Free Agency: The death of 'big markets'

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Kevin Durant tweeted back in 2010: "Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!"

It was a peculiar thing to say, wasn't it? It sounds like a star either bitter at being so far from the championship trail that his pride couldn't take it, or, a man determined to stick it to the stars that conformed in the name of a ring and he wanted to buck convention.

There is also a degree of irony to what he insinuated. LeBron James had just headed to Miami that summer and indeed, went on to win two NBA titles on four straight trips to the Finals.

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But, to defy Durant's logic, he would then return home to Cleveland and lift the Larry O'Brien trophy this year and defeated one of the greatest team's in the modern era to do so.

With a side that was a lottery team before he returned.

Now, Kevin Durant is a free agent faced with the same choices until July 7. LeBron has proven that there is no place like home, and in bringing that inaugural championship to northeast Ohio, James set a precedent for what it means to quote-en-quote 'win' in the NBA.

Another strange twist of fate from Durant's tweet is the subsequent fortunes the Lakers have suffered in the ensuing six years. Not only have they missed out on the playoffs for the past three season - which at one point, was borderline unthinkable - but they had lottery draft picks every year as well.

Last season they slumped to the very bottom of the Western Conference and could only amass 17 wins all year. Couple that with the departure of one of their all-time greats in Kobe Bryant, and, all of sudden, KD's statement couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, since his tweet, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and even LaMarcus Aldridge have all had meetings with the Lakers and managed to walk away with temptation intact.

Why is that? How did the luster of the bright lights of Hollywood dim so drastically? When did the allure of donning the Purple and Gold suddenly become an afterthought?

When they stopped competing, that's when.

Relying on a 'name' has never been enough in the world of the NBA, but the big wigs in L.A. have let that cloud their judgement. Players aren't desperate to move to the City of Angels, conversely, the franchise should be desperate to lure players.

Sure, it's a great way of life, but multiple places in America can offer that. Miami, New York, Chicago and even their rivals the Clippers are all vibrant metropolises with different attractions.

At one time, there was such a thing as 'big markets' in the NBA. With the salary cap expanding and the continuing growth of the league around the world, organisations have never had so much exposure and thus, means of income.

Money is no longer an object in the NBA, success is. Wherever a player suits up, with success, good coaching and a fine supporting cast, the money will follow.

In a nutshell, the climate of the NBA has changed since KD's tweet, and the two examples he used couldn't actually better typify that. The Lakers are a far cry from the franchise that secured Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the open market; they are not entitled to just grab any great player.

And by that same token, LeBron is not a guy looking for a warm retreat and an easy title.

But, what is KD?

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Western Conference
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
New York Knicks
Atlantic Division
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division

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