When NBA Commissioner David Stern scuppered a three-team trade that would have brought guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, it generated a boatload of condemnation from fans and pundits. But it also left plenty of bruised egos, as players who were told that they would have to pack their bags had to suffer from some cognitive backlash as they suddenly discovered that they were going back to teams that were more than happy to trade them away just a few hours before.
Take newly minted Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom. Earlier this week, he was told he was headed to the New Orleans Hornets in the trade that would have made Paul a Laker, before the rest of the NBA owners prevailed on Stern to change his mind. Miffed that he hadn’t been informed ahead of time by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchack, Odom demanded a trade, and the Lakers accommodated him by dealing him to the Mavericks, the very team that had bounced the Lakers from the playoffs in a humiliating four-game sweep in the previous season.
After arriving in Dallas with his reality television star wife in tow, Odom held court on how the Lakers had “disrespected” him:
“It wasn’t about going to New Orleans. It was just about how they did it,” Odom told reporters Tuesday. “I felt a little disrespected. After being here for so long and going through so many things, I felt like they could have just told me and I probably would have accepted it.
“If someone is telling you that you can’t be here or there’s no more room for you, you got to understand that. I think because it’s just how they did it is the reason why I took it so personal.”
Disrespected? Keep in mind that Odom is in the midst of a four-year deal that will eventually pay him $32.8 million.
Safe to say, Odom, as disrespected as he might feel, should probably expect to display some flexibility when pulling down an average of $8.2 million per season. As it turns out, the Odoms aren’t the only family that isn’t feeling the love these days. Apparently, the feelings are much the same in the Pujols household, which is coming to grips with the reality of being forced to relocate to Anaheim — as hard as Arte Moreno tries, Anaheim will never be L.A. — in order to pull down a contract worth somewhere around $250 million over 10 years.
Here’s how the slugger’s wife Deidre described what it was like to get an offer for a paltry $130 million from the Cardinals:
“When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been being played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close … I mean we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers.”
“When you have somebody say, ‘We want you to be a Cardinal for life and only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us,’” Deidre Pujols said. “Well, we got over that insult and felt like Albert had given so much of himself to baseball and into the community. … We didn’t want to go through this again. Free agency is so stressful.”
Don’t get me wrong, I think professional athletes like Odom and Pujols earn every penny they’re paid. Their careers are short, and are liable to end at any time due to injury. Grabbing for as much as you can as often as you can is completely understandable in business conditions like those.
Then again, in a country where millions have been out of work for so long that they’ve given up looking for a job, it might be a good idea to think a little harder before putting your mouth in gear.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.