to be the Next Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving didn't see it that way.


He leaves. The Celtics have let Al Horford go in order to replace Kyrie with Kemba Walker.

The Celtics could surprise us and make a run at the Eastern Conference title. But they could also finish fifth and be finished within 10 days of the season ending.

Is this good for the NBA?


Look at what the Brooklyn Nets did?

The took their time, brought respect and discipline to the organization on and off the floor, and Kyrie and Kevin Durant signed on.

The Golden State Warriors are finished. Their run, despite the rather young ages of their stars, is all but over when it appeared it has another half-decade to go.

It's a new world we live in. The players are making movies and calling themselves "corporations."

Who needs a general manager when you have the players picking their own friends to join them?

The NBA is the hottest game in the world. The off-season stuff is as interesting as the in-season stuff, which is pretty interesting.

At some point will the players mess this all up?

My guess? Eventually. Yes.

Is J.J. Redick, one of the best shooters in the game and also one of the worst defenders in the game, worth $26.5 million over the next two years?

The New Orleans Pelicans, which are looking for a few "pro's pros" to mingle with their "kids," apparently do.

What happened to the Celtics this past year is fresh and still a tad painful. But we better get used to it.

No matter how good or how bad it looks, winning or losing isn't that far away from anybody.

You can email Bill Burt at