Signs of change in the NBA

What's undeniable is that LeBron's move to Miami and Dwight Howard's departure to Houston were the right move for both to make, even if they were handled clumsily and awkwardly. Want to talk fast? Doesn't it already seem like a long time ago that Howard's wobbly walk out of Orlando and his uncomfortable season in L.A. were as big a story as the NBA had? Now he's on the hottest team in the league at the All-Star break, winners of seven straight, sitting in third place in the Western Conference and reporters were more interested in the upcoming free agencies of LeBron, Carmelo Anthony and  Kevin Love (in 2015).

Howard couldn't have come off worse when he left Orlando. But now that he's finally settled in Houston he's said nothing but the right things. On the other side of his free agency he offered an eloquent perspective on a player's right to determine his playing place.

"That's the only time you really want to be selfish, when you're making the decision about where you want to play basketball," Howard said. "A lot of people might look at you and say, 'Hey that's not right, you're not looking out for my team or my city.' But at the end of the day, you only get one time around the track, you only get one time to play this game of basketball. Our windows are so short. We have to do whatever we can to be successful. A lot of people are not going to like it ... because we're not doing what they want us to do. And people hate that. All of us have to learn, in our own way, we have to make ourselves happy first. We want to do whatever we can for the fans, sign autographs, take pictures. That's who we are off the court. But when it comes to the business of basketball, we have to be selfish and take care of our self first."

Michael Jordan didn't change teams twice in two years during his prime years the way Howard did. But he did command premium pricing back when the only restrictions were the limits of an owner's pocketbook. And Jordan's way of being selfish was zealously building and protecting his own brand, a pioneering individual athlete in a team sport. That Jumpman logo that was everywhere during the Brand Jordan party made $2.25 billion for Nike last year.

The money's out there. Adam Silver's getting a head start on hauling it in for the NBA. For all of the various visions and ideals he laid out during his introductory news conference, that one facet is what has the owners excited for his tenure.

If the players want to replicate a team that's anything like the talent assembled this weekend, they'll have to learn to live with a little less of the cut.

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