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Miami Heat forward LeBron James is expected to be sidelined for Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Jae C. Hong)
Miami Heat forward LeBron James is expected to be sidelined for Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Jae C. Hong)

Basketball

Why the NBA sky is not falling Add to ...

Normally the NBA trade deadline is pretty fun; this year it's kind of angsty, at least for teams in markets without one or more of: hot weather, low state taxes, a great theatre district, a parquet floor or Kevin Durant.

Ever since LeBron James took his ego to South Beach, creating a partial eclipse of Dwayne Wade and dragged Chris Bosh in a little puppy dog orbit to create a new NBA universe there has been a sense of dread the competitive end for non-sexy markets is nigh.

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With three superstars in their prime in the hoochy-koochiest of North American cities won't the Miami Heat rule for the foreseeable future as veteran free agents donate their salary to watch Bosh watch James and Wade play catch?

And now with Carmelo Anthony teaming up with Amare Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups aren't the New York Knicks just a Chris Paul away from earning reward points in the Eastern Conference finals? Isn't the Utah Jazz's decision to fire Deron Williams before he quit proof -- for places like Toronto or Cleveland or Sacramento -- the system has malfunctioned, having been overwhelmed by agents working backchannels to leverage talent from secondary markets to primary ones.

Can't David Stern DO SOMETHING?

Ummm, I guesss.

The only problem is that the creation of powerhouse teams and the presence of more desirable markets are hardly new.

The Los Angeles Lakers have always been a cool team to play for, even before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar forced his way out of Milwaukee in 1975; and the league has always had it's share of dynasties, though none as dominant as the Boston Celtics were in winning 11 titles in 13 years from 1957-1969 (funny how no one seems to lament about how hard done-by the Cincinnati Royals were back then).

Short of indentured servitude there is nothing that can be achieved in the next round collective bargaining between NBA owners and players that will make Minnesota a more compelling place to play professional basketball than Miami.

But this doesn't mean the NBA is on a path to becoming the English Premier League, where a small handful of teams spend all the money to collect all the talent and the championships.

As long as there is an entry draft and a reasonable financial incentive for players to resign with the teams that drafted them there will be opportunities for lesser-than markets to compete.

The challenge will be talking advantage. A 16-42 record and slumping attendance in Toronto makes the post-Bosh era seem bleak for now, but it's not like this is a franchise that hasn't had its chances.

Between Vince Carter and Bosh the Raptors had at least one potential first-team NBA player on their roster for 11 seasons; they were on the same team for two of them, but during that time the crucial next moves were never made.

Pointing out that this is the team that drafted Rafael Araujo instead of Andre Iguodala in 2004 or failed to take a chance on Danny Granger when he was available in 2005 or got pennies on the dollar trading Carter or didn't get the most value possible out of their No.1 pick in 2006 or even failed to be proactive in moving Bosh before his free agent year isn't hindsight. The facts are the Raptors had cards to play, they just failed to turn them into a winning hand.

And it's not that the Raptors have made mistakes - all teams do. It's just at some point you need to be dead right, and the Raptors haven't been, seemingly forever.

Now that Bosh is gone they're simply in a trough that will take time to emerge from; testing the skills of management and the patience of fans. But suggesting the franchise is somehow doomed by an unfair system makes no sense.

A big part of winning is winning management and there is no salary cap there; you don't need to be seven feet tall to have an impact, just hire a guy who can make more good choices than bad.

The Celtics dynasty came to pass when Red Auerbach traded two future hall of famers to to the St. Louis Hawks for the rights to the No. 2 pick in the 1956 draft, which he used to get Russell (only after Celtics owner Walter Brown enticed Rochester, with the No.1 pick, to pass on Russell in exchange for a week of the Ice Capades, which Brown owned).

The Heat may have Miami weather and lack of Florida state taxes, but they also have Pat Riley, an executive bold enough to sacrifice two seasons - in Dwyane Wade's prime no less - to position themselves to be able to sign three players to max contracts last summer.

Luck will always be a massive component in building NBA champions - were it not for the health of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy perhaps tiny, rainy, Portland would be the league's 'it' franchise

But reverse engineer any of the league's elite and there's been some bold and imaginative moves by management either at the draft table or in trades, while other teams have been left on the sidelines, wishing. The league's next great team may emerge to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were fortunate to have Durant fall in their laps in 2007, but have made one smart, creative move after another since.

The same Trail Blazers could have drafted Michael Jordan and teamed him with Clyde Drexler, but they took Sam Bowie instead. The Seattle Super Sonics traded Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice on draft night in 1987. The Dallas Mavericks are on course for their 11th straight 50-win season in large part because they convinced the Milwaukee Bucks to trade the draft rights to Dirk Nowitzki for Robert 'Tractor' Traylor in 1998.

It's not clear how weather or taxes were a factor in that choice.

We'll see if the panic over the seeming concentration of talent is justified; betting is the CBA will be adjusted to provide owners with more power to dictate where players play and what terms.

But regardless, history says the likely winners in the NBA are franchises that are both lucky and good; as of yet there is no leglislation providing for either.

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