It’s really great that the NBA fans get extended look at some of their favorite players as careers of professional athletes have extended deep into their 30s. It’s good for everybody, actually. The veterans get to sense another era and collect more paychecks for their contribution. New players get tutored and reminded on what it takes to compete at a high level for so long at develop more respect for the league history. NBA benefits from the living legends playtime by holding onto the fans that loved the good old times. But it’s hard.
Pro athlete or not, waking up after 35 to run for hours when your entire body aches takes steel will and tremendous love for the game. The players always stay young in the minds, basketball is a fun game and if you are living a dream to play in the best league in the world, you believe you can do everything. But the body and mind don’t get along after so many miles run, jumps landed and weights lifted. As former Mavericks guard Michael Finley wisely said while contemplating retirement – ‘I can still run as fast as I used to. The problem is that if I do, I can’t make a stop.’
So let’s take a look which of the current NBA players should make a stop to their careers. It’s a tough decision for most of the guys as all they have ever known in their adult lives is play basketball, but it’s a decision they need to make to help their legacy, their health or their respective teams.
The ones you won’t miss all that much
Let’s start with the Cleveland trio of greybeards. Richard Jefferson, James Jones and Dahntay Jones have all been born in 1980 and will turn 37 next season. Jefferson has had good, long career and is still fairly athletic. He is also under contract for two more seasons, so he’ll stay for another year at least. The other two shouldn’t really be offered an extension. Both barely play but take a spot of young players who could gain knowledge from practicing with James. If they are not needed by the Cavs, it’s likely that they won’t be needed anywhere in the league, so they should make it easy on all sides and just move on. Off the two, James Jones has slightly higher chances to play another season.
Another group of players that aren’t much of a factor, nor ever had been are some international players who might not retire from playing, but will continue to do so overseas. Euro guards Sasha Vujacic, Jose Calderon and Beno Udrih are all without NBA contract for the next season. Vujacic is the youngest, but probably and hopefully won’t be resigned by the Knicks, while other two could give some backup minutes in the right situations. This also minutes that they’ll be offered much larger roles in ACB League or by other EuroLeague teams.
It’s likely we save the last of all three in NBA jerseys. Other international players who might leave NBA include Wolves’ center Nikola Pekovic and Jazz forward Boris Diaw. Pekovic is only 31 and is owed another $11.6 millions for the next season, but hasn’t played in almost two years and will likely be bought out off his contract. He might continue to play in Europe. Diaw had a fairly significant role with the Jazz, but has played poorly and is completely out of shape. He also has another year of guaranteed money with the Jazz, so he’ll probably stay. He’d do a big favor to Jazz and to his fans if he’d retire right now.
Hornets fans would likely love to see Omer Asik leave the NBA, but this isn’t happening. Asik is only 30 and he’s on the books for another three seasons. Maybe the Lakers would like to pair him with Mozgov?
Outside of these two groups, unclassified as he always was, Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace will likely stop playing and could pair up with Dennis Rodman in his crusade of spreading love and peace throughout the globe.
The inventory NBA players
Two players that haven’t had much of any impact last season (and more) require a distinct category. If you believe that Udonis Haslem and Nick Collison have been part of the Heat and the Thunder/Sonics since the dark ages, well, that’s because they have.
Haslem signed by the Miami Heat as an undrafted rookie in 2003. That was before Shaquille O’Neal was acquired from the Lakers, so he backed up Brian Grant. Justice Winslow was 7-year old at the time. He had carved a nice career with the Heat, winning championships, working relentlessly and is a perfect example for the young players how work beats talent. He’s not needed anymore and should look to start another career.
Nick Collison is a year younger, but is the only player still with the franchise that has worn a Supersonics uniform. The former Kansas Jayhawk was picked 12th in the same 2003 as Haslem and didn’t change team since. Whether the Thunder choose to retire the dependable backup’s jersey is unknown, but it’s clear that there’ll be a weird feeling among his teammate when Collison empties his locker. I believe both are going to retire from playing this summer.
Good players with good careers
While Mike Dunleavy Jr., Jason Terry and Mike Miller (yes, he’s still active) can’t be tied to a single franchise, they’ve been in the NBA for a very long time. Both Dunleavy and Miller would walk away from guaranteed money next season if they choose to retire, so they probably won’t. Dunleavy continues to play with any team that acquires him, but is far from the required standard. Terry is more likely to say goodbye at 39-years of age, but maybe a call from Golden State would lure him into staying a year longer. He’s a terrific guy and will be missed.
Finally, David West has managed to collect the elusive ring he had been chasing the last couple of seasons by playing for the change money with the Spurs and the Warriors. He could theoretically play another season or two, but he’s 36 already and it can’t get any better than this for him. He should retire from playing, no doubt.
NBA Hall of Famers
I’m not sure how the Spurs managed to persuade Manu Ginobili to keep playing after he saw his friend and long time teammate Tim Duncan silently walk away into the legends. He’s 39 and has played relentlessly for his entire career, taking big time punishment to his thin frame, to the point that not even the Spurs’ excellent playing time control regime can extend his career. He’s become every true NBA fan’s favorite, but it’s time to go. He still hasn’t official declared anything, but expect him to end his illustrious NBA career.
The other Spurs Hall of Famer, Tony Parker, suffered a terrible injury during the postseason and will take several months to return to good health. He’s younger than Manu, but has played in the NBA since 19-years of age. He’s also under contract for the next season, so the Spurs are likely going to give him his due farewell. Yet, it wouldn’t be shocking if he lets the organization have his salary picked up from the cap in order to sign Chris Paul or others if he feels that he won’t be able (or isn’t willing) to return for more than just a month or two of NBA basketball in 2018.
It’s completely wrong to have Paul Pierce retired as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, so perhaps the Celtics could sign him for a one-day contract despite his announcement that he has played his last NBA game. He was a great player but has recently seen his role diminished and has rightfully opted to finish his career.
Another player will likely stop playing in NBA, but not on his own terms. Special medical commission has declared that Chris Bosh’s illness is a career ending one. He’s still looking to fight it, but the decision made his way back to the NBA almost impossible. Not only would he have to convince that same commission that his condition has drastically improved, but the Miami Heat have been irreversibly granted a pass from the remainder of his contract, meaning that if another team would be willing to sign Bosh, they’d have to pick up his entire remaining $52 millions against their cap. As much as this end is unfortunate, it shouldn’t take anything away from his great career with the Raptors and the Heat.
You have to keep the best for the last, but in this case, it’s the worst of the best. Two players that will enter their fifth decade of life on the basketball courts (one already did this year) will not retire. Vince Carter has already decided that he’ll play for another year of two after having an up season compared to the prior two, starting a good number of games for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s the oldest active NBA player and will be playing in his 19th season. He’s a free agent though, so it’s not clear whom he will sign with.
The other is the great Mavericks leader Dirk Nowitzki. He’ll return for another season, probably the final one, but as much as this Dallas legend done for the franchise, he’s not worth $25 millions next season. His health is still at a decent level, but his condition and speed largely deteriorated. Furthermore, as long as he continues to play, the Dallas Mavericks can’t move on and promote new leaders.
Similar thing happened with the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, when the entire organization suffered from the delayed pension. Dirk Nowitzki should free his loved team from his services this summer by announcing retirement, but from the fan’s standpoint, it’ll be great to watch the big German reaching into his old bag of tricks once again.
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